H.S. Teachers with Partisan Political Viewpoints and Problem

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: H.S. Teachers with Partisan Political Viewpoints and Problem
By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 08:18 am: Edit

Can anyone give advice on how to deal with H.S. teachers who bring their partisan political viewpoints to the classroom?

This situation makes one son uncomfortable who finds the emotional and not thoughtful atmosphere in the classroom unproductive.Last year we found some young teachers who think nothing of preaching their stance on political issues and how they personally vote.While most of the kids in the class emotionally agreed, son would come home and share his frustrations about the situation.I want to remind you this is a public school district and some of the teachers come from mediocre colleges and are not the brightest in the world.(And some kids just don't want to get into an agruing match in class with not so bright kids too.) There was no meeting of minds between son and one teacher and it was this teacher who gave my conscientious son a citizenship grade which in fact brought his average from an A to an 89.4- which quite frankly I think was planned. While the principal seemed 'interested' his attitude was to throw his hands in the air, like 'what is a principal to do' concerning new trends with new young teachers.
A politically biased attitude by teachers in the classroom can make a child who doesn't agree lonely and frustrated and I don't know what to do about it.I was thinking to send social studies teacher an email early in the school year explaining how uncomfortable this atmosphere is for us but we tried this last year and this did not help at all.Okay bright people, what can we do?

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 09:07 am: Edit

My S had a teacher who used to spend time discussing politics and talking about his experiences from his army days on (he's just retired). My S basically ignored that part of the class, whether he agreed or disagreed.
But other students might react differently.
Would it be possible to ask to conduct the class as a debate? Students would be assigned an issue to argue pro and con. This would take away the teacher's monopoly on talking and get the students more involved in researching the topic and constructing an argument they could back up with research. If it is presented as a way to get students to do research and be more engaged, rather than circumventing a particular teacher, that would not seem like criticism of the teacher and might be more acceptable.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 09:31 am: Edit

A debate,- in our school district it's more like an emotionally charged shouting match degenerating into name calling and the teacher losing control of the class. True.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 09:35 am: Edit

Well, if it's an assignment, where each team is assigned, at random, a topic to research, a position to defend and is given a specific time to present the case without interruption, then it should not degenerate into a shouting match.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 10:24 am: Edit

A debate using the right principles and techniques is a great learning experience and provides a basis for success elsewhere. Our problem seems to be that unless student is in the top classes, there is a 'catering to the mob' atmosphere.When I brought the problem initially to the department head she just laughed and said,'well your son is in the wrong class!That was it, that plus you can talk to me anytime.There seems to be a real gap at one point like an over 50 parent is totally out of touch with teachers under 30, like we are just calmed and never given any respect.In my day keeping ones voting preferences private was an okay thing, now teachers tell high schools kids they vote and why and I swear there is an agenda.Teachers attitude is 'well the is how I teach currant events in this class. Like she could see how loney or frutrating it is for a student who doesn't agree with her.
Marite, I just want to thank you for all the help you give everyone. You are always trying to help and are very bright.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 11:01 am: Edit

I think any situation where a teachers presents his or her views without allowing for disagreement and open discussion is just wrong. If views are presented in the context of current events or opinions of an historical event or character in a book, fine, but allow the students to challenge those views. ENGOURAGE it, but NEVER stiffle it. Otherwise, don't make it a part of the class.

Backhandgrip, my kids have been subjected to the same kind of situation in, thankfully, just a few of their classes. The worst situation was in daughter's then MS where they were not allowed to criticize Bush or the war. I would have complained, but frankly, the principal was dumber than a stump and that was the real problem.

By Simba (Simba) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 11:07 am: Edit

Well some times debates can be very challenging and engaging. I read a story about a Poli-Sci Prof. at Rice. For the last 20 or so years kids are trying to figure out if he is conservative, moderate or liberal.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 11:59 am: Edit

Yes Simba, I agree if it is handled the right way.Many teachers haven't a clue how to proceed with a debate.This causes tension and now there is tension betweens kids who got along fine before. After name calling, how can you work well with that kid?It's the loudest mouth rules in our school district.Is that teaching?
And they CONSTANTLY want kids to work together on projects here. The attitude since elementary school in our district is the bright ones teach the slow ones.My sons have spent so much time teaching others- there comes a point MY SON needs the attention.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 12:15 pm: Edit

Just to add, all this child teaching child in small groups on projects philosophy, by senior high the bright ones start to resent it.I mean, it never ends and it's always hopeless.Three kids do all the work, one or two goof off and cause trouble.

By Mstee (Mstee) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 02:37 pm: Edit

Backhandgrip--I made a comment on another thread about the bizarre things some of my friends are telling me about our local public high school. One story a friend told me recently was about her son and his high school math teacher. Apparently this teacher would make political remarks disparaging democrats from time to time, according to her son, but mom didn't take it too seriously. Well, a local man, running for school board (also a lawyer), was looking for a student to shadow at the high school, and her son volunteered so he ended up siting in on the class. The teacher (aware that he had the visitor in class, and who he was) chose to go off on a rant about democrats (remember this is a math class), and how democrats all believe in abortion and same-sex marriage. So her kid pipes up "what's wrong with same sex marriage?" which apparently sent this man into a complete frenzy and he began personally attacking her son, in front of the class and the visiting lawyer running for school board! When mom found out, she had her kid switched to another class (another funny story, the class he ended up switching into, but won't go into it here). The math teacher is no longer at the school--one of the few times I've heard of a teacher being let go in this district for something other than a crime of some sort being committed.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 03:27 pm: Edit

Backhand, the group project thing stinks. The same thing goes on here. The hard workers paired with the slackers. It's not a problem in the AP classes in hs and wasn't a problem in D's elementary because all of the kids participated, but her ms was a nightmare. Especially last year's science class. Those kids that were slackers no doubt will wash out in hs AP, but it is water under the bridge for her. So frustrating, and she - as a middle schooler - resented it. I agree in principle that it's necessary to learn to work together. But the reality is that in the workplace, co-workers have their ways to deal with slackers. School kids are powerless to do anything but complain.

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 11:31 pm: Edit

I remember a teacher asking kids to identify their religion, make T-shirts with religious symbol in center, family background around it. Grade went up if wore T-shirt @school all day. She was fundamentalistic. Kids resented the project, one didn't like being lectured about being an atheist, etc. Anyway, I made time to discuss situation with AP, but all the other parents were too busy to do same. Say, 4 classes, 30 kids per class, but people gripe but don't admonish. If 50, or 100, parents had protested, this teacher wouldn't be allowed to continue this project every year in HS

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 11:44 pm: Edit


Wouldn't what the teacher had the kids do be illegal?

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 09:35 am: Edit

Yes, that's why I was upset that other parents, with more influence than me (e'g, a lawyer, head of PTA), never found time to go in to principal or make a phone call. At least I was promised teacher would be "spoken to" about this project.
Fortunately, she did not express her views in such a strong way for rest of year. She proved to be a very good teacher in other respects.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 12:35 pm: Edit

Sorry as was posting fast missed that some teachers in our school district say HOW they vote, and why.And teacher could not see how son could find this offensive or make him feel loney in a class full of bullies.(Her response, son should tell the class how HE votes and why! So, duh, why is there a curtain on the voting booth if it is not okay to keep voting preferences private!) Furthermore, I think son was deliberately persecuted gradewise because I called her about this, and when she sounded like an unresponsive airhead, called the department chair.(Who was equally goofy by the way,said, 'You son is in the wrong class! You can call me anytime to chat.')

You know this ticks me off.If this starts again this year, that is, teachers berating the political system of the U.S. and endorsing candidates in their classrooms, I am going to the principal again and start writing letters to the editor of local newspapers, and furthermore, going to my congressman about enacting legislation against candidate endorsement by teachers IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL CLASSROOM.Pet peeve here.This has happened not just with one teacher, others too but other years in other district schools!

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 01:44 pm: Edit

Bookworm, I am appalled with the teacher and the t-shirts. That is in direct violation of the students civil rights under the constitution. There is, after all, separation of church and state. I thought we had all learned something from history. In my opinion, this was forced. Do it or get a bad grade. How is that different from Nazis pinning the Star of David on Jews during the Holocaust? Shameful. Absolutely shameful.

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 01:57 pm: Edit

As upset as I was with teacher, I was frustrated with other parents. Backhandgrip could also use parental support, so her child would not be singled out when she points out unfair influence teachers' have over students.

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 02:09 pm: Edit

Yes, Backhandrip should complain about the teacher's encouragement of violations of privacy laws. It should be no one's business how the teacher votes, or how each student votes. Ideally, since the department chair seems clueless, other parents could be mobilized to point out the problem.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 02:41 pm: Edit

Absolutely Bookworm, there is no doubt that a group of parents will make a larger impact on the principal and the policies of the school. Unfortunately, there are many parents, and I know more than a few, that talk big, but when they get down to it fear takes over. They are afraid to make waves - afraid it will have a further negative impact on their child's situation. Or in the case of my daughters middle school, they just give up because the principal is so dumb and simply changes the subject until you leave. Would it help to contact a group that deals with civil rights issues, especially in the schools, and find out how they recommend gathering support among the parents? Perhaps, they have never had anyone who put the issue in plain sight to rally around. Has anyone on the forum ever tried this?

The only other route that I can see is through legal action or the threat of by one or more parents. It has happened at our daughter's middle school three times that I know of, and it got results. The only thing it hasn't done is get rid of this tenured, stupid, good old boy who couldn't get hired in this day and age.

I do wish you the best Backhandgrip. I think about what my mom said when my son was born. "You're his parents, if you don't fight for him, no one will. No one will have his best interest at heart like you do."

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 07:14 pm: Edit

Alongfortheride;What a great idea. Thanks, I'll look into it.Equal time for all parties.
Bookworm; I agree the project was not appropriate.Funny thing is, oftentimes I don't hear about things until after the fact.Do you?Like the kids may do that project and then, afterwards, talk about how uncomfortable it was, and then parents learn about it much later.And also, sometimes it is better to let things go.Seems like we do our kids no favor by butting in as they get older.(?)
Marite; I could bring it up with the PTA although am no longer a member. They do hold some influence.

The reason I am so emotionally charged about this subject is with the election coming up this fall, I know, as sure as my name, that some teachers in my school district will be disparaging the name of one candidate or another or our election process- usually in the week after the election.Some teachers may be substitutes, old or young. Some will make broad baseless statements, for example, attack the court system, how they work ie. the circuit courts, etc. They have no idea that there IS sense to it all, that the electoral college was instituted for a reason, and it all makes sense, and that whether a judge is liberal or conservative and the number of each type on each bench will influence the outcome of their decisions.I do object to teachers who use their position of authority to promote how THEY personally feel about issues just to get a emotional reaction from the kids.(politics here)It happened in elementary school, middle school and the senior high for us, so if it happened 3 x's over 15 years for one family (concerning politics) it must be going on regularly.

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 08:08 pm: Edit

We have a school council, and parents are always free to attend its meetings, contact representatives (they are elected), etc... to voice their concerns.
It is legitimate to bring up the subject in a general way to the PTA, principal, or school board, that with the election coming up, partisan politics should be kept out of the classroom. It's okay to use current events as "teachable moments" but a great deal of thought must go into it how to handle the issues they raise so that student actually learn something from them.

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