Conversations about politics in the classroom: where do we draw the line?


Renna Popli

It’s up to teachers to decide what they discuss in class.

Renna Popli, Junior Editor

The past year has been filled with political turmoil which has resulted in emotional struggles for many Americans– young and old. Teachers are concerned for the well-being of their students, but it’s difficult to decide when talking about politics is appropriate and what is okay to discuss. 

“I think it’s good to check-in with students and see what their headspace is like regardless of current events. I think it’s important for us to remember that students have fully formed lives outside of the brief classroom time we see them, and that they have concerns, challenges, and successes that are going to percolate to the surface. During stressful times involving pandemics and political uncertainty, providing some space for students to think and decompress is particularly important,” said AV history and civics teacher Erik Wadkins. 

Teachers see how much students are struggling to remain composed when their lives are constantly being disrupted by world events, and many teachers think it’s important to discuss these issues so as to lower stress levels and provide clarity. But it is sometimes difficult for teachers to discuss stressful issues and give guidance because certain topics have been deemed “too political.”

“Unfortunately, many ideas that are necessary to affirm the lives of our students, such as Black Lives Matter or that trans people exist and are human beings, are viewed as political statements,” said Wadkins.  

Most teachers and students agree that discussing current events is necessary, while discussing political opinions is inappropriate. This may sound easy, but with topics such Black Lives Matter and the capitol riots, there is a fine line between expressing distress and expressing political opinions. 

“I was appalled and disgusted on so many levels to watch [the insurrection at the capitol] unfold. Seeing so many images come from the events, especially the one with a confederate flag being flown in the Capitol Building, have left an indelible impact on me,” said Foothill principal Sebastian Bull in an email to parents and student body. 

Words like “appalled” and “disgusted” usually would not be used by an educator in reference to something that could be deemed a partisan political topic, but recent events have been faced with unusual directness from teachers and faculty. 

“I think that teachers should be able to talk about politics without penalty, as long as their political views aren’t directly related to the support of groups/ideologies that are hateful or oppressive to other human beings,” said AV science teacher Timothy Sakogawa. 

At the end of the day, it is up to individual teachers to decide whether or not it is appropriate to discuss politics in the classroom. When a topic pushes past the line that can be declared “partisan politics,” it oftentimes needs to be discussed in classrooms through civil and educated conversations.