Teachers expressing political views encourages debate, forces students to defend their opinions


Graphic by Tierney Kugel '22

When covering a current event or reviewing an event in history, students and teachers’ views can align with a political party, allowing for an opportunity to begin a debate.

As the 2020 presidential election approaches, the issue of whether it is appropriate for teachers to express their political views during class arises. Many students argue that their teachers cross a line or make them feel uncomfortable when discussing their beliefs. However, this type of discussion with a teacher can be extremely beneficial for students and allow them to develop debate skills when it comes to conversing with adults. 

According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, teachers are legally permitted to freely express their political beliefs as long as it does not interfere with the education of students or the school’s educational mission.

The Supreme Court ruling of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School in 1969 defined and protected these rights. According to the National Constitution Center, the ruling declared that students and teachers maintain their constitutional rights of freedom of speech and expression in public school. 

It is vital that teachers feel secure in utilizing their first amendment right to freedom of speech, but there should also be some restrictions when they express those views.

For instance, they should remain unbiased when grading assignments and continue to provide students with a variety of perspectives on the topics being taught. They should also remain respectful and considerate in their beliefs, refraining from saying something that compromises the tolerance that should be supported in a classroom environment. 

It can be useful to know an English teacher or social studies teacher’s opinions on a complex issue that is being taught in the classroom. Revealing their position on the topic could encourage debate and allow students to take their teachers’ predetermined biases into consideration when learning the material, further enabling students to develop their own ideas and do outside research.

Once students reach high school, they have most likely been exposed to a variety of political viewpoints and should be capable of handling opposing beliefs. After high school, many students will be faced with the political and religious beliefs of their superiors during their employment. 

High school is the best time to start integrating the skill of having civil debate and respectfully disagreeing with a superior. Without it, former students will be left confused and inexperienced in recognizing different perspectives and worldviews. 

The ability to understand alternate perspectives and disagree with an adult on an issue will only encourage students to build on their own thoughts and question their opinions. As long as teachers can express their beliefs without pushing an agenda and remain unbiased while grading, debate and controversy in the classroom are ultimately positive and will be beneficial to students later in life.