Illustration by Kiran Aranha
Berkeley is definitely an opinionated place. No matter the topic, it seems like just about everybody in this town has something to say, and an eagerness to share their opinions with others. Most of the time, this isn’t a problem. But one place where personal opinions really shouldn’t be voiced is by teachers in the classroom.
It could be said that when teachers offer their own opinions in class, it gives a topic more relevance or makes it more interesting for students. It could also be said that since the curriculum teachers are required to teach is inherently biased, prohibiting teachers from expressing their own beliefs won’t significantly impact bias in the classroom. However, teachers also have a responsibility to give students the knowledge they need to form educated opinions. If teachers are constantly shaping the information they give their students with their personal beliefs, that leaves less space for students to develop their own views as individuals. Teachers also have a responsibility to create a safe, supportive classroom environment, and being in a class where the teacher clearly has strong opinions can be intimidating and can make students feel less comfortable voicing their own beliefs if they feel that their teacher might not agree.
Additionally, a class discussion guided by the teacher’s particular viewpoint isn’t as interesting or as enriching as a discussion where the students’ many viewpoints are represented. Structured debates or informal discussions where students are encouraged to express their opinions are more engaging, and more likely to lead to new insights for both participants.
In terms of political views, Berkeley is fairly homogeneous. If teachers express their opinions in class at Berkeley High School (BHS), they perpetuate “The Berkeley Bubble” phenomenon: the insulation we experience from the reality of the rest of the country because of our shared beliefs. While it doesn’t sound too bad at first, it sets us up for an unpleasant shock when we leave Berkeley, and doesn’t give us the skills we need to navigate the many people in this country who don’t share our values. When teachers perpetuate this issue, they extend the tribe mentality that often arises due to differences in views, rather than tolerance and inclusion, which we should aim to foster at BHS and in the wider Berkeley community.Of course, teachers have the right to express their opinions in their personal lives. However, in the classroom, the focus should be on creating an unbiased environment, giving students the ability to develop and express their opinions in a respectful, informed way.