An Educator Prerogative

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I teach as an educator at a charter school. While many people would praise me for sacrifice in pay to help young students reach their fullest potential, there have been equally as many people whose first response was, “so, you teach all the rich white kids.” Let me be a little more specific! I teach at a charter school which services children in one of the worst performing school districts in Colorado. Over half our students qualify for free or reduced lunches and many children come from broken homes. Despite these perceived “disadvantages,” our school continues to be recognized as one of the top schools in the state of Colorado.

The purpose of this article is not a sob story about my life as a teacher but I wanted to include what I do to prevent those SJWs who will attempt to discredit what I say because I am white, male, and out of touch with reality. I live in that reality!

It seems like every week, there is a new circulating story about social justice warriors interrupting college lectures or peaceful assemblies in an effort to right what they believe to be wrongs committed against them. Free speech is one of the most sacred and truly historic aspects of the Constitution and I would never seek to diminish its role and importance to a free an honest society.

With that said, in a world of ever increasing access to information, it is truly horrifying how so many students in a college or university setting are so easily entrapped into an opinion with no regards to facts and evidence. There are multiple sources of blame to assign but, as an educator, I am going to try to explain the reason and inherent danger that many educators pose to students. This is not a one-sided issue, I have run into liberal students who do not know or use facts and I have encountered conservative students who do the same.

In my four and a half years as a teacher, I have witnessed many teachers blatantly share and actively push their own political agendas onto their students. I am not perfect, and while I profess to be an educator who strongly values the importance of giving students multiple viewpoints and hoping my students will come to their own decision regarding their views on politics, I am certain that I have failed a time or two. No educator is free from blame on this issue, but there is a difference between an infrequent failing and a pattern of behavior. This occurs at the high school setting and I have witnessed it firsthand. It is difficult to find statistics on high school educators sharing viewpoints, so, outside of thinking back to your own time in high school and remembering teachers who pushed their agenda on their students, I cannot offer any statistical evidence.

Studies and stats do exist which show how college professors in public institutions are pushing agendas for a political purpose. According to a study done in 1990 by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA, “42 percent of professors identified as liberal or ‘far left.’” Compare that to another study done by HERI in 2014 which revealed that “[the number of professors identified as liberal or far left] had jumped to 60 percent.” The report continues on to say that liberal professors now outnumber conservative professors “by roughly 5-1.” Is it any wonder that, in the past 5 years, we have seen this explosion of grossly uninformed SJWs? This is not to say that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. There should be a balance in the viewpoints taught and advanced in higher education.

I would be the first to admit that I learned and grew the most when I was challenged by differing viewpoints. In this, I understand the plight of educators who feel that students who come from specific backgrounds need to be exposed to different viewpoints. I yearn for higher education that focuses on giving students’ access to as many differing viewpoints as possible to these students. This is both a great responsibility and an awesome charge.

Free speech is a fundamental right guaranteed to all Americans through the power of the Constitution, but what defines free speech? When does practicing free speech border on the fanaticism witnessed by many Germans during the Nazis’ rise to power in the 1920s and 30s? Dictionary.com defines free speech as, “the right of people to express their opinions publicly without governmental interference, subject to the laws against libel, incitement to violence or rebellion, etc.” How can these students who interrupt college lectures and assemblies, and in some cases, prevent speakers from even delivering their remarks justify their actions? When did disagreeing with a viewpoint give an individual the right to actively block another person from exercising their First Amendment right? This baffles me because they say, “I have a right to free speech!” Doesn’t the individual you disagree with have the same right? Is it any wonder that, when 60 percent of college professors identify as liberal, most of the speakers being blocked or obstructed are conservative leaning?

Because the students are in the “education bubble” and have not really lived life as adults, the inherent difficulty for someone between the ages of 16 and 22 centers around the fact that they can only act on what they have been taught, not in what they know through experience. That was an absolute statement and I recognize that there are always exceptions to any rule, but this is the case for the majority of high school and college students. When a student is in high school, their parents’ views and beliefs largely drive their world view. While this is also true in college, a new phenomenon is emerging. There are probably multiple reasons, but perhaps the most influential are the number of students coming from single parent households or broken families. There is a hole in many students’ development that is being filled by college professors who are unscrupulous in their manner of exploring alternative viewpoints. These students hear things in classrooms, and because of the elevated position of college professors, sometimes the students just believe without fact checking. This may not be the reason, but as a high school educator, I can confirm that many students will have an opinion on an issue but have never researched the alternative viewpoint.

My reason for writing this and my hope from your having read it is to impress the notion to hold educators accountable for the intended or unintended consequences of their actions. Committing to life as an educator takes a lot out of you in emotional stress and many Americans will say that teachers are underpaid for their massive contribution to society. However, we are called to teach in a responsible and decent manner. I want this to be seen as a call to action to return to an education system where students are challenged to think about alternative viewpoints. I want students to have to discuss and explain why they believe this or that. I want universities where students analyze the socio-political issues of the day in order to come up with real solutions.

* Samuel Ashmore is a 27 year old high school teacher from Colorado Springs. As an economics and government teacher, he believes very strongly in the unbiased teaching of different ideas and viewpoints to students. He is a firm believer in the values of the Constitution and believes strongly in individual choice.

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1 COMMENT

  1. To be fair, biased teaching happens at every level where the individual is still developing. Even in Kindergarten, the teacher there comes with his/her own set of biases/beliefs that your child is being subjected to every day they’re under their care. And it doesn’t ever stop. Our friends are constantly trying to persuade us to their side, or parents even, and family. Everyone is almost always, at some level, expressing who they are and who they’d like you to be, even if it is subtle in most cases.

    This isn’t a bad thing, but, it’s exactly why most successful people will tell you, “Who you hang out with matters.” To be fair, up unto this point, frankly speaking, most people were just too dumb to realize the sheer importance of this. But, thankfully, we now do and so now we are no longer able to consider ourselves “innocent”; at least going forward. It’s to do something about this, and for the time being, really, talking about it is enough. People need to learn that WHO teaches your kid is just as important as WHAT they’re teaching.

    Character matters just as much as content, and honestly, it might just matter even more.

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