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Let’s put politics aside

Ryan Golemme ‘19, Contributer

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In the aftermath of the intense and often bitter 2016 election our campus has been overcome by vicious and unnecessary political tension. Students and teachers alike make non-sequitur jabs about controversial political issues without much prompting. As a sophomore, I’ve seen evidence of this in my own classes.

Students who bring politics into every discussion frequently derail the class from what was being talked about. Many students don’t want to enter a political debate, so making an irrelevant attack on a political figure or issue serves as nothing but a distraction to those who are just in class to learn. I know there are some people who are genuine about their interest in politics, but I have also seen students who intentionally use it to derail the class. Regardless of intent, the effect is still the same.

Teachers who use their classroom lessons to reinforce their political points of view confirm for some students the dangerous narrative that the faculty is trying to brainwash its students with what many would describe as a primarily liberal ideology. Taking jabs at the other end of the ideological spectrum drives resentment in students who disagree with the teacher politically. The students need to trust the teachers, and teachers bringing up political opinions hurts that trust. If these types of expressions only happened in personal conversations, there would be no issue, but bringing up the issue in class makes it seem as though the teacher is trying to impart their opinion onto the students, even if that is absolutely not the intent.

That being said, occasionally having a classroom discussions centered on a political debate is not wrong, and teaching students how to argue and understand different views is a great skill, especially in this partisan national culture. However, in such a scenario, a teacher must do their best to avoid taking a side, as it contributes to the problems I mentioned above. A teacher acting purely as a moderator and facilitating the debate, rather than influencing it, allows for much more productive and less hostile discussion.

Some might take this column as an excuse to ramp up their political criticisms, but I rather encourage the opposite. Being apolitical when discussing standard class topics avoids the derailment and resentment that contributes to an alienated class and a greater mistrust. A trust between students and teachers is integral to the health of the entire school community, and the path to a healthier community leads through a recognition of when it is appropriate and inappropriate to talk about politics.

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Let’s put politics aside