Is it appropriate for a teacher to display a “Black Lives Matter” poster on their wall or wear a t-shirt with the same message? Is it appropriate for a teacher to leave a Bible or other religious text sitting on their desk? Is it appropriate for a teacher to promote one political party over another? Is it appropriate for any of these things to be done while with students and on school time?
I was doing a training the other day with a school district and one of the teachers participating in the Zoom meeting had a poster on the back wall, in plain view of the camera, that essentially was advocating for a political viewpoint. Obviously this teacher was demonstrating they were an “activist” of sorts and wanted whomever was seeing them on camera to see that they felt a certain way about certain issues currently on the forefront of conversations for society as a whole.
I found the poster to be inappropriate for a teacher to be displaying – especially if this was a background that would be seen by students. I didn’t find it inappropriate because I disagreed with the subject matter. I found it in appropriate because I see it as a violation of professional standards.
Now, before I continue, I want to reiterate that I am all for free speech and allowing people to express their views. If you have spent time on this blog over the years you would know this. I don’t have many instances where expression of one’s views should be limited because I believe that the expression of one’s self is that important.
However, having been a high school teacher and an American Government teacher and knowing enough about freedoms within the school and limitations of those freedoms, there would seem to be a double standards – again.
Professional standards say that, as people who have a position of power over students, our personal views should be kept to ourselves. In the past this has generally been applied to things like politics and religion. The reasoning behind this is that students are moldable and if given undue influence, they might take on the beliefs or thoughts of their teacher. Makes sense, and as a teacher I tried to keep the students guessing when it came to these two topics – not my job to instill these things in students, that’s their parents’ job and eventually they should develop these views and opinions on their own with their own reasoning.
However, over the last 20 years, it has been more acceptable for teachers to express their political views but not their religious views. When I was teaching I heard my own colleagues express their political views in the classroom with students. I have had my daughter relate to me that one of her teachers was actually passing out bumper stickers for one particular presidential candidate. Conversely, I have seen and heard of school employees and teachers being punished for expressing their religious views or even practicing their religion while on school grounds.
Is it another double standard? Is it another practice of “it’s ok for me, but not for you” when it comes to politics and religion?
Look, it should be all of one, or all of the other. Either keep all politics and religion out of the classroom or allow all politics and religion in the classroom.
But, what do you think? Is there a fine line between what is appropriate and what isn’t? Is one more acceptable than the other?