The Classroom Isn’t Meant To Be Political, By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen
There is a time and place for political discussion, but the classroom is not one of those place. Maybe when it’s in a government class or a debate class, but Calculus is not the place for it.
A few days in my AP calculus my class had finished our lesson for the day. There had been political discussions in this class before, but I make a point of staying out of them because I am the only democrat in a room full of republicans. I have no problem listening to people talk about their beliefs because I don’t need to get involved in that in a place where I’m trying to figure out derivatives. But, this day the students somehow found a way to drag me into their political talk.
I was sitting in my class, just working on solving some practice problems as the conversation around me was getting into politics. I wasn’t really listening until someone decided to ask, “are there any libt***s in here?” I looked up, but I wasn’t about to say that I was a democrat in this room full of people who clearly would think me to be stupid for my beliefs. Apparently, it didn’t matter what I wanted because as soon as I looked up another person responded, “yea, Riley is.”
At this point, everyone is looking at me, the odd one out. Thankfully, the teacher decided that she was going to start trying to control the environment. So, she says, “let’s not use that word.” The political talk kind of dies down and everyone is back to minding their own business, but then the class is nearing an end.
Now, it gets worse. I’m just sitting their trying not to get angry because obviously I’m insulted, so the teacher decides to talk to me. In front of the whole entire class. She says, “Riley, I’m sorry if that upset you. I don’t want you to feel singled out, so if anything we says offends you please tell me. I will put a stop to the political talk immediately.”
Clearly, there is a lot of things wrong with the situation. First, she is very much so singling me out at that moment. Second, I don’t know how she expects me to tell her that I’m offended in front of all the people who just offended me. Third, I’m not sure why she didn’t stop the political when one of her students was obviously uncomfortable. And, finally, this should have been a private conversation.
I was saved by the bell at last, or at least I thought I was. As I’m sitting in my next class I get a text from the person who decided to tell everyone that I was a democrat. He goes on in this long paragraph about how the class had been “unprofessional” and I was “always welcome despite differences” and that I shouldn’t let this “stunt my talent.” Such a lovely text that quite literally made my blood boil. It was even more funny when I remembered that I had him in my next period. You know, where he could have apologized to my face like a decent person would have done so.
But no, he didn’t apologize to my face in that next period. Instead he acted as though nothing had happened. I guess he thought that maybe he was forgiven because I didn’t respond to his infuriating text. In reality though I didn’t respond to his text because I probably would have said some very rude things that he definitely deserved to hear.
Then, in the next period I do respond just to make sure that he knows that we will have problems if he does something like that again. Naturally his response is that he didn’t mean it, but “it just happened.” This was very similar to the email my teacher sent me in reply to me telling her that the way she handled the situation was not super great.
In the email I sent my teacher I essentially told her everything that had made things worse. I believe the word I used was unprofessional. I feel like that was a fitting description of what happened, but I doubt she liked that very much. In her reply she said that she knew as she was addressing me in class that it was the wrong thing to do, but she just couldn’t stop herself. I know that sometimes people make mistakes, but it’s hard to be sympathetic when the problem should never have even been a problem.
This whole situation could been avoided if calculus class had stayed calculus class. I was there to learn derivatives and get my grade. I was not there to have my political views criticized. So, now I think calculus is going to stay calculus. The way it should have been in the first place.
Filed under: Politics
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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