The fine line between one’s professional life and one’s personal life
As the year for public schools are in full swing, some teachers in North Carolina are less worried about making sure that their students do well in their class, and more upset about North Carolina’s education funding that was passed in this year’s budget. A coalition of teachers throughout the state are fighting against the Republican passed measures that ended teacher pay boosts for those with advanced college degrees, as well as other measures that freeze current teacher pay.
This coalition, Red 4 Ed NC, is a not for profit group of public school teachers that, to quote from their Facebook page, are “doing the best for our students through the demonstration of teaching.” This fact becomes a bit confusing based on the fact that half of the state budget is focused on education, and the state has passed measures to increase the use of technology in local schools across the state. This fact isn’t mentioned on the Red4Ed’s website or on their Facebook page. Furthermore, their agenda, according to an October 3rd article by the News and Observer, is to support “a fair balance between workload, expectations and compensation for our teachers”.
In addition, the group is encouraging teachers to wear red on Wednesdays in protests of the budget until better laws are passed, bringing politics into an unnecessary battle ground of the classroom. Schools from all over the state have already posted their staff members wearing red garments on the group’s Facebook page, including these showing the fists for solidarity. These are the people teaching your children, ladies and gentlemen.
Now, I’m not writing this to debate education funding, or talk about whether the budget signed by Governor McCrory was right or wrong. I am writing because of the sole purpose that the teachers who wear red are keeping political diversity out of the classrooms by promoting a political agenda, which could make some students feel uncomfortable.
Whether the teachers know this or not, a lot of kids are actually knowledgeable on politics. They follow the current events, and some are comfortable talking about it in school. But when a teacher promotes an atmosphere promoting one view over another, it is hard for a student who has an opposite view to feel comfortable, and it may do more harm than good to the students to talk about their differences.
Take for example an event that happened at North Rowan High School last year. A teacher, Ms. Tanya Dixon-Neely, verbally abused a conservative student for speaking ill about President Obama’s policies, and talked down to the boy about why he should not badmouth the President, as it could lead to jail time, which is false. The Rowan Salisbury School System briefly suspended Ms. Dixon-Neely, stating “The Rowan-Salisbury School System expects all students and employees to be respectful in the school environment and for all teachers to maintain their professionalism in the classroom. This incident should serve as an education for all teachers to stop and reflect on their interaction with students.”
This an obvious violation of the student’s freedom of speech, but how does it feel to not even be allowed to have a different view in the classroom? For students like Daniel Glowacki, not too well.
On October 20th, 2010, Daniel was kicked out of his economics class by his teacher, Johnson McDowell, for not supporting homosexual marriage. A lawsuit filed by the Thomas More Law Center explained that the Howell Public School District in New Jersey allowed teachers to sell purple shirts in support of the late Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who killed himself last year after a roommate streamed an Internet video of Clementi kissing a male student. When McDowell, who was wearing one of these shirts, was asked by Daniel why it was permissible to display this viewpoint in school, he turned the question on Daniel and asked him whether he supported homosexual marriage. When Daniel replied no due to his Catholic religion, McDowell told Daniel and another student who shared Daniel’s views to leave class.
Now, while there has not been any documented cases of pro-Red 4 Ed teachers acting against students, the power of a piece of cloth is stronger than what this coalition sees it as, and it would be disgusting to have one teacher punish a student for having a different viewpoint than them on this matter. We can see with examples like Ms. Dixon-Neely and Mr. McDowell that teachers have crossed this line before, and all it takes was one person with a different view than them.
Teachers shouldn’t promote a political cause once they are in the classroom. Once they open their room door and sit behind their desk, they are no longer the political activists one may see on the streets. They are role models for children, and they help make the next generation of Americans great by promoting the knowledge of how things work. However, they also let the students form their own opinions outside of the class using these facts. They shouldn’t attempt to create an uncomfortable atmosphere by promoting their own beliefs, and should leave politics in their personal lives.
Think of it as if an environmental science teacher only showed Gasland to their class. The film, which bashes the use of natural gas fracturing, would not provide the whole story to the students, but rather promote to leftists views of the film’s creator, Josh Fox. Students would only learn about the negatives of fracking, and none of the positive benefits it may have. Same thing if the teacher only showed Fracknation, a film that is devoted towards the positive benefits of fracking. Neither situation does not create a dialogue because only one side is being shown. Now, in this situation, the teacher could just show two films to inform their students of both sides, but that is difficult to do on the subject of showing support by wearing a t-shirt.
If teachers who take part for these events cared about creating a comfortable learning environment for their students, they wouldn’t bring their own views onto their kids. No one wants to abridge the First Amendment for anyone, but there is a time and a place for everything. Throwing politics in front of children’s faces can do more harm than good, no matter how noble the cause may come off as. This does not need to be enforce by some law, but rather common sense. It’s better to create a diversity of beliefs rather than promote an environment with a lack of one.