It’s no surprise that both the City of Berkeley and Berkeley High School students are very left-leaning when it comes to politics. In the last presidential election, 79.83 percent of Berkeley voted democratically. In comparison, 63.5 percent of California voted democratic, and only 51.3 percent of the United States did. Throughout various classes at BHS, teachers facilitate political conversations covering an abundance of topics, both historical and current. Some teachers address this content with biased, one-sided perspectives. In doing so, educators do not allow students to cultivate their own ideas, and rather, impose their own opinions.
According to a study done by Harvard Medical School professor Frances Jensen, “The adolescent brain is only about 80 percent developed.” The high school years are incredibly formative, and teens begin to cultivate fundamental ideas during this time. When having discussions in the classroom concerning past or present events, teachers have the responsibility to deliver facts and news from mostly neutral standpoint. They are, of course, allowed to have their own opinions on the matters that they teach, but there is a fine line separating education and indoctrination. If students are only taught through one-sided perspectives, their minds will very likely mold to those same ideas. Because these years are extremely developmental, the thoughts that students begin to shape in high school could affect their future outlook, and possibly their whole lives.
By telling students what to believe instead of letting them come to their own conclusions, teachers limit the progression of teens’ opinion-making processes. If BHS students are only taught about certain topics through the views of their very left-leaning educators, they will face the risk of not completely comprehending the material. Educating should be every teacher’s first priority. Discussions and opinions about specific topics should be the next priority, but students need to be given the space to formulate their own opinions.
Some might think that teachers should tell their students what they think about their teachings because it is helpful, but they don’t realize how much students’ opinions can be affected. It’s especially difficult for high schoolers to create completely individual ideas once they are told another’s viewpoint. Teachers explaining their thoughts on topics, especially BHS teachers, many of which are passionately liberal, usually do more harm than good. These teachers are in a position of power, and in trying to convince students of their beliefs, abuse that power. This also hurts students with differing political views and their unique contributions to productive discussions in the classroom.
Teachers all over the country have a responsibility to facilitate multi-faceted, non-biased conversations, but BHS find this issue pressing. Because of the strong left-leaning political views of the city and school, teachers may overshare their opinions while educating students on certain recent events.
These teachers may or may not be oblivious to the fact that it’s necessary for students to develop their own political ideas, especially in these impactful and foundational high school years. Regardless discussions in the classroom need to be unbiased for students to do their best thinking and learning.