The teachers’ dilemma: should they express their own viewpoints?

Sabrina Suen, Opinion Editor

The teacher’s dilemma: should they express their own viewpoints?
It’s not surprising that most teachers tiptoe around sensitive topics. Whether it is the wrath of parents or the fear of offending the students or perhaps even the beady eyes of administration that holds them back, teachers generally go the safe route of asking students’ for their opinions rather than sharing their own.
Although this strategy often seems like the most sensible, perhaps this self-censorship isn’t truly the most productive and educational way to interact with students.
While it is true that students’ minds are easily impressionable and devout parents tend to want to shelter their children from the cruel realities of society, teachers also have the profound responsibility of preparing students for the real world, a world that is aggressive, merciless and apathetic, a world where opinions are like knives, dangerous and commanding.
Society is filled with an array of different thoughts, beliefs and passions that parents and teachers cannot protect students from. Nor should they.
When teachers steer clear of controversial and sensitive topics, they not only deprive students of valuable learning opportunities, but they also encourage a dangerous cycle where people promote censorship with the justification of political correctness and inclusion.
Teachers, by engaging students in valuable conversations about controversial issues, help them learn to think critically, engage in analytical discussion and question the validity of their own beliefs. But of course, this is not to say that teachers should push their own agendas upon students. Teachers should never preach; however, they do have the obligation to provoke thought.
For example, while a teacher should not go on a 20 minute rant about why Obama is the best president ever and why everyone should be a Democrat, he should be able to have a rational conversation with a student about the pros and cons of Obama’s presidency and why he thinks that it was a success.
Understandably, however, this is a dangerously thin line that teachers must tread. They must find the perfect balance between engaging in thoughtful conversation and leaving enough room for students to find their own views and voices. It’s an extremely difficult job, but it’s one that ensures the next generation of citizens, lawyers, scientists and doctors are prepared for the harsh climate of the adult world.