Teachers should teach facts, not bias

Noah Gross, Talia Zitner

“All Trump supporters are dumb as f***.”

No, this wasn’t something we saw on Twitter, but rather something we heard from our social studies teacher. While this might come as a shock to some, for us this was just a normal day in class.

Classrooms are supposed to be environments of self-discovery, not hostility. Teachers are supposed to teach the course, not their beliefs. Members of a community should engage and respect each other, not alienate those they disagree with. In such a polarized nation, we need to make a conscious effort to understand people who don’t think, feel, or act like us.

While it should be left out when possible, we recognize that there are classes where politics are a necessary part of lessons and discussion. In these cases, teachers should strive for a balance between all sides of the political and ideological spectrum. When we look up inside our Middle Eastern Studies classroom, we should see both the Palestinian and Israeli flags. When we learn about elections, we should focus on how the president is elected, not the opinion that Trump won unfairly.

It is the duty of a teacher to help students form their own opinions on complex issues, not to place emphasis on their personal beliefs. A classroom in which only one side is represented is a classroom in which some students feel unsafe to express their thoughts or opinions. Even one such student is too many.

We’ve seen this clearly carry over into our own community, expressed as the outward ostracism of students who’ve endorsed President Trump or revealed their support for issues or opinions unpopular in this liberal bubble. A student wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat shouldn’t be bullied for their political beliefs. And a student who expresses conservative opinions in a newspaper article should not be drowned by a liberal tsunami.

This starts in the classroom, as the rhetoric teachers use manifests itself in the minds of students, especially when we deem someone an expert or role model. This creates unconscious biases, so when we meet someone who voted for Trump, it would be easy for us to regurgitate what we learned in class—that Trump supporters are all “dumb” or “ignorant,” completely missing the reality that they’re human too.

As we are guilty of this behavior ourselves, we know it isn’t easy to completely throw politics out the window. Regardless, it’s nowhere in a teacher’s contract that they should be instilling their political ideology into their students. We charge our teachers (and ourselves) with listening, considering, and respecting views that might go against their own. When politics are brought up in the classroom, take measures to ensure that they are presented as a two-sided story, not just the one the teacher would prefer.