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Should teachers be politically androgynous?
Barbie Dolls, besides lacking correct anatomy and proportions, perpetually smile-at everything. Their vapid expressions often connote brainlessness or at least ignorance. In essence, Barbie Dolls are passive, happy toys.
For some Americans, the ideal image of a teacher is similar to that of a Barbie Doll: pleasant, non-confrontational, amusing, and benign. A perfect public servant.
When teachers hold strong political opinions on either side of the aisle, they are often told to “keep their thoughts to themselves.” My colleagues and I were instructed to do so after the 2016 presidential election.
Recently as I was scrolling through my Facebook News-feed, I noticed an angry exchange over a post on a page called “You Can’t Scare Me, I’m A Teacher,” a humorous community page with over 100,000 followers.
Although the post generated over eighty shares and over a thousand likes, what was most interesting was how some people, many of whom self-identify as teachers, vehemently opposed the posting of such a meme. The following is a selection of comments:
“This is a teacher webpage. I don’t want to know your political views.”
“eh… time to leave. I was on the page for fun meme’s.. not to see this crap. GO TRUMP!”
“He called their country a s#%*hole. And I don’t teach politics to 2nd graders. I teach Reading, Math, Social Studies, Science, Phonics and Grammar to them That is how I teach while I like Trump, It is really not that hard.”
“I guess I am a little surprised by this post and the reaction from it. I enjoy being a part of this group and I am very far right conservative. Up until now, I didn’t think think that mattered. It’s a real eye-opener to see how some of you are treating others just because of their political persuasion. I teach Kindergarten so I only discuss politics on only a few occasions such as Presidents Day per our curriculum. I haven’t ever discussed my personal political views with my students. I’m retiring in a couple of years and I will leave the educational profession knowing that I made a difference in many lives. Somehow I don’t believe that the very low-income students that I have loved and taught would think any less of me if they knew I voted for President Trump. Food for thought…”
“Unprofessional! To say the least!”
“I‘m done with this page. Like it or not he IS your president. Your disrespect is deafening. I didn’t tolerate it with O, and I won’t tolerate it now.”
“What does this post have to do with teaching?”
“I’m out. It was a fun page but too went too far with this meme. Adios…”
“This is completely unnecessary and is NOT representative of how all teachers feel. Because of this, I’m leaving your site. I sincerely hope you are not teaching this garbage to your children. Shame on you for giving teachers a black eye.”
“I’m done with this group. Keep out of politics.”
“I used to like this page until it suddenly had to become political. Very eye-opening to see the kind of hate projected here. Wow.”
“Unfollowing…I thought this was a teaching group and not political. Don’t need any political bashing on either side here. This site should be used for teacher fun and instruction. This now shows complete bias and done.”
And, my personal favorite: “And inappropriate language reported.”
When interviewing “You Can’t Scare Me, I’m a Teacher” about the backlash, the administrator of the page (who wants to remain anonymous) explained: “My reaction to the backlash is that I’m frankly surprised it wasn’t worse. It was only about 5–6 people who really trolled the post. Several people expressed displeasure, but oh well. In the end, I think I lost about 250 followers.”
The founder of “You Can’t Scare Me, I’m a Teacher” continued to put the exchange in perspective. “I know enough people in the real world to know that people are very sensitive about this president because they have invested themselves already and if they back out now it will be an admission that they were wrong, which they are unwilling to make. They resent hearing that the guy they support is a racist and a misogynist, so instead of blaming the guy who’s saying racist and misogynistic things, they essentially say “This is a teacher page! This should be a safe place!”, which is the height of irony and hypocrisy because people like that are usually the first to label someone who does that a ‘snowflake’.”
Tears of a clown are often the most sincere. Comedy is funny because it includes elements of truth. “You Can’t Scare Me, I’m a Teacher” is straddling the line of humor and candor, refusing to stay silent when others want to deny and hide. The creator of “You Can’t Scare Me, I’m a Teacher” wants teachers to get woke, proclaiming: “But part of the reason I created and posted the “shithole” meme was because I don’t want my page to be a “safe place” for people to escape the fact that they support a racist and a misogynist. They have to own it. Teachers are political. There’s no way around it. The only choice is whether or not you want to acknowledge it. Our very paychecks depend on town and city elected officials. Our supplies (curriculum) is dependent upon town and city elected officials. Our pensions are threatened by state elected officials. Teacher unions are undermined by federal, state, and local elected officials. To say that teaching isn’t or shouldn’t be political is absurd.”
Teachers are not saints, or superheroes, or dolls. We are humans who see America in all of its beauty and ugliness every day. We can’t be silent. We can’t be politically neutral. We are not Switzerland. We are role models, and history will judge our actions.Teachers are not saints, or superheroes, or dolls Click To Tweet