Educating Students About Political Issues to Increase Political Efficacy

Jiayi Zhu, Staff Writer

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From gun control to tax reform to LGBTQ rights, our nation is politically divided, arguably, more than it has been during any other period in American history. With the charged political atmosphere, the role of teachers as mentors to their students has become a sensitive topic of debate. Many teachers are expected to keep their political opinions to themselves, so as not to influence the view of students, but is censoring teachers the best way to handle this unique situation? The current political atmosphere makes dialogue more important than ever and, although political discourse should not disrupt the classroom, banning it from the high school teaching environment is unnecessary and prevents what could be highly intelligent and productive discussion.

The relationship between teaching and politics has a history of being tense, and most public schools require teachers to remain completely neutral if the topic of politics is to come up in the classroom. The main reason for this restriction is so the school will not be held responsible for skewing students’ opinions. While allowing young people the freedom to believe what they want to believe is fundamental to our democratic process, communication and debate enrich this freedom rather than undermine it. Policies that ban political discussion or exclude teachers from the dialogue only prevent these conversations from reaching their full potential. Teachers, as more experienced voters, especially have much to contribute to a discussion, and this does not mean forcing students’ views to change. Teenagers today are influenced by a great number of factors, and a short talk with one of their many teachers alone is not going to be enough to drastically sway their opinions. If anything, such encounters only increase their awareness and contribute to forming a habit of tolerating multiple points of views, which is invaluable in today’s political scene.

On the topic of politics, there is an understandable concern that arguments can become too intense, becoming unsuitable for the classroom environment. However, school actually provides an ideal environment for these intellectual conversations. It is better that students learn to control themselves and listen to others before they are let loose to participate in the democratic processes of our country, and there are few other settings as fitting for fostering these habits as the classroom. Surrounded by peers from whom they have much to learn and monitored by a teacher, political expression among students can be facilitated in a healthy and organized manner. Political dialogue should not distract from the established agenda of a class, but actively avoiding it can mean missing many opportunities to shape students into understanding and engaged citizens.

While politics is a sensitive issue, strict policies against its presence in school ignores the classroom’s potential to encourage harmony and generate new discussions. High school students are the next generation of voters and activists and now more than ever, they should be trusted with political discourse, so that they can eventually have the skills and knowledge to make a difference.

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About the Writer
Jiayi Zhu, Staff Writer

Jiayi Zhu is a senior excited for her first year as a part of the Plano West newspaper staff. She is also involved in Academic Decathlon, Art Club and...

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Educating Students About Political Issues to Increase Political Efficacy