By Leila Idrissi
Everyone has their own personal opinions, but not not everyone can always share them. Similarly to many schools, Schechter Westchester has a policy in which teachers are not supposed to share their political views, even if politics are are brought up in class. With a student body that has a variety of differing political ideas and many still forming their views, this issue remains important, and sometimes more complicated than it seems.
Along with Schechter Westchester’s policy against sharing political opinions in class, SW states that it maintains political neutrality and asks that when a teacher does bring up politics in class, that they bring up both sides; allowing them to share the information in an unbiased way. High School Principal, Eric Bassin said, “A classroom is not a platform for political advocacy by a teacher.”
Many teachers try to follow these rules and believe that political opinions should not be shared in the classroom.
High School History Teacher Harry Shontz said, “I know that I’m teaching students that are developing their political beliefs, so I am constantly reminding myself … to [make sure that I don’t] influence their beliefs in a way that I am molding them”
Some teachers also stress the importance of teaching both sides of politics, “I don’t think, especially in teaching history, that it is right to only teach one side of things. I think that the whole story needs to be told, ” Shontz said.
However, despite the rules that are in place about handling political discussions in class, according to a poll conducted by The Lion’s Roar of 43 students, 60.4 percent said that both sides of politics are not presented in class. The same poll also found that 69.2 percent of the students said they have more than one teacher who shares their viewpoint on politics.
While some students may be against any discussion of politics in class, oth
ers believe that it is important and can be valuable if handled correctly.
Junior Ariel Shached said, “Teachers talking about politics isn’t a problem that needs to be [fixed], it just needs to be done right.”
High School Hebrew Teacher Avi Nahumi explained that teachers don’t always share their opinion, and that sometimes students guess a teacher’s political beliefs.
“The students are smart, and from the way that teachers explain both sides, sometimes they can detect what the teachers’ opinions are,” Nahumi said.
In an nprED interview, authors Diana E. Hess and Paula McAvoy said “What’s most important [when discussing politics] is that teachers create a culture of fairness in the classroom.”
Recognizing that this issue can be complicated, Bassin suggested what a student could do if they did not feel this fairness that Hess and McAvoy mentioned is being achieved: “I think you should bring it to the attention of the teacher and pri
ately ask if it is possible for the teacher not to advance their own political agendas. If that’s uncomfortable for a student to do, a student can always turn to their dean or to me to express their concern and we could discuss it with the teacher,” Bassin said.
Another way that teachers can combat political discussion in class is by reminding students that politics is not a part of the subject that they are studying.
“When kids were talking about [politics,] I say, ‘listen I rather you do that outside of class because this isn’t really the place for it,’ ” said High School Science Teacher Elena Gizang-Ginsberg.
Although there are rules against the sharing of political opinions in class, Bassin recognized that it isn’t always easy for teachers to remain unbiased, but reiterated that it is important for them to handle the situation carefully: “Teachers are human beings that have feelings, beliefs, and they have passions, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some teachers found it hard to maintain a sense of artificial neutrality [in class], but I think they understand that their role is not to advance their political agendas, but rather to teach their classes.”