Guidance for handling political discussions in the classroom
- Avoid taking sides.
- Direct students’ to connect political commentary to topics related to the course content.
- If a discussion moves to election debate or other political argumentation, redirect to course topic, or when not possible, simply end the discussion.
- Follow classroom rules and structures that support respectful and generative discussion, online and off.
- Practice and showcase empathy: seeking to understand each point as well as expressed points of view.
- Encourage students to practice academic reasoning: supporting statements with evidence and sources.
- When working with writing, make clear to students that you are evaluating their work based on the logic/support of their arguments and not on the political ideas expressed therein.
- Be careful with sarcasm and questions that are implicit judgments or put-downs.
- If you use an example (a text for analysis, etc) that leans toward one political persuasion, use another example in the future that favors a different political persuasion
- Teach students to use authentic sources (political platforms from each party or policy statements from each candidate) to support their persuasive arguments.
A Few Don’t’s
- Give credit (extra credit too) for registering to vote, voting, etc.
- Suggest in any way, implicitly, that students’ political viewpoints are relevant to your evaluation of their academic performance, including classroom participation.
- Allow your avoidance of politics to prevent you from addressing any hate speech, bullying, or discriminatory comments that may take place in class
Shields, J. A. (2022, April 7). “Why conservatives like me should stop maligning save spaces.” The New York Times.
Schulten, K. (2016, Sept 29). “Talking across divides: 10 ways to encourage civil classroom conversation on difficult issues.” The New York Times.
Teaching in times of strife & trauma: Curated resources with actionable ideas. Teaching & learning lab, Harvard University.