Opinion
Teacher Preparation Opinion

Is It Time to Be Impolite?

By Hank Rubin — January 31, 2006 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

I have two teenagers who sort of share leadership with my wife and me as we manage our little family. I’m not sure that they share everything with us that’s going on in their lives (actually, I’m quite sure they don’t), but we talk about many things. One of them is politics.

My children talk politics, too, when they are with their friends. But they never talk politics during their classes at school. In fact, they’re discouraged from doing so. This is not because their views are much different from many other students’ (they’re pretty sure they aren’t), but because their teachers have made it clear that these topics are divisive, may make some students uncomfortable, and are hence taboo. This is a problem.

You and I know, of course, that another reason for the silence is that so many teachers don’t know how to handle these types of discussions and are afraid of repercussions from parents, peers, principals, and policymakers. This is our problem.

Let’s never forget that democracy is renewed in debate by those in each generation who skillfully challenge those who came before them.

As Americans all but give up on finding objective journalism on radio and TV, and as more and more of our children learn the “facts” of world events filtered through ideological blogs and online news sources, it is the responsibility of educators—from K through 20—to lay the groundwork, build the skills, and cultivate the dispositions needed for students to gather data, interpret information, separate fact from bias, analyze the news they receive, and challenge prevailing thought when they see it as flawed.

Do our preservice programs prepare future K-12 teachers with the confidence and classroom-management, communications, and peer-relations skills they will need to integrate these lessons into their lesson plans; set the stage for them with their students, parents, and colleagues; and manage the questions, concerns, and challenges that will predictably flow during these polarized times? Have we prepared our own teacher-candidates with the skills they will need to bravely question, probe, seek objectivity, and reach independent interpretations? Or have we, too, taken the easy way out in our teacher-preparation programs and left our graduates to fend for themselves? The repercussions of such inaction may be multigenerational.

The drumbeat for war is fueled by anti-intellectualism. It is not inviting of data-sharing, open analysis, and debate. It is sustained by rejection of—even hostility toward—those who ask for information, press for open debate, and challenge policy decisions that are being made. But preparing the teachers of each generation of Americans is our business—my fellow teacher-educators’ and mine—and preparing generations of students to seek data, analyze and debate, and press for ever-better public policy is theirs. Let’s never forget that democracy is renewed in debate by those in each generation who skillfully challenge those who came before them.

It will require mustering all our diplomatic skills, and I’m sure it will be uncomfortable, but isn’t it time we looked at every syllabus and made the changes that will ensure that our education school graduates are encouraged and prepared to be democracy’s midwives for the new generation of Americans they will teach?

Related Tags:

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teacher Preparation ‘More Than a Demographic’: The Important Work of Cultivating Native Teachers
A graduate program at the University of Oregon is training Native and Alaska Native teachers to build a deeper bench of Indigenous educators.
9 min read
Tyler Sumpter graduated from the Sapsik’ʷałá master’s program at the University of Oregon in the spring of 2021, and began her teaching career at Quileute Tribal School in La Push, Wash., this fall.
Tyler Sumpter graduated from the Sapsik’ʷałá master’s program at the University of Oregon in the spring of 2021, and began her teaching career at Quileute Tribal School in La Push, Wash., this fall.
Kaylee Domzalski/Education Week
Teacher Preparation English Teachers Must Be Anti-Racist, National Group Says
The long-awaited standards from the National Council of Teachers of English emphasize teacher training in anti-racism and digital media.
5 min read
Image of a teacher in a classroom.
E+
Teacher Preparation Opinion First-Year Teachers Need Support This Year. Here Are 5 Ways Prep Programs Can Help
Do the teachers and administrators stepping into the classroom or school office for the first time during the pandemic have what they need?
Linda S. McKee
3 min read
A group of people help each other out.
iStock
Teacher Preparation First-Time Pass Rates on Teacher Licensure Exams Were Secret Until Now. See the Data
The National Council on Teacher Quality published first-time pass rate data on teacher licensing tests, which had been hidden for years.
8 min read
teacher 1276371740 stylized
Drazen Zigic/iStock/Getty