Saturday, July 1, 2017

Teachers' Religious and Political Beliefs

Teachers are silenced when it comes to politics and religion. I have been in numerous schools and heard similar discussions about how teachers are supposed to stay silent or neutral when it comes to politics and religion in the classroom and in public places and mediums. This has been weighing on my mind lately and I am having trouble justifying this position.

The best alternative to discussing personal beliefs with learners is that the teacher should probe and ask the learner why they believe a certain way or to play the opposing role and help the learner solidify their understanding of an issue or topic in the religious or political realm.

As an AP English teacher, we read many works that open up learners eyes to different political or religious ideologies. Some readings present ideas that corroborate learner's beliefs or challenge them. While wrestling with these ideas, learners often want to know what the teacher thinks. Most of the time, I play the role of the opposing side.

There have been some instances where the learner knows my political or religious views because they go to church with me or know where I go to church. They may also have seen my social media and can tell which political party I associate with.

This blog has more questions than answers, but I want to ask the questions. From the beginning, I know that I have an ethical and contractual obligation to not post or work on personal religious or political work during the contract hours and that I should not use my position and influence as a teacher to unload my religious and political beliefs on captive juvenile learners. I understand that.

However, is it ever appropriate for a teacher to discuss his/her personal religious/political beliefs with a learner or learners?

Is is appropriate to share political or religious beliefs and sentiments on social media that might be seen by learners?

Would it ever be a better practice to be transparent in one's beliefs with a learner if the content and the "whole-child" growth would be greater?

If the teacher and the learner know each other's political or religious beliefs by honest coincidence and the learner asks for tutoring in understanding their own beliefs better or in speech writing or text comprehension/interpretation, would it be unethical to help that learner with the tutoring on school property or even out of school?

These are a few scenarios of a bunch that I have pinging in by brain.

I want to know what the justification is for silencing teachers personal beliefs if the end result is a stronger, more intelligent and wise learner. Is the only reason for a lack of transparent dialogue because the school system is afraid of being accused of favoritism or pushing a political/religious agenda? Is that fear worth hamstringing teachers to help learners honestly broach these very real and lifestyle determining topics with their teachers?

Again, I have more questions than answers.

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