Politics and Teaching

When I was teaching social studies at Hilton Head Island High school a few years ago we had two teachers in the department who constantly argued politics. One of these teachers was about as Republican as you can get. He constantly attacked Bill Clinton and then praised George W. Bush constantly. Another teacher who we will call Bob, would constantly counter and talk about what "those Republicans are doing." We all thought Bob was a poster boy for the Democratic Party. During the 2002 election I was tasked with lining up speakers for our school's election debate. The lady at the Democratic Campaign Headquarters I talked with floored me when she asked me how "that Republican" Bob was doing? My reply was, "you're kidding right?" The Democrat told me she knew Bob for many years and he was always a big Republican supporter. When I relayed the story to Bob he admitted the woman was correct. He then added, "but my personal politics does not belong in the classroom."

A blog post by Marc Lampkin reminded me of the above story. Bob further explained his job was to teach students to investigate the issues for themselves and play devil's advocate to get those students to back up their opinions with facts. Mr. Lampkin reminded me of a story of a New York teachers' union who sued to be allowed to wear campaign buttons after the school district forbid them. The blog post goes on a anti-teachers' union rant but the fact teachers wanted to campaign for one candidate or another disturbed me.

Parents send us their children to be educated not indoctrinated. They should be taught to find facts and determine what they believe is best for themselves. I have my personal political beliefs and I support one presidential candidate over another because after reviewing what both candidates' stances on issues important to me I have made my decision. I even wear campaign items, outside of school. However, once I step on school grounds, the stuff comes off and I am more non-partisan than reporters pretend to be. Last week I assisted with our school's mock election and was thrilled to do it. Once the students started voting, I was having as much fun watching the results come in as I will on November 4th. We even had Bulldog Barks video updates periodically posted on YouTube and a local newspaper's blog. It was all non-partisan and neutral. Hopefully, the kids had fun exploring the issues, debating who was better, and voting for the candidates of their choice. All under the watchful eyes of teachers who remain politically neutral.

For those of you who support Barack Obama or John McCain and believe the country will crash and burn if the other candidate wins, go ahead and knock yourself out showing your support. Show your support until you come to school, then teach the impressionable young minds to make their own informed decisions after looking at ALL of the issues from both sides equally.