Friday, January 11, 2008

Welcome to Obama country ... I mean, Hillary's home state

Yes, Chicago is the home of the front runner. Whoever the front runner is. Either way, I'd like to say hello to all the Daily Kos readers coming over. (You regular Teacher Man readers should check out Kos to see what I'm talking about.)

So, yeah, a quick post about teaching: Today, for the first time this election cycle, a student asked who I'm going to vote for. Always quick on my feet, I asked, "Who do you think I should vote for?" And always a Chicago guy, I added, "And how much are willing to pay me for that vote?"

Dealing with mostly African-American and Latino students, I always wonder if I should let my bleeding heart flow. It's a debate I've had with other teachers, especially the ones in the social studies department. They don't like revealing to students how they vote. So the kids assume that all of their white, tie-wearing teachers vote Republican. I, on the other hand, don't mind going off on an anti-Republican rant from time to time.

Any thoughts out there? Should a teacher show his true political colors? Or should the teacher teach critical thinking skills and let the kids make up their own minds?

15 comments:

Mel said...

Retired NYC teacher here, mostly in ghetto schools. That term seems to bother people, but it's the most accurate description. What do you think?

I always told my students my political views--they had to know I was a person, and that I intended to treat them as people. Most people out of the classroom don't realize how conservative many minority families really are. They vote Democratic because that's the only party even pretending to care about them. Socially, they are closer to Huckabee than they are to Clinton/Obama. Strict family values--no leniency.

I expect Chicago is the same. Good luck--teaching kids was fun, dealing with the adults was not.

freelunch said...

I think it's just fine if you tell them who you support and why, but make it very clear that you want to know who they support and have them defend their choices as well. I'm sure they've had to put up with enough authoritarian bozos in their lives who think that "because I said so" is a good enough reason, so they need to know that they are free to support anyone they want without it mattering in the class.

Please do teach critical thinking skills however you can. They need it for themselves, for those around them and for their kids. The bad news/good news of success would be the day they caught you in some careless error or jumping to some illogical conclusion.

Yes, I was directed here by Kos. I hope that whatever you decide about teaching and Chicago things go well for you.

middleson said...

congrats on the Kos kudos!

i have no problem telling students who i'm voting for. it helps that i'm a big fan of obama and he has a VERY strong student group at my school. i'm try to be as unbiased and open in my explanations and examples, but i think we should be willing to show kids that we don't just teach about civics, gov't, responsibility, but that we actually care and do our part too.

i gave extra credit if students went and caucused, and over half of them did. we had a great time the next day sharing our stories of the experience. hopefully it will start them on a life of civic involvement.

mr. christian said...

As a social studies teacher I try to present both sides and let the students make up their own minds but is there really anything "objective" when it comes to social issues?
They'll often ask me what I think and if they do I'll tell them and explain why.

As mel pointed out inner city kids can be pretty conservative on social issues. Every year I have students write a politician about an issue that's important to them. Last year a student was writing to giuliani and commending him on his anti-abortion stance and I just kinda go, "Oh, that's nice." and count my blessings that they're actually doing the assignment.

I teach 8th grade so their critical thinking skills are all over the place. It's hard with such complex issues to bring the students to a level of understand for them to make an informed decision.

chiGirl said...

I think that stating a solution (your candidate) and then explaining the process (how you got there) gives the students an good tool in critical thinking along with an example of real-life application.

I broke my right wing said...

Kos reader here, I think that you should hold a mock caucus, and be the precinct captain of who ever you support, this would give you the ability to express your support in a way that people (parents?) would be okay with.

dbt said...

No thoughts on your question of the day, but I just spent 3 hours reading your archives. Funny that I found you from dkos, but I probably live no more than a couple miles from where you teach (east Rogers Park).

joninorford said...

I teach science (grades 10, 11, 12) and my political viewpoints often come through as we talk about climate change and manipulation of science for personal gain. I think it is fine, students know that we have our opinions and if we respond to their questions, then we are treating them as legitimate members of society. I almost never challenge their political views except when there is some huge contradiction ....

appopt said...

Hey, dbt (and everyone else), welcome to this neighborhood. Hope you come back from time to time. (BTW, I live in a neighborhood I call Rogers Park South. Sounds menacing.) Anyway, the consensus from the comments seems to be that it's OK for teachers to discuss their politics. The problem with that, according to my social studies colleagues, is that we are the ultimate authority in the classroom. Students might feel threatened if they disagree with us. We do, ultimately, decide their fate (at least as far as grades go). So we might think we have an open attitude, but really we're just shutting the students down. That's what my colleagues say. Then again, I've got this pretty racist colleague who is very hostile towards students, who shows his contempt for kids by walking the halls chanting "Jerry! Jerry!" as in Jerry Springer, meaning the school is a zoo like the Springer show. So I just don't know ...

Anonymous said...

I never had a problem either. Living in NW Indiana and teaching there I too was apt to take the same stance as you. But what I found is that if they disagreed with my choice of candidate I found it a great opportunity for debate.

Anonymous said...

I think that it is important for teachers to discuss how important it is for them to learn the importance of elections and the power of voting. They can express their individual choices but also need to make sure they also mention it is their personal opinions and their are other choices.At the same time I feel it should be done in a way as to not put pressure on them to vote a certain way. I remember in high school all the teachers were discussing the importance to vote for a higher bond issue for more money. They were throwing all types of threats out there including that if it didn't pass all extracirricualar activities would be cancelled and teachers would have to leave. They even went so far as to put pressure on our parents to vote yes. I think they even passed out buttons to wear "vote yes". Well after the bond issue failed there was absolutely nothing that changed. It was an idle threat. My point is that there are 2 sides to the story and if a student felt uncomfortable he/she was not given a platform to discuss it without feeling intimidated. Remember teachers you are a big influence on your students but hopefully they can form values,opinions from other sources also.

Anonymous said...

In my Mid. East class the prof. brought in a Palestinian refugee and a Jewish Zionist (on different days of course) and they both discussed their point of views. Maybe that can be an option rather then discussing your personal opinions. I think that the students at this school (I know because I went there) don't really know to much about the candidates...so maybe bringing in people that claim to be democratic,republican, or independent etc... and have them talk about some major issues.

Janet said...

It always used to bother me slightly that teachers would rarely reveal their political affiliation and beliefs. Yes, as students we're in a situation where we should be cultivating our own, but some students - especially the ones at which you teach - are not always savvy to such things because they may not be exposed to it at home. It'd be interesting for the sake of debate, or even pretending you're staunchly in favor of the other side, just to get the kids riled up and INTERESTED in politics. (That's probably more Fresh20's responsibility, but, hey, it's a thought.)

dbt said...

I'd say bring up the conversation topic, and let them drag it out of you, because if you bring it up they will. :) That way it's more a sharing and discussion point as opposed to instructing them how to think.

piledhighanddeep said...

When I taught college students, I never let them know my political persuasion, because I wanted to feel free to argue from all points of view. I think it's easier to successfully play devil's advocate if they don't know what your politics are. I certainly made a point of making them back up their statements with something more than "my parents told me so."