Teachers and Politics

Ildikó Lázár

This blog revisits some of the best articles we published on the topic of teachers and politics in 2017.

In many countries in Europe, it is against the law to talk “politics” in school. Teachers are warned not to talk about (party) politics, and perhaps rightfully so as a school may not be the right place for the kind of wild political campaigns we have been subjected to in many countries recently. However, young people have the right to learn about and need to become familiar with political discourse as well as social and political issues that matter for their future.

No matter what we do in the classroom, our actions are always political.

Furthermore, as educators we need to be aware that no matter what we do in the classroom, our actions are always political. In quite a few countries in Europe, teachers these days are afraid to talk about social/political issues with their students for fear of being dismissed (or not promoted) not to mention their fear of being seen at demonstrations when they disagree with education policy measures. However, it’s worth remembering that if we as teachers do not say anything, do not react, we are sending the message that we tacitly agree with whatever we choose not to talk about. If we refuse to speak up for the rule of law and against injustices and discrimination for fear of being too critical of the actions or discourse of a political party, or of the political party in power, then our learners might think we support discrimination and injustices.

In such a climate, many students might also be afraid of what their peers, family members or teachers will say if they speak their mind on social and political issues. When a country’s leaders and their supporters talk about, for example, itchy palms, or more directly about beating up people who protest (for democracy, human rights and the rule of law in connection with public education, universities, NGOs, migrants, ethnic minorities and the media), the fear factor cannot be ignored. This is appalling because a lot of people, young and not so young, are intimidated and react by hiding, trying to ignore what is happening, refusing to speak up and refraining from participation in democratic processes.

The articles we revisit here will hopefully strengthen our readers in their important roles as teachers even in difficult times and under unfavorable circumstances like the ones described above. Some of the blogs below shed light on important insights and others also aim to give you practical ideas as to what to do in the classroom to be a good role model and how to promote discussions about questions that matter for the future of your learners.

Has Education for Democracy Failed? 

Most civics education today at best educates young people to be voters, not to participate in a democracy. Considering today's enormous disruptions and challenges, educating children to be ‘good voters’ is no longer a reasonable answer.

Sanctified or Vilified – Teachers in a Neo-Liberal Age

Teachers have been both cited as crucial to the success of any educational system but at the same time criticised, and occasionally vilified, for the failings of current educational standards. Where does the profession stand?

Why History Matters

What was taught in your history lessons and how was it taught? Is history used or abused to shape who we are?

Teacher Agency to Change Education

The power of teacher collaboration: challenges and steps to take.

Taking Education for Democracy a Step Further

The way we choose to do things in the classroom today has a direct impact on the world of tomorrow.

7 Ideas for a More Democratic Year at School

Finding and investing time in on-going personal and professional development throughout the scholastic year can be a daunting task. The activities presented in this post aim to support such a commitment.

Establishing a Safe Learning Space

3 activities to nurture the democratic ethos and non-violent dynamics of a group you are in charge of is a good way to start the year!

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