Bringing politics into the classroom

Selena McPherson/The News

The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.

Selena McPherson/The News

Selena McPherson/The News

With democracy comes controversy.

Controversy breeds conflict, and conflict sparks conversations – conversations, as with most things, have a time and a place.

Conversations about politics can be the trickiest to time and the most difficult to place.

There is not only controversy in democracy, but in the very notion of teachers or professors bringing politics up in classroom settings for fear of their jobs, credibility and reputation.

We recognize that professors discussing politics in class can be problematic, but we do not think it should be discouraged or explicitly banned.

Young adults, for the most part, enter college ready and eager to learn – both in terms of academia and about themselves.

Some high schools and households foster a limited, narrow view on life and self-image.

Raised under one roof, with one religion and one political party, the first response to the question, “What do you believe in?” or, “Who are you voting for?” might be, “Well, my parents are Catholic. I’ve gone to Mass every Sunday for as long as I can remember. And I think my parents voted for the other guy.”

Responses like this dance around the question without addressing the fact that the person asking it had “you” in mind – not your parents and not how you were raised.

Talking about controversial issues, like religion and politics, with the help of an intelligent, unbiased facilitator is crucial to developing a sense of self – moving from a nurtured status quo to a nature of individuality.

We are our own people now and we don’t have to be defined by the actions of generations before us.

We are also lumped into an age demographic of notoriously and statistically-apathetic voters, despite the fact that many political platforms and debates revolve around issues directly related to us – millennials.

The funding of higher education, the prospect of free college and issues relating to school loans are all on the table in this particular political race – these are absolutely things we need to be talking about both in and out of the classroom.

With regard to the university’s diversity statement and respect toward various viewpoints, professors should be able to facilitate educational, healthy discussions about politics and their effect on our future.

As long as the conversation doesn’t dominate the class or detract from its syllabus, professors have the opportunity to use their authority to steer conversations from being problem-oriented to being solution-oriented with an overall sense of respect and open-mindedness.

If the conversations are more centered on how to fix political problems rather than the controversy around the problems themselves, the tension will likely be diffused.

Open-mindedness and respect are crucial because without them, students might be afraid to speak up or voice disagreement, and differences in opinion and healthy debates can do more good than harm.

If allowed and if they’re comfortable enough, students can learn how to develop and defend arguments, both in terms of politics and in general – an invaluable life skill.

Students shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about expressing their thoughts and opinions and professors shouldn’t be afraid of losing their jobs.

We then need to turn these discussions into action – we all need to register to vote and show up on Election Day.

Participate in the conversation and in the national effort to put effective, qualified and respectable leadership in office.