Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Is It A Teacher's Place To Turn Students Into "Agents of Change"?

When it doesn't impede instruction I feel free to share ideas with students.  It's not uncommon at all to be asked what I think, and knowing that my views are not "mainstream California" views it probably does no harm for students to hear them.  If I can challenge a few assumptions, then so much the better.  It's all that "critical thinking" that we expect students to do, but without giving them a wide base of information from which to draw!

But teachers who think they should turn their students into "agents of change" or some similar term, that seems a bridge too far for me.  Should teachers be requiring students to write letters to legislators or executives  about specific proposals?  In most cases I'd probably say no.  Teaching kids that they should work for change in their communities--why, exactly?  You may think the community needs changing, plenty may not.

I don't have a problem with sharing facts, opinion, or commentary with students.  I do, however, have a problem with forcing it on them.

And that's what I saw when I read Larry Sand's article at UnionWatch.org:
With the election season in full swing, expect a tide of union-led anti-reform, anti-choice and anti-Republican politicking in our kids’ classrooms.

“I watched the GOP presidential debate because my students are counting on me” is the title of a piece posted on the National Education Association website by “guest writer” Tom McLaughlin, a high school drama teacher from Council Bluffs, IA. He claims that “…in addition to this debate, I had an obligation to watch future debates, take notes, and share the truth. I have a responsibility to do that for my students"...

Obviously McLaughlin never intended to report on the debate, but rather to deliver a diatribe infused with standard teacher union talking points against any and all who favor reform and dare have an “R” after their names...

Many teachers now take their cue from the likes of National Education Association Executive Director John Stocks who, at the recent NEA convention, told his flock that teachers need to become “social justice warriors.”

Silly me, all along I thought teachers were there to teach.
Teaching is one thing, indoctrinating is another.

Full disclosure: Larry Sand is President of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, a non-partisan organization of California teachers which provides reliable and balanced information and peer support for teachers who may adopt different views than their peers, especially as regards union membership. I am on the board of directors of CTEN.


Pseudotsuga said...

I like getting the American Federation of Teacher's newsletter and voting guides. That way, I know exactly who the Left's favored candidates, and I can vote for other people instead.

maxutils said...

I agree … you should be able to answer an opinion based question honestly, as time permits. But the standard is -- you can't promote that belief; it has to be your opinion, and your rationale, as well. Teaching math, it's probably easier, since anything you discuss doesn't relate to the core curriculum, or the student's grades, at all. But teaching a social science or English class, as I have done with econ … it's really important that you stay close to the materal you're teaching … and I consider it a major plus that the majority of my students were unable to identify my party affiliation, that I was was able to tick off both the conservative and the liberal, depending on the day, and that at no time was there a bias in my grading. It's important to remember that .. because, whether you like it or not, you will have influence over them … and the minute a student feels he or she can't disagree with you … you've crossed the line. I'm not sure you fully realize how much influence you have -- and yes, most teachers are liberals, and lots of them freely spout their nonsense (my kids, who inadvertantly are Jewish, used to complain about a particular teacher who was both exceptionally liberal, and anti -semitic, and had no knowledge of the Jewish faith … and they were silenced) so I think it's a good thing to have the lone conservative present a different view. But, indoctrination, isn't good on either side.

Ellen K said...

I'm a conservative and an art teacher. That's sort of like being a unicorn. I try to avoid commenting on political or social issues because I don't think it's my place. That being said, there are debate, social studies and language arts teachers who speak opinions on everything on almost a daily basis. I've been through three general elections with this school and I expect 2016 to be the most contentious yet. Part of the problem is we are already seeing a great deal of outright defiance with some minority students. I fear this will get worse. Because teens tend to want to be popular, many of them will embrace ideas and methods their parents would not condone, but that their peers will encourage. This does not bode well.

Greg said...

Good grief! I teach American Government, and I would never dream of trying to require my students to write or lobby government for a position that I support. That isn't to say that I won't suggest that they write or lobby on issues of concern to them (like in this situation a few years back -- http://rhymeswithright.mu.nu/archives/165663.php).