Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Morning After

I spend most of my time telling my students I got involved in education to entertain myself with the antics of high school students, and what better way to get paid than to make fun of the kid who accidentally butt-dialed an authority figure in less than desirable circumstances?

I realize, though, that my position in the classroom is valuable and influential, and I carry the weight of those words every time I address topics on which I feel woefully unintelligible.  Or, maybe more accurately, every time any student looks to me for the correct answer.  Any person in a position to influence or challenge the young minds of the world likely feels that same sense of pressure.

But the fact that I value my influence is part of the reason I spend time discussing political matters in my classroom.  I've had to strike a precarious balance between giving my students room to think and guiding their thought processes to consider aspects easy to overlook due to inexperience or other factors.  It's precarious because I don't want to allow my political leanings to inhibit their processes or understandings.  How will they ever become informed citizens if I forgo the steps that allow them to develop critical thinking skills?

Last week, through a simulation activity in class, 90% of my students opted to give up their first amendment rights for the sake of the government providing a safer living environment.  

(The last 10%, heartily led by "Iron Will" declared the other 90% to be crazy and then said something about taking guns and hiding in the woods to defend their rights a la Red Dawn.)

Let that sink in for a minute, though.

Ninety percent.

I know I teach at a small high school in the middle of nowhere.  I know the opinions of my students do not dictate the leanings of the masses.  But I am disturbed to think that anyone--in the smallest portion of the Midwest or the most populated part of the inner city--would buy into the illusion that safety is an adequate or even a preferable alternative to freedom.

My classes quickly realized that the loss of that first amendment translated to an even more significant loss in overall freedom.  When that happened, their collective tune changed dramatically.

In the same vein of experience, my advanced class has been working through persuasive rhetoric and even identifying its presence in presidential debates or campaign commercials.  Our class has taken the time to discuss the "why" surrounding these approaches and the overall effectiveness of the persuasive elements.

Never once have I shared my political affiliations.  Never once have I told them how I determine my voting preferences.  And I don't really see myself sharing that information in my classroom because, again, I think there is something far more valuable in giving the people tools to use and opportunities to use them.

I don't believe I've changed the face of America or impacted the political education of the masses.  But I feel like I've honored the liberties I so value as an American citizen.

So today, winners, losers, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians or otherwise, I hope we realize where and how our voice really matters.  Arguments over a loss or a win or the state of our country due to a particular individual are likely to do little to change the minds of those who have already made a decision.

Why don't we consider the population just now developing the skills to form an opinion?  And instead of inundating them with reasons we are right, why don't we help them develop a sense of reason?  

Aside from exercising our own rights, it seems to be the most valuable use of our time and resources.

At least, it sounds preferable to arguing on social media, right?

3 comments:

Jenny said...

What a well written and thoughtful post.
I would be comforted handing my children over each day to a teacher like you, Crys.

Kristin said...

So wise. Lucky kids to have a teacher like you.

Mindee@ourfrontdoor said...

Sounds like your kids are learning a lot - and learning to use their own brains too. Good job.