By Caitlin Marsch, Current Staff
“As long as there weren’t any politics involved, I support you. Politics don’t belong in school.”
These were the words my father said to me after I participated in the National School Walkout last year, and, like many concerned parents, he was averse to political ideologies being exposed to young minds in a school setting.
Understandably, many parents are against any discussion of politics in school. They’re perhaps afraid of agendas infiltrating their children’s minds, propaganda and fake news being spread, or, most shamefully… their kids sharing a different belief system than them.
However, there is a simple fact that parents must eventually accept: children cannot be sheltered forever.
As hard as it is to accept that your baby is growing up, it needs to be acknowledged. The real world is a tumultuous and ever-changing place, and we need to prepare our children to live in that world.
There is a time and a place to discuss politics, and now is a critical time in our society to have a meaningful, unbiased discussion about current events and the impact they have on our society and ourselves. And, for many children, school is the best place to have these critical discussions; a monitored, academic setting is much more educational than political debates at the Thanksgiving table.
“Now is a critical time in our society to have a meaningful, unbiased discussion about current events.”
Take, for example, my favorite class, AP Government and Politics. I feel as if that class has given me more real-world skills than any other class, as it has allowed me to comfortably discuss politics in a respectful and articulate way, and our discussions about current events allow me to see many perspectives on an issue. I am able to stand up for what I believe in, while still opening my mind to other perspectives. My teacher monitors our discussions, without inserting his own opinion or persuading us one way or another, and ensures we stay respectful and open to hear others’ views. I’m not being brainwashed; I’m not having an agenda forced down my throat. I am learning.
We don’t need political debates in English class or discussion of current news in biology, of course. We need a school and community culture where it’s okay to reference politics and current events without getting a harsh knee-jerk reaction, and many angry emails from parents. We need a culture where it’s okay to discuss issues of social justice and welfare without being labeled as a propagandist, a culture where it’s okay to accept that not everyone shares your beliefs.
If we want to have an intellectual, informed generation that is not afraid to stand up for their beliefs, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum, we need to stop normalizing the rash, sudden reactions surrounding politics and instead take a moment to pause and reflect on the real-world skills being gained through these discussions. We need to stop discouraging our future senators and presidents and politicians from chasing their passions.
I understand that our culture may never be totally okay with these things, but we can start by taking baby steps. We need to start nourishing the minds of the people who will be shaping our country, and the best way to do this is in the academic setting, where differing perspectives are seen as simply another piece of the puzzle that is our world.
(Top image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
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