Talking Politics in the Classroom is a Detriment to the Learning Environment

Isabella Hughes, Staff Writer

   Over the years, many of us have had to deal with situations in which teachers discuss topics that make us uncomfortable. One of those topics is politics. Amongst education professions, it is extremely frowned upon for teachers to discuss their own political beliefs with their students. While some teachers need to discuss politics because they teach a government or debate-based course, others do it because they simply want to share their opinions with their students. Discussing politics in class can be detrimental to the students’ learning, their relationship with their teacher, and the healthy environment all teachers are supposed to help maintain. Discussing political topics in class should not be permitted unless the course being taught strictly requires it.

   In an English class, students expect to be taught literature, and in a math class, students expect to be taught math, not current events or world affairs. A senior at University City High School, who wishes to remain anonymous, described how each day, one of their teachers spends at least 20 minutes discussing political events happening in the world instead of teaching the necessary information the students need to be focusing on. Let’s call this source ‘Sam.’ When the time came for Sam and their classmates to be tested on curriculum, they were unprepared and a majority of their class did not perform well. Sam said, “We were not discussing what actually needed to be discussed. We wasted time talking about what our teacher thought of current political matters instead of learning what we actually needed to know for the class. It’s distracting.”

   Politics is naturally a touchy subject to talk about. It can fuel an argument that will go from zero to ten in seconds. Teachers and students are meant to work hand-in-hand, teaching and learning. There is no reason to create situations that would cause them not to get along. It completely defeats the purpose. Sam said their “…teacher gets argumentative with us when we try to share our opinion and they don’t agree with it. The teacher interrupts us and doesn’t let us speak. It is extremely annoying and frustrating, not to mention hypocritical.” The student explained that it makes them feel unheard and disrespected; it’s then also hard to want to go to that class and learn anything there at all.

   Students are not the only ones on the receiving end of harsh discussions regarding politics. Teachers are also noticing the discomfort. Many students who engage in political discussions are very passionate about what they are speaking about. The news website Education Week reported on how teachers felt regarding political discussions in class. The Education Week survey stated that “…66 percent said they have noticed an increase in uncivil political discourse at their school.” Over half of the teachers who participated in this survey saw a noticeable increase in negative discussions regarding politics between students with their teachers, and students with each other (

   Students are meant to have comfortable and trusting relationships with their teachers, not relationships where one side is afraid to speak. It is one thing if a teacher simply wants to share their opinions on things, but it is another when they “…put students down, constantly saying their views are wrong or stupid.” Another student at University City High School explained how they have a teacher that has repeatedly called out a certain political party stating that their “ideas and opinions are wrong.” The teacher does not care if there are people in their presence who actually support those ideologies.

   Not every teacher acts this way when discussing political subjects. University City High Teacher Michele Fournier, who teaches AP US Government stated, “My job as a teacher is not to get my students to think the way I think, but to be sure they are informed about what’s happening in the world and help them form opinions and beliefs about how best to solve problems based on their own set of values.” One of the first things Fournier does at the beginning of the year is encourage her students to feel entitled to their opinions. She also emphasizes that her class is not a place to “…put others down or demean their world view.”

   There is no way to regulate who is speaking about political topics in a constructive way and who is not. The best way to correct this issue is simply to eliminate it. Make it a rule or a law prohibiting teachers and students from discussing their political opinions in class unless the course actually requires it. It is detrimental to student’s learning. It is harmful to their self-confidence and their conviction in their own beliefs. It is damaging to their ability to feel comfortable in the presence of someone who is meant to nurture, encourage and teach them, not tear them down. There are reasons political discussions are frowned upon in class, and they are reasons that should not be ignored any longer.