When Should Politics Be In The Classroom?

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Mia Maalouf, Staff Writer

The United States is known for being a model of freedom—from celebrating diversity of opinion, race, religion, to embracing the importance of political views, regardless of their polarizing nature. Our democracy includes, but is not limited to: elected government, active participation, and the protection of human rights of all citizens and it depends on disagreement that allows us to question our ideas and current way of thinking. 

“I don’t like debates with winners and losers but I absolutely think there should be discussion,” says US History teacher, Dr. Anne Hartfield. 

Diversity of thought inspires new ideas and increases the possibility of finding solutions. But as political discussions have seeped into non-political high school classes, some students are feeling marginalized.

Out of 95 Mayfield students surveyed, 83% agree that politics had a place in school and 80% believe that their family is political. Survey questions related to politics at school and at home. 

45% of the respondents expressed that they are not comfortable sharing their political views at school with reasons ranging from fears associated with isolation or humiliation from classmates and friends. 

“Our teacher used a political analogy that didn’t have anything to do with the subject,” said Ava Delarosa ‘22. “Students were confused and there ended up being a lot of tension because some disagreed with how the teacher used the analogy,” said Delarosa, who doesn’t identify as political and felt uncomfortable in that situation.

Citing reasons of prevalence and importance, students felt that political discussions provide insight about varying ideas and opinions, and that they allow students to become educated about the issues surrounding us in the media, at school, and at home. 

Taylin Yankovich ‘20 believes that politics should be discussed in class: “to ensure that the student body is well educated and can make informed decisions with facts to back up their opinions.” 

Karissa Ho ‘21 observed that, “As part of a younger generation, I think it’s interesting to see how the government works and what potentially needs to change.” 

Most agree that teens who are just years away from voting need to develop knowledge concerning governmental policies. Depending on the context, discussing politics in school can be unhealthy because of uncomfortable extreme polarization. 

“I think politics belong in the classroom when you are having a relevant, cordial, respective dialogue that helps people understand both points in whatever topic is being discussed,” said history teacher April Garcez who believes that her challenge as a teacher is to make sure that both sides are being represented equally.  

Kate Thompson ‘22 expressed concerns that a focus on what she calls identity politics rather than legitimate fact-based politics can be harmful. “If that is the only exposure some people have to politics it can affect the views that people develop and that may not be the most positive thing,” said Thompson. 

Sister Pegeen Connolly agrees and emphasizes the importance of mindfulness surrounding politics, “Yes, it is important to talk about politics, but it is really important to be fair and let both sides speak.”

“There is a fine line between discussion and argument that most people our age have a hard time with,’ said Sophia Paz ‘20. “It is important that we remain respectful of each other’s opinions and that we are making others feel comfortable with sharing their opinions.”