Saturday, April 13, 2013

Something About the Hows and Whys: Teaching About Politics in an Overly Politicized World

On Thursday of this past week, I attended a grad fundraiser at the school where I work. While there, I ran into an adult who, seeing the Studentvote material I had, launched into a tirade about how wrong it was for me to be bringing my politics into the classroom and how I shouldn't be telling kids what to think and all teachers were greedy, etc, etc.

A few months ago, I blogged about the political nature of education and the need for that to exist because it forced the child to think critically and challenge and question and, most importantly, wonder. The docility of the classroom that agrees with everything you say, and by "you" I mean me (their teacher), or you (parent, community, media, etc), is dangerous insofar as it breeds a type of obedience that can be manipulated and directed in unimaginable ways. I like it when kids ask why, or, in presenting a differing point of view, are able to defend it in an articulate manner.

It is a challenging balancing act I admit, especially in the areas of Indigenous issues and challenges where I do feel very strongly about certain things. This is made easier by playing the role of devil's advocate and challenging the message they are exposed to in the media, sharing my stories and inviting them to look at their relationships with Indigenous peoples (Yes, even the Native kids do need to examine their understandings as well).

I digress, however. I have never shared my political leanings with students with regards to provincial or federal elections. Indeed, I keep my Band election leanings to myself. Studentvote is an apolitical project that seeks to teach students about the 'hows' and 'whys' of the Canadian electoral system and the importance, to Canadian society and democracy, of voting. It doesn't teach who to vote for, just how and why. The Studentvote itself, held before the real election, in this case the upcoming BC provincial election, is done in the same way as the real one, with an electoral officer, scrutineers, secret ballot... The students will research all the parties and platforms and MAKE THEIR OWN DECISION about who to vote for. And then they vote and none of us will know who voted for whom.

So, in the sense that I am telling my students to think for themselves, I guess I am telling them what to think.

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