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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Citizenship, partisanship belong in the classroom”

    As college students, we’re often accused of being disengaged with or ignorant about politics. Now, lawmakers in our state have proposed a bill that will serve to make that accusation true.

    Senate Bill 1542 would outlaw any kind of partisanship in Arizona’s classrooms, making it illegal for educators to advocate a position on any “”matter of partisan controversy.”” Students would traverse their academic careers without ever being exposed to opposing viewpoints, or any viewpoints at all.

    There couldn’t be a better way of turning a generation into cups of apathetic, ignorant pudding.

    Perhaps state Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, the bill’s sponsor, believes we should fear people whose opinions differ from our own, or that we’re incapable of tolerating them. That’s not true.

    Exposure to a range of opinions helps broaden our minds. We all agree that a diverse mix of cultural backgrounds helps a community become more empathetic toward others and more knowledgeable about the world. So it is with a diverse mix of opinions.

    Or maybe the bill’s backers don’t remember our nation’s roots as a republic. The ancient Greeks, who set the gold standard for civic engagement in their democracies, believed hearing opposing arguments helps us to learn how to reason, analyze and find the truth. They believed discourse helps us become smarter people and better citizens, and it does.

    How are students ever to learn how to make a point or to find the weakness in another argument if they are never exposed to different opinions? If they are never exposed to controversy and argument, their capacity to be eloquent and perceptive about “”matters of partisan controversy”” is lost.

    Or, again, perhaps the supporters of the bill know these things, but fear political advocacy from authority figures actually makes it less likely for children to form their own opinions.

    Indeed, it would be wrong for educators’ grading to be affected by their agreement or disagreement with students’ opinions. Hearing strong partisan arguments from authority figures, however, is most necessary for a child to become a smart, thoughtful citizen.

    Consider this: If a child grows up without hearing opinions from his or her educators, the child grows up only hearing statements that he or she is trained to accept as absolute truth. That child never learns to question anything he or she hears. If that child were ever to encounter a time when the government began making statements like “”All blondes must report to work camps immediately”” or “”All Scientologists are evil and must be put to death,”” that child would be ill-equipped to doubt them.

    In fact, the ability to hear an authority figure say something and retain one’s own belief to the contrary is our best and most important protection against the evils we fear most. We must foster that ability in our children, not allow it to wither.

    As a nation, we seem already to have forgotten the real purpose of education. We teach by lecturing to our children and asking them to regurgitate what they’ve learned on a multiple-choice test. That’s effective for learning facts, but facts are not the entirety of education.

    Education is also supposed to teach our children to become good citizens. It’s supposed to form them into individuals who can participate in the government of their nation. It’s supposed to teach them the skills they need to be more than just walking textbooks: to reason, to argue, to seek out the truth. And those skills are necessary to be part of a republic. They’re right there in the heart of what it means to be free and to be human.

    Political advocacy and controversy belong in the classroom. Let’s not lose them under the name of protection, as we’ve lost so many other parts of liberty.

    Lillie Kilburn is a psychology sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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