EYE OF THE TIGER’S VIEW: Teacher political commentary dilutes learning




Checking personal beliefs at the door stands as a longtime educational standard. However, following the recent presidential election and an increase in racial hate crimes at Roseville High School, we’ve noticed a jump in the amount of political commentary from staff.

Teachers are people. They have opinions. They voted in the November election. They read headlines and social media posts before school that shape their perspectives. Political and social awareness is important, but personal beliefs that obstruct learning are not. Teachers carry great moral responsibility in shaping future generations, so while condemning swastikas on school walls may have a place in the classroom, joking about a politician’s appearance does not.

Roseville Joint Union High School District superintendent Ron Severson sent a staff-wide email last Wednesday that emphasized the importance of supporting students and urged staff to uphold a welcoming environment at RJUHSD sites and in classrooms in today’s political climate.

This is not a new or local request. Following the election last November, Roseville Secondary Education Association president Brandon Dell’Orto sent an email urging RJUHSD staff to proceed with caution when voicing their political opinions in class.

Consequences of educators voicing extreme beliefs vary around the nation. Last week, a Washington first-grade teacher was placed on administrative leave after urging people to report undocumented immigrants in her Facebook post.

California Education Code does not clearly list guidelines regarding a teacher’s personal beliefs, and the district school board policy lacks guidelines regarding this issue beyond Administrative

Regulations 6141.2 which stresses the importance of religious toleration and 4119.25 which condemns the dedication of class time to a teacher’s individual political gain or campaign and briefly condemns the blatant supporting of candidates during an election.

But a lack of rules isn’t the problem – not structuring lessons around personal views should be common sense. For example, if a teacher’s morning consists of a cup of coffee and a misogynistic tweet from the president, he or she shouldn’t walk into class and lecture on women’s rights to students expecting a trigonometry lesson. Student learning takes the backseat when a recent event or scandal dominates class time. Students shouldn’t have to rush to the next period or exhaust 30 minutes of intervention because a politically-charged tangent derailed class.
However, social science classes may benefit from discussing curriculum with the context of real-world current events.

That being said, teachers must come to the discussion with even hands and a well-read perspective. Being a social science teacher is far from easy in this political climate, but exceptional educators weigh multiple factors and potential student reactions when facilitating class conversation about an issue.

Introducing personal examples or opinions is not the only way to create emotional ties between students and curriculum. Teachers should proceed with caution knowing their inclusion may take away from the actual lecture.

Staff should apply caution when it comes to all types of personal beliefs. Teachers face unprecedented challenges in the classroom when grappling with unprecedented world events.
It’s difficult to be a social science teacher in this kind of political climate. However, we should have high expectations for our teachers.