As a high school American History and Government teacher, I take seriously my obligation to refrain from giving any inclination of my party affiliation. More than anything else, I don’t want my views to influence unduly what my students believe, nor do I want any of them to suspect me of grading based on my own political leanings—which I would never do. I couldn’t care less what party my students support, so long as each of them leaves my classroom with a better understanding of why they support it.
During presidential election seasons, I’m especially careful to avoid sharing my personal views about any candidate. But we have never had a frontrunner like Donald Trump, nor has our political system ever been so polarized. In this uncharted territory, here is how I have managed Trump in my classroom.
Encourage students to speak out
As part of a unit on government and the media, students explored how to write political opinion pieces. One senior wrote a thoughtful article on The Donald’s flaws, and she shared her story Trump: A True Republican? in The Gator, the school’s online student news site, which I advise. “Even if Trump fails to win the Republican nomination, and even if he fails to win against Clinton or Sanders, the fact that he has made it this far speaks volumes to the current state of American political consciousness,”she writes. This passionate yet rational tone fostered thoughtful debate among not just her classmates, but the whole community. Students did not need me to chime in.