Divisive Concepts in the Classroom

February 25, 2022

The meat of the bill was centered around how to teach sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin and political affiliation in school.

Most students and teachers agree that these topics are valuable and need to be addressed in schools. Some students said that they feel like the way that these topics are currently taught is appropriate, but others said they have had experiences where they weren’t taught fairly.

Sophomore Rose Haflett wishes that these topics were covered more in schools and said that she frequently has to research these topics on her own.

“I see myself having to research a lot of terms on my own that I don’t see covered in school,” she said.

But, according to senior Madeline Jarvis, teachers need to be careful in how they present these topics, and keep the students’ ages in mind.

When she was younger, she had to listen to the emergency phone calls from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Although she thinks it is vital that students learn about the attack, hearing the phone calls was traumatic for her and helped shape her opinion on how teachers should handle these subjects.

“I think that topics should be taught, but I don’t know that some of the more gruesome details should be given to the kids,” Jarvis said.

Kohne believes that talking about these issues in school is essential.

“If we don’t find safe spaces to have productive dialogue about these things, and spaces where we can agree to disagree, then we’re going to see some large societal problems stem from that,” she said.

But, she also made it clear that when teaching these topics, she is careful to honor all viewpoints and let kids develop their own perspectives, as long as they are respectful to others.

“My job is not to tell students what to think, my job is to encourage them to think,” Kohne said.

Luers said that he doesn’t think history can be taught correctly without covering these subjects.

But, when teaching them, there are certain lines that he stays within. For example, he makes sure that he can back up his stance with factual evidence.

Handling how and if teachers should share opinions on these subjects is complicated.

Junior Grayson Meece thinks it is best to keep opinions out of school to prevent problems from arising.

Junior Kaitlin Osborne believes that it’s OK to share opinions, as long as it’s not in a forceful way. Forcing kids to have a certain opinion is more dangerous than not covering the topic at all, according to Osborne. She said that she has been in classes that only taught one side of an issue. This lack of information influenced some of her classmates’ opinions, which she said was harmful in the school environment.

“I don’t think that it’s right for us to be sitting in a classroom and a teacher giving their opinion and we’re supposed to go along with it, because I’ve also experienced that,” she said.

Jarvis emphasized the importance of students learning both sides of an issue so that they can form their own thoughts.

“You cannot insert your own opinion into teaching. Kids need to know both sides of the situation,” she said.

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