“I don’t believe in it, but [the teacher] does and I’m trying to get an A.”
On many occasions, I’ve heard people say this while scrambling to write an essay. Every time, I sigh, frustrated as my classmates feed what I jokingly refer to as the NCS propaganda machine. Time and time again, I struggle with the assumption that a student will receive a better grade by turning in an essay that reflects their teacher’s beliefs. However, I think that this assumption speaks to the failure to celebrate diversity of opinion at NCS.
It is no secret that both the NCS faculty and student body are left-leaning; any upper schooler will attest to that. This in and of itself is not a problem. However, as I’ve gotten older and perhaps more critical of my NCS education, I’ve realized the many ways in which my teacher’s liberal bias has prevented me from receiving a balanced and complete education. Looking back at my eight years on the close, I can pinpoint instances in which my teachers failed to acknowledge the sound reasoning behind many conservative perspectives, teaching me to instinctively equate being progressive with being educated and being conservative with being both unintelligent and, in extreme cases, immoral.
In most of these cases, the evidence of teacher bias was subtle: snide comments about Trump under their breath, failing to include conservative writers in the curriculum, or simply body language during a discussion. However, these subtleties are important. I’ll admit that I glorify my teachers and am far more impressionable than I’d like to admit. Respecting their intelligence to the nth degree, I hang onto their every word, something that doesn’t become a problem until their words, attitudes, or manipulation of the material equate my justified beliefs with bigotry. In those instances—I’ll be honest—I fear speaking up, afraid that they will think of me as less intelligent or an immoral person because I don’t agree. The fact that I’ve chosen to publish this anonymously highlights the extent of that fear.
I see Diversity Day as a clear example of this reality. I’ve always felt like it celebrates various reiterations of the same liberal values rather than actually welcoming new opinions. Whenever I express this concern to my woke classmates, they say, “Well, just talk.” I never know how to explain to them that I fear that the teachers, not the students, in the room will think less of me if I do. It’s even harder to articulate my actual fear that my grades will suffer if they see me as holding uneducated opinions. This fear may be unfounded, but the fact that I have it speaks for itself.
Political dissent at NCS is celebrated as long as it is the right type of dissent. Condemning the patriarchy? That’s great! Protesting for gun reform? You’re golden! Expressing a pro-life argument? How dare you say that? How can you even call yourself a woman? While the students are certainly to blame for perpetuating this attitude, I’d argue that the faculty doesn’t do enough to protect those with unpopular opinions; I’ve seen faculty members openly dismiss girls’ opinions. It doesn’t seem like a huge leap to say that this sort of behavior is rooted in the faculty’s own bias against conservative beliefs.
So, what do we do? How do we create genuinely open dialogue?
It’s naïve to propose that teachers stop being biased. It is human to be biased. However, I think the first step is for the adults in our community to name their bias. I understand the reasoning behind trying to hide one’s political bias, the idea that teachers should attempt to be approachable to all in an effort to avoid ostracizing the students who hold opposing beliefs. Yet, while this approach is well-intentioned, I think that it has the opposite of its intended effect. I honestly believe I would feel less awkward if we could just openly disagree, rather than having to keep my dissent bottled inside and question if I’m smart or a good person because of it. If adults don’t lead by example and name their bias, it simply becomes an elephant (or should I say donkey) in the room.
So, teachers, please remind us that, while your beliefs will become apparent and will influence the way you teach, you are open to hearing the other side and welcome respectful debate. Remind us that there is a difference between your opinion and fact. Empower us to call you out when your political bias is driving the conversation away from the material.
The first step to change is acknowledging the problem.