Emily in the class

Political Discussions in the Classroom

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


Further reading:

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.


Office of Civic and Voter Registration 

AAUP: Academic freedom of students and professors, and political discrimination

Teaching in times of strife & trauma: Curated resources with actionable ideas. Teaching & learning lab, Harvard University.


9.20.2022 SR

For more information or help, please email the Office for Faculty Excellence or make an appointment with a consultant.

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