Controversy in school: Teachers feel limited in discussions

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Laci Roberts

Teachers can have fear when talking about controversial subjects in the classroom.

Laci Roberts, Copy Editor

Throughout our district, controversial subjects are constantly brought up in discussions. While students choose to participate in conversations regarding their beliefs, teachers feel held back by the prospect of receiving backlash.

Talking about controversial subjects may be challenging for teachers as they do not want to push their own personal opinions on students. The goal for most teachers is to have safe discussions for students to participate in. Any talk about controversial topics can be twisted and teachers fear getting in trouble for bringing up certain subjects in the classroom.  

Jane Wheeler is one of the lead teachers for the diversity community. She understands the feeling that some teachers have behind talking about subjects that they are passionate about that happen to be controversial.  

“There is a school board policy about controversial topics. The policy does give teachers room to discuss controversial subjects, but teachers cannot force their personal opinions on students.”

This school board policy gives teachers a place to talk about controversial subjects but sometimes teachers can stray away for fear of violation of this policy or a parent phone call. Even if a teacher is discussing topics without volition of this school board policy a parent concern can still get a teacher in trouble.

Government and sociology teacher Trever Zahn tries to talk about controversial subjects in his classroom when it applies to course materials. “It is a daily challenge to make sure that I am completely unbiased in my discussion and not to steer kids in a direction,” said Zahn.

Both subjects that Zahn teaches have course material that can relate back to real world controversial subjects. Talking about these controversial subjects may lead students to have a better understanding of the class.

Talking about these challenging subjects can be beneficial to students’ learning by creating an environment for growth and understanding. Students can learn about important subjects that may affect their lives in the future in a safe place.

For teachers attempting to talk about conservable topics, the diversity committee has a positive mindset to use when going into hard conversations. “Diversity community promotes listening to understanding compared to the thinking of listening to be understood. Almost looking at hard conversations without a correct or incorrect answer to the subject at hand,” said Wheeler.

Even with the fear that teachers can possess around controversial subjects, teachers can still talk about them with their students. With proper concern, these conversations can be beneficial to students in the classroom.