One of the best feelings in being retired is knowing I am free to voice my opinions on issues important to me. You might assume that this was always the case given the constitution that governs our behavior – free speech and all. While I admit to some transgressions, educators are reluctant to express themselves. This is especially the case in the presence of our students – the individuals we are responsible for influencing.
At the college level, I wonder about the legitimacy of this type of expectation. It gives little credit to either student or instructor. It assumes instructors would use their position of authority to demand acceptance or at least vocal parroting of a belief – e.g., the correct answers on exams or the position to be taken in a paper must be consistent with the beliefs of the instructor. It assumes students have no beliefs of their own and have no capacity to use these beliefs to question the life experiences that come at them. The development and application of such skills is the very essence of critical thinking. Developing critical thinkers is promoted as essential to 21st-century learners.
Social media offers educators an opportunity to express themselves. I am disappointed that so few educators I follow take positions on political issues. What other profession can so easily be manipulated through political pressure? So often educators seem to be a political punching bag unable or unwilling to defend themselves.
Some suggest that educators separate any political comments they might make from comments on educational practice. For example, if you participate in Twitter chats with colleagues do not comment on political issues using Twitter. If you have a blog that you use to comment on your classroom practices, create a second blog if you want to comment on political issues. In my experience, few educators make the effort. Political issues may arise that encourage their comment, but the effort required to commitment to a second outlet for their opinions is just too much work.
I am disappointed in the commitment of my colleagues in voicing the feelings and the experiences I know they have. The repression of personal beliefs is not something anyone in this country should accept. If I ever felt inhibited, I am pleased to now say I feel free at last.
I can’t be one of those old dudes in Texas playing shuffleboard. Whatever talents I have left are better suited to other endeavors.