Should there be limits on teachers' freedom of speech?

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Mark Richardson (not verified)

Great question and a tough

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Great question and a tough topic. Varied responses were fascinating to read. As a teacher of students in grades 3-5 I suppress my personal opinion about political topics when teaching. I do not suppress my personal opinion because I feel Big Brother Admin is watching and listening, but rather because I do not want to sway my students in one direction or another. As Elizabeth posted above, it is the educators respon. to help the students tackle a tough topic from all sides so that they can see an issue from multiple perspectives so they can make the most informed decision. Not the decision that they think will make their teachers happiest or even their parents happiest but will make them feel best about making. My high school Civics teacher was a master as presenting all political information from all viewpoints. To this day I am not sure what political party she was affiliated with. It just doesn't seem right for a teacher to advocate one way or another while on stage as a teacher with a captive audience. Outside of class is a completely different issue however. Cheers...Mark
Bruce Rockwood (not verified)

The choice of questions reminds

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The choice of questions reminds me of the "issues" to be voted on in my Nation-States country: they mix valid and invalid points, and ignore things like age or class level, course subject and the like. I can see faculty who want to comment sardonically on the war objecting to freedom to advocate creation science, say, and so forth. And of course, since one major topic (the disastrous law "No Child Left Behind" with its fall out of teaching to the test above all else) impacts teachers and students alot, it is hard to avoid needing to talk about it. The key is to permit teachers to fairly discuss current issues where they naturally come up, and as they may relate to the subject or, in some instances, to the needs of the students (I can see a need to discuss the Imus affair in some instances, for example). And to understand the difference between reasonable analysis and criticism, on the one hand, and partisan campaigning on the other. Though it may be hard to do this if, for example, one is teaching "Bush v Gore" in an American history or civics class.
Joanna Vogel (not verified)

May I just say how

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May I just say how much I agree with and love what Peter Kuzma commented here? Having said that much, my own two cents: while teachers have every right to express their personal views on a subject (and they MUST, really, if they are not modeling and sharing and showing that they too are people and learners with opinions and feeling on controversial subjects, how are students to learn a truly positive way to, and feel comfortable with, sharing their opinions and advocating for themselves?) teachers also need to share the other side of the coin (or however many sides there may be to a certain issue...) and play Devil's Advocate as well, in order to ensure that all points of view are represented and validated in conversation.
Dana (not verified)

Anytime we open the door

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Anytime we open the door to censorship, we threaten the very ideals of this country. If we allow the censorship of teachers, what keeps us from making censorship a habit? I think that allowing any censorship in one instance makes it easier for it to happen again, and possibly again and again. Where is the line drawn? Instead, I think schools need to focus more on introducing students to differing views and theories and then challenging them through discussion and research to think critically. The teacher needs to present the views and then serve as a mediator for any subsequent discussion, not as a facilitator.
J. Mahlon (not verified)

As an educator, the only

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As an educator, the only time when it "pays to keep your mouth shut" is when doing so benefits the students, by letting them grasp toward their own truths and discoveries. However, in general terms, we can not easily educate and create democratic citizens without modeling what it means to be one. Good citizens are not afraid to engage in reasonable and respectful dialogue concerning social or political issues. By sharing our beliefs (and more often our indecision) when contextually appropriate, and allowing our students the freedom to do the same, we are doing our duty to help mold impressionable students into thoughtful democratic citizens, citizens who are experienced in challenging and analyzing the complex realities of social and political life. At the end of their education, this is a much bigger contribution to society than whether every grammar lesson has been retained. Does this belong in the classroom? It all depends on the context of age, subject matter, environment, etc. Teachers of course should use their best judgement, as with almost everything else in the classroom. Teachers who are evangelical or overbearing with their opinions can be challenged by parents and administrators, and rightly so. It would be going completely overboard to get legislation involved.
Peg Cagle (not verified)

As a classroom teacher I

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As a classroom teacher I believe it is my responsibility to teach my students how to form an opinion, not my opinion. However, I do not think it is necessary or wise to pretend that I do not have an opinion. Learning to judge the veracity of information and then fit it with one's own values to form opinions is an important skill of an informed and active citizenry. If all we do is teach students our opinions OR pretend that it is not important to form opinions we are doing them and society a great disservice.
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