Princeton Researcher: ‘Keep Politics Out of Our Schools’

West Virginia teachers cheer pay hike deal to end walkout
The Associated Press

A Princeton University researcher argued this week in an op-ed that partisan politics should be kept out of the U.S. public school system.

Writing for the Daily Item, Bucknell University professor and Princeton University researcher Alfred Kentigern Siewers argued this week that U.S. public schools should keep partisan politics away from the classroom and school events.

Siewers was bringing attention to the recent wave of pro-gun control protests that have been taking place at U.S. public schools throughout the country. Siewers focused primarily on public elementary and high schools, many of which have recently organized school-endorsed walkouts over gun policy.

“Public schools should not pick political winners and losers among their students,” Siewers wrote. “Protest is not supposed to be a specialty of helicopter parents enabling students to protest comfortably with official support during the school day. Take the protest to the park after school and sacrifice some time and sweat equity rather than having in effect everything organized for you. That’s how real leadership is developed.”

Siewers pointed out that the current walkout events will force schools to embrace all types of partisan activism in the future.

And if other students, for example, want to organize some kind of “Walkout for America” to celebrate the Second Amendment, they should be allowed to do that after this. The March 14 walkout will be a bad precedent. But once it happens, the school district can’t turn back on allowing some student walkouts and not others, based on whether their politics are acceptable only to one high-school clique of self-selected “cool kids” and their parents.

He argues that the celebration of certain students by teachers and administration for their willingness to engage in the pro-gun control walkouts will leave other students feeling left out. Such a scenario seems inappropriate for American public schools. Explicit endorsement of certain partisan views by teachers may make some students feel uncomfortable expressing a contrarian perspective in the classroom or to their peers.

Either way, public school officials and teachers shouldn’t praise approved “protestors” as “brave young leaders” on the one hand, while enabling them on the other to be the focus of media attention during the day at school, and leaving those with other views sitting alone in class or at home, to feel badly about themselves.

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