Classes can include political discussion while avoiding indoctrination

November 22, 2019 — by Brandon Wang

Stigma around debating current events poses more problems than it solves 


In an increasingly politicized climate, it may be appealing to suppress debate in schools in order to maintain a sense of purity. These arguments generally base themselves on the need to preserve an ideal “learning environment” for students or a fear that political discussion in schools will cross the line into indoctrination.

However, as society grows more political, so must schools increase efforts to prepare students to meet the demands of the era rather than cower from them. Because the purpose of schools is to educate the next generation, education must evolve as times change. 

For example, Saratoga High has changed its curriculum by adding whole programs and classes that didn’t exist in years prior — among them, engineering, computer science, Chinese and Media Arts. Reacting to real-life incidents and societal changes, school leaders also updated cyberbullying and dress code policies. 

So too it should be with politics in unprecedented times. 

While the divorce of politics from the classroom is often justified by a need to shield students from polarizing issues until they graduate, these well-meaning intentions do not necessitate labeling politics a taboo. Although parents similarly protect students from drugs and alcohol, this does not prevent the school from having a health class for freshmen. In both cases, education is the path to a better, more informed life..

In fact, the polarization of the current political climate creates even more necessity to discuss politics in school so that students are better able to think critically for themselves about controversial issues and identify what is truth vs. what is misleading propaganda.

Fear of discussing politics in the classroom often comes from those who fear the inculcation of a liberal bias by left-leaning teachers. 

In the hands of a skilled teacher, however, students would be able to analyze the merits of multiple viewpoints and decide for themselves which ones align more closely with their values. For this to happen, teachers must be encouraged to research the multiple sides and prepare them for classroom debate rather than shut them out of the classroom altogether.

By easing the stigma around political discussion, especially  when relevant to classes (such as impeachment and trade policy as it relates to the Constitution and to mercantilism), the community would better prepare its students to become more politically literate in the world and beyond. And who knows, they might even become lifelong voters and engaged citizens.