Pushing the limits in the classroom


Teachers and students may not always see eye-to-eye in the classroom. However, each party is allowed their own, personal opinion. Makes sense, right?

Unfortunately, to many people, it does not. Today, it seems as though more and more classes put pressure on students to refrain from thinking individually. The pressure to conform comes not only from teachers, but the other students present.

If one cannot express him/herself in the classroom setting, individuality suffers. Beliefs and opinions are what make one stand out from the rest. When this is taken away, everyone meshes and their identities are lost. In addition, the person denying the other’s opinion gains a sense of power whereas the other becomes powerless.

Since when is one’s opinion superior to others? Opinions are simply that: opinions. There is no validity in them; there is only point of view. For example, some people may believe that mustard is the most delicious condiment; that is their personal opinion. This does not mean that mustard is the most delicious condiment to everyone. There is ketchup, mayo, A1 sauce, relish, BBQ sauce and plenty more. No person can claim that there is factual evidence proving which condiment is the most delicious, only that an opinion says so.

Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more common for teachers to, very discretely and indirectly, impose their thoughts and opinions on their students.

Human beings are entitled to certain rights including freedom of speech and freedom of expression. While expressing one’s beliefs or views on their students is completely justified, telling a student that they do not belong in the class because they have a different view on a topic is not.

At the high school level, most classes are designed to spark interest in the students. Throughout the school year, the students (should) explore their own, personal beliefs on the subject and develop a point of view for themselves. This obviously does not apply to the classes based solely on fact. Though, even in these classes, there is always room for students to dive deeper and develop thoughts.

For example, in US History classes, students are taught factual dates and names, but still given the opportunity to discuss and debate topics such as political views and ethics; here they are able to express their opinions with their peers and teacher.

But it seems that, in humanity classes, teachers do not accept opinions that clash with their own. Doesn’t this completely go against the purpose of that class?

Not only is it very limiting to the students, it is very frustrating. Over the course of my high school experience, I have come in contact with many teachers who either value or condemn individual thinking in the classroom.

While I do not intend to disclose the specifics (classes, teachers, etc.), I do find it important to expose this issue.

As a student, I maintain the belief that I am entitled certain rights in any given classroom. I see a sort of mutual respect between teacher and student:each is to respect the other’s opinions, no matter how much it differs from their own.

In more than one occasion, I have felt as though my and teachers have suggested that my views are “wrong”.

Sure, my opinions may not follow what everyone around me believes, but does that really matter? I refuse to change my personal views because my peers do not agree with them. If I have to put up with snarky comments and condescending glares, so be it. But I will never sacrifice my beliefs or try to sugar-coat things to amuse my teachers or peers.

No student should be expected to sacrifice their beliefs. Something needs to change in classrooms so that this can be avoided. Teachers should encourage students to remain open-minded and accepting.

Rather than trying to convince students what to believe, the teachers should show students all points of view in order to allow them to make a decision on their own. Having several different opinions in a class is a good thing. Letting students debate back and forth can help them to explore other views and help to either shape or change their own ideas. Even the teacher could learn something new.


  1. I very much like your commentary, and I certainly defend your opinion as well as your right to it. But from the “other side of the desk” (so to speak) I sometimes can see where the conflict may arise. To be sure, I am NOT condoning condescending remarks by teachers and peers to students that have differing opinions, that is simply another form of bullying. Instead, I see the conflict arising between the opinion of the student and the prescribed curriculum established by the state. Sometimes the line is difficult to maintain, but I strive to allow opinions to be expressed and validated in my classroom. But when the time for opinion-sharing (shall we say) is over, it is still up to the teacher to guide the students toward what the curriculum wishes for the students to understand. It is still important for the student to maintain their opinion, and I often remind the students in my class that I am not asking them to change their opinion, but instead telling them what the curriculum wants them to know if it differs from their opinion.

    The purpose of the 1st Amendment is to allow for varying ideas and points of view. Through the ideas of others we can grow and expand our understanding. One of the greatest struggles for teachers in this day of education, is finding new ways to allow for the free flow of ideas while maintaining the balance. Every semester, quarter, month, week, day, I am looking for new ways, and it is something I encourage in my colleagues as well. While in some cases the lack of freedom of expression in the classroom may lead to tension or hostility, I encourage both sides to appreciate the other’s point of view, and find a way to use it to mutual advantage.

  2. Thought-provoking editorial – well done. It is certainly a difficult thing to maintain ones beliefs while allowing freedom to others for their own.


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