Don’t fear the tangent

Chronicle Staff

You can hear them all the time. For eight periods a day, in History, English, even Math, they do it, sit at the front of the classroom and speak. They are your teachers, and their basic goal is simple: to get through the material, and only the material. But often, they cease from these goals and briefly stop talking about the material, going on tangents, digressions, discussions with the class about almost anything, stepping out from behind the desk and the rigid gray role of simply a teacher and becoming an equal contributor to the conversation, with their own unique ideas and opinions.

There are quite a few people who have a problem with this. Not the tangential aspect of this, necessarily; nobody really plans on 45 minutes of uninterrupted lecturing for the entire year. The problem for them arises when the teacher ceases discussing only math and starts adding his or her opinions into whatever the topic has shifted to, especially politics, an increasingly divisive issue among us.

They demand that teachers be as objective and moderate as possible, because we are in our “formative” years, with views that either have not been created or are not necessarily well-rooted enough to survive the nine-month onslaught of someone else’s ideas; for the teacher to create a model of their thoughts in another. They think of the growth of one’s ideology as an isolated temple, where one can develop these thoughts by one’s self alone, without any external influence.

Frankly, this idea is ridiculous. No one is truly capable of coming up with a fully formed identity by his or herself. Everyone is shaped to a certain extent by someone or something; if left to one’s own devices, it will probably be a parent, who the student comes in contact with the most.

But why should someone grow up as a clone of their parents? As long as they get their ideas from an educated source (and who would say that this is not the description of a teacher), does it really matter who the source is? Besides, in a discussion-based atmosphere like most classes, the teacher’s idea will undoubtedly bounce off someone else who will either agree, and add another aspect of it, or disagree, which will shape the “formative” person even more by presenting the other side of the story.

And if someone knows where they stand for the most part, or now has realized fully where they are on the spectrum, still having a teacher presenting his or her views is still a helpful experience. If the teacher is on the same side, then the student will hopefully end the year with a deeper understanding of the entire scope of their thoughts. If the teacher has opposing views, it is actually just as good; a year with a teacher with opposing opinions will test the person’s beliefs and by the end, will make him or her a stronger person. While preaching to the converted can make all parties happy, it also makes them complacent. The more thought-provoking sermons are the ones given to the hostile crowd that keep them on their toes.

I am not saying here that teachers should walk in to their classrooms spouting out highly prejudiced remarks just for the sake of influencing students or making themselves heard, making their desks a personal pulpit; rather, if an opportunity arises, they have the right to express their opinions just like the students they teach. The teacher’s job is to teach us. Why does that have to end at only the subjects they teach?