Within the classroom, politics is often an avoided subject. While teachers are encouraged to look back at history with an analytical lens, turning this lens on our current politicians is often against school policies. While the ethicality of teachers not being able to share their political views in the classroom is a debate for another day, the undeniable and sometimes unintended consequence of this is a lack of civic debate on current events and political happenings.
While it is true that political discussions can lead to heated conversations that can divide classrooms, if students never have the opportunity to talk openly about politics and learn to share their opinions in a civil manner, they never will in life. One of the key reasons why our nations and communities are so politically divided is due to them not learning how to carry out discussions with those who disagree with them.
Further, having open discussions about politics can lead to students having more open minds and developing opinions that are truly their own. Studies find that a key way children’s political ideologies are formed is through what they perceive their community believing. However, having open discussions with multiple viewpoints and revealing that not everyone in a classroom believes a certain way can liberate students to make their own critical opinions about what to believe in.
Ultimately, there is no easy solution to approaching politics in the classroom. However, schools must not let a divided nation cause silent classrooms. Instead, it is imperative that social studies and liberal arts courses make time and platforms for students to learn and debate about modern politics. Afterall, the students of today will make the open-minded (or close-minded) citizens of tomorrow.
Alyssia Menezes is a junior at Lincoln High School and serves as the Amplify Co-Director of Policy for Oregon Student Voice, a student-led organization that empowers all students to be authentic partners in making decisions that affect their K-12 education.