There were many people who spoke during my high school graduation, but one of them stands apart from the rest. Mr. David Lewis delivered a speech that helped turn the nervous silence felt by me and my peers into cheers and excitement. His final line was probably the most important: “So whatever you set your mind to, let me just tell you this – do it.”
Mr. Lewis was an educator who helped inspire countless students during his tenure at Azusa High School.
But Mr. Lewis was not the only educator who wanted to inspire a new generation of leaders. Most teachers I have ever met go into teaching because they want to help mold the minds of the future. They often tell their students they have what it takes to change the world.
Personally, I took this advice to heart. I grew up wanting to make a difference in my community largely in part because of my teachers. And while I graduated about ten years ago, I often think about what Mr. Lewis and other great teachers taught me. Thus, it should go without saying that teachers have immense power over their students. Sadly, Mr. Lewis passed away in 2021.
But as the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
I also remember some teachers who used their platform not to inspire but to propagandize.
One of my biology teachers liked to yell at the top of his lungs while teaching. I remember once he started yelling about evolution and went on a rant on how “stupid” some parents were for believing in God while praising his atheist-raised children every time he had a chance. He often injected politics and his personal beliefs into the classroom instead of teaching by the book.
My biology teacher wasn’t the only one advocating for a particular ideology at the top of his lungs, and that constant noise eventually overtook many of my high school years. Unsurprisingly, because of their intimidation and tactics, I ended up getting involved with far-left causes and eventually joined the extremist Antifa movement because of teachers like this one (more on that another time!).
Don’t get me wrong – I think educators should inspire their students. But common sense tells us that public education (and educators) should teach students how to think, not what to think.
According to the research we’ve done, the majority of Americans agree. More than 77 percent of parents aged 40 or younger believe school districts should take politics out of the classroom and instead focus on teaching the fundamentals of reading, writing, arithmetic, and a non-partisan approach to civics and history.
I don’t have any children yet, but I have a few nieces and nephews. As they begin a new school year this week, I worry about what type of teachers they will encounter. Will they be positive educators like Mr. Lewis who want their students to tap into their personal potential? Or will they be like my biology teacher, using their position to intimidate their students into ideological submission?
Common sense tells us that parents want their children to succeed. Common sense also tells us that the best way to help students find success is to keep politics out of the classroom.