Recently I took my teenager to hear a speaker that she admired and respected. As he began to talk about politics, and this was not supposed to be a political talk, he said something that ruined his credibility and objectivity for myself and my teen:
In the interest of self-disclosure, I should let you know that I voted for...
As we sat there, I watched my family go through the motions of being polite, but also become uncomfortably ready to leave. It did not matter what the speaker was saying, it only mattered what he had said.
It dawned on me in that moment that they had identified with the speaker and had forged a bond that was now irrevocably broken.
The 2016 election left the United States polarized, and politics have permeated every corner of our society. Having students interested in politics and paying attention is a good thing, maybe even a great thing. But, as instructors we are admired and respected. When we step to the podium, we hold a place of authority and we hold our students trust. Regardless of how we feel about the current state of affairs, our role is that of a teacher and instructor of course content. Our goal is to create critical thinkers. we have to let them think for themselves. This is true even when they disagree with us, especially when they disagree with us!
Today, as I teach class
, and we discuss current events, I take special care to temper my values and beliefs.
I recognize that I hold my students’ trust, we have forged a bond, and it is a trust that must not be broken. I now know that a phrase as simple as; “in the interest of self-disclosure” can ruin the moment and irrevocably break that bond.
How do you remain nonpartisan in the classroom? What challenges do you have? Let’s start a conversation.
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