Political Balance In The Classroom

In a stack of papers called Connections.

  • Sep
  • 16
  • 2006

Through a fairly convoluted chain of surfing, I found an anit-war speech from Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. I know nothing about Mayor Anderson other than what I read in his speech and the fact that “he will not seek a third term as Mayor of Salt Lake City,” something I gleaned from his home page. I don’t even know his political party.

Frankly, his speech shocked me. I agree wholeheartedly with what he said. I think we all need to wake up and realize that the Iraq War was sold to us on false pretenses, ones that the President either knew about or was willfully ignorant of. Who would have thought that I’d agree with the mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah?

I traveled to Salt Lake City once, but that was a lifetime ago. I must have it all wrong. Anyhow, on to how this relates to education…

Wanted: Similar Rhetoric

Reading Mayor Anderson’s speech, I was reminded of the Declaration of Independence. The logic isn’t entirely the same, but some of the phrasing is reminiscent. I wonder if there’s a way to use these kinds of speeches in order to show how the fight for independence only began with that famous Declaration, it didn’t end there.

But how do I teach that speech without using the classroom as a soapbox? In other words, where is the text that I can use to balance Anderson, a text that perhaps uses rhetoric in the same way but for the opposite argument?

Apolitical Teaching

I’ve read lots of good articles in Adbusters, The Nation, Harper’s, Mother Jones, all very liberal magazines. Sadly, those articles never enter my classroom because I don’t have articles to show opposing views. Yet I’m torn because there’s information there that I desperately want my students to know about, especially those who believe so strongly that 9/11 happened because “they’re oppressed and so they hate our freedom” (actually spoken by a student this past Thursday).

For the most part, our social science department rarely has trouble with this. They are largely very conservative and tend to be open about their political beliefs during class, using their post as teacher more like a pulpit.

How do I teach texts that show both sides of a political argument in order to balance what I know is an insanely republican, conservative education in their social science classes? Am I forced to read teeth-grinding articles from the other side in order to bring anything political into the classroom? Is it ever the right thing for a teacher to present only one side of an issue? Is that an abuse of power?

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