The Kelly article discussed four different perspectives on holding discussions. While all perspectives had benefits and drawbacks and different rationales to support them, I found the approach of committed impartiality to be the best. I don’t think that teachers are capable of being neutral on political issues, nor should they be. I think it is healthy for students to know that their teachers are civic participants and think about complex and controversial issues; in this way, teachers become models for their students on how to be appropriate civic participants. Exposing students to their personal views also offers a window into the ‘humanity’ of the teacher, if that makes any sense, and can help foster personal connections. However, in discussions teachers should never indoctrinate students, and they must express their views in a way that presents it as only one perspective in a chorus of voices. They must allow and encourage dissent, and dialogues in which teachers find themselves debating students must be conducted with the utmost sensitivity and respect for the students’ viewpoints. Otherwise, the class becomes little more than a soap box for a teacher’s personal vendettas, a violation of the Code of Ethics and any basically moral teaching philosophy.
This approach has a tremendous impact on social studies education, as it models appropriate, passionate, and well-articulated civic participation, if done correctly and respectfully.