The question, then, is how can teachers normalize politics in the classroom as a way to advance the American democratic project? Because it creates a climate not of fairness, but it creates a kind of insider/outsider feeling. You note the challenges and dangers of teaching both in mixed classrooms – with students of varied racial and economic backgrounds — and homogenous classrooms. So we don't believe that there is one right answer to this. The answer was quite different from the Harvard student’s experience. One thing we were really intrigued by was that a lot of the teachers we interviewed talked about changing their minds on that question over time. As we intentionally invite students to wrestle with the principles and practices of our republic, without judging or measuring ideological leanings [as best as humanly possible, because let’s be real: we all have them], we embody what it means to advance the democratic project. For starters, everything about the makeup of a classroom is political—how it’s funded, what resources are available, the elected boards of education who make decisions that impact students and more. With students taking on issues – like smoking – that are political but not too political. We read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and linked it to civic engagement. Which raises questions about whether that's a good thing, to just allow students to sit out. One thing we were really intrigued by was that a lot of the teachers we interviewed talked about changing their minds on that question over time. Hess: In many ways the more difference you have within a classroom the better. But those moments of uncertainty, I thought, were better than the silence of students given too little to engage with, too few encounters with ideas that might help them better understand themselves in relation to the world. My view is that if you're going to have students involved in authentic politics, then it's really important to make sure you have issues for which there are multiple and competing views, and you don't give students the impression that there's a political view that they should be working toward. And in my early days of teaching, as much as I wanted to be the sort of educator Baldwin was calling on me to be, part of me wondered if I should attempt to keep my classroom as a sort of island, set apart from the often grim realities beyond it. Teaching Trump-Era Politics in the Classroom. For example, that we should clean up the litter that's around our school, or that it's important for people to eat healthy food... We have evidence that kids learn a lot from doing that. Freire emphasized that the “struggle for their liberation” required students to recognize the stratified status quo not as a “world from which there is no exit, but as a limiting situation which they can transform.” At its best, I found as I worked with teenagers, critical pedagogy helped me appreciate that, even as students are engaged in the process of learning, they are also engaged in the project of unlearning so much of what they have been taught about society and about themselves. In the best-case scenario, teachers are able to take advantage of current events and use them as opportunities to get kids to talk about controversial political issues. It was not the first time a young person from the school community had been killed, and would not be the last. Lopez continued to think about these incidents, wondering how the BC students would have felt in the Harvard classroom, where there was an assumption that everyone thought the same way about the election results. So, Trump kind of brought us back to reality.”. You seem to draw a pretty firm line that teachers should not be advocating for their own beliefs. Noelle Lopez teaches philosophy at Boston College and is a fellow at the Harvard Center for Teaching and Learning. McAvoy: Young people need to see these as moments within their historical context – need to understand some of the history. And then, through deliberation, students are learning about the issues. Teachers do need to weigh [whether] there might be times when a particular student has a good reason for wanting to pass on a comment... Opting out because I feel uncomfortable sharing my views or talking out loud in class is a skill that can be taught and overcome. That's really a question that a lot of communities struggle with and a lot of teachers struggle with. All Rights They were really responding to the fact that it's quite interesting to hear what your peers think about things. That being said, there are classes that are more similar than they are different, and teachers have to use a lot of strategies to bring differences into the discussion. Hess: One of the problems with discussing events that just happened is that often we don't know enough about what happened. Classrooms are unusual in that we're compelling students to be there. Sometimes it seems there's a belief that schools should be political ... sort of. That, in fact, much of the…, How does the federal government support our public schools? Building rapport with students who sometimes mistook her niceness for meekness was hard. Hess: Absolutely. They would benefit from discussions in the classroom on political matters. There's a distinction between current events ... and discussions about controversial political issues where kids are preparing in advance and being deliberative. I think that we need to be here for students during difficult times.”. The criticism was offered by a bold, anonymous critic, and it featured one simple, exclamatory sentence: “Politics don’t belong in the classroom!”. Harvey, I have something to say, but you might not like it. My view is that if you're going to have students involved in authentic politics, then it's really important to make sure you have issues for which there are multiple and competing views, and you don't give students the impression that there's a political view that they should be working toward. They were really responding to the fact that it's quite interesting to hear what your peers think about things. You seem to draw a pretty firm line that teachers should not be advocating for their own beliefs. If you still do not see your comment appear, please feel free to contact us at [email protected]. Hess: Absolutely. Code Switch is an eight-person team that covers race and identity across the network, and in an award-winning weekly podcast. “So we had a bit of time talking about it, and letting them say whatever they wanted to say, but I didn’t press them a lot to go deeper. Hess: You're absolutely right, there are a number of schools that encourage students to get involved in political campaigns, but they tend to be political campaigns that really aren't very controversial. Philosophy Professor Christopher Kulp jumped in: “John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty will be my first reading in the class that starts today. People at both ends of the political spectrum are quick to accuse teachers on the other side of unfairly influencing students. Did you find that in your study? Gulasekaram always begins the immigration class by asking students to write their own immigration story, connecting it to the large historical movements of people to the United States. Dr. Robert S. Harvey is an educator, school leader, community connector, writer, and  public scholar. The “Socratic seminar” that followed—some students talking, others listening, then swapping places (a process intentionally aligned with Common Core standards)—reflected Baldwin’s spirit. Reserved. Instead, teachers are either disregarding politics altogether [or so they think], or closing their proverbial doors to feel their way through without much guidance. Your purchase helps support NPR programming. I don’t think that putting my big feet the middle of that conversation is helpful.”, Political Science Professor Peter Minowitz has another approach. People like to be right, especially young people, which is understandable because being right is often validation of our acumen. These memories came back to me while reading Becoming a Teacher, by Melinda D. Anderson, an education journalist based in Washington, D.C. Anderson follows LaQuisha Hall during the 2018–19 academic year, just after Hall had been named Baltimore City Public Schools Teacher of the Year, and into the following, pandemic-disrupted year. Center staff, fellows, and scholars shared their own approach to politics in the classroom. [To] put these moments within the context is much better than having young people just reacting to "What do you think about what you're seeing on television today?"