Last week a friend stopped me after class to inform me that I was again inciting certain people to panic because I put the words conservative and teacher in the same column. What one should be more concerned with is that I ended several sentences in that column with prepositions.
While the teaching profession, and teacher preparation programs in their current states tend to not be hotbeds of conservative thinking, conservatives still enter the profession and manage to be pretty good teachers after all. Do not be afraid of us.
I am paid a small sum of money each week for publishing well crafted and utterly convincing opinions in the Collegian. I would make a lousy straight-news reporter, not because I cannot be fair, but because I am a procrastinator and that personality trait does not bode well for a profession wholly dependent on a strict adherence to deadline.
However, when I am awarded my teaching certificate at the end of this spring, I will seek gainful employment in a profession where, if I express my opinions, I should be fired.
In the same way that a teacher who aligns herself with a different political or social paradigm should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to professionalism, conservative teachers should not be shied away from. We will not turn your children into bigots. We will not encourage them to club baby seals to death because we hate the environment.
It will be my job to teach students to think critically about the world in which they live and the society in which they function. It is my job to make sure they leave my class knowing who J. Alfred Prufrock is. It is not my job to convince them that abortion is wrong. To assume that because I am a conservative Christian, I cannot be an effective and non-damaging English teacher is to sell me short. It is to assume that my ideology is so pervasive that it clouds my judgment and steeps out and poisons the young and the malleable. It is to assume that I am nothing without my agenda.
For me to find out that one of my children’s teachers is a member of the Green Party, and to worry that they will be indoctrinated into a lifetime of responsible environmental stewardship, would be to be concerned about the wrong thing. I should be concerned about the content-level preparation of the teacher. I should be focusing on the pedagogical procedures that he or she uses. I should wonder if that teacher will encourage my child to think critically, to treat people with respect, to be active members of their society. It is not the teacher’s job to teach morality. We simply do not have the time or the right to do that.
There is not a Hippocratic-Esque Oath that teachers take. But there should be. If a teacher’s goal is to teach critical thinking, then to express one’s political or religious views in the classroom is to do a great amount of harm. I am not the only one who canonized certain teachers when I was in middle school. And if they had been vocal about what contributes to the makeup of their personality, they would have been causing damage to the development of those who were entrusted to their care.
Sure I am a conservative. I am a Christian. I really like George Bush (both of them). I also know the factors that led up to Lorraine Hansberry’s crafting of “A Raisin in the Sun.” And I know how to encourage students who are ready to move beyond the five-paragraph essay. And should one of my students come to me with an unplanned pregnancy, I will not be solely consumed with how to ensure that the baby be carried to term. My responsibility is to my student, and to help my student get help. And while my belief system makes me who I am, it will not show up on a multiple-choice test.
Investigate the professionalism of the teachers who will affect your lives. But do not subject them to a witch-hunt. No one can survive the heat of that flame.
Sarah Laribee is in the teacher preparation program at CSU, and actually thinks that ending a sentence with a preposition is not such a bad thing, most of the time.