Today was quite an eventful day at school. The substitute teacher for one of my classes kicked off the class by offering up his support for Andy Schmookler in the 6th district Congressional race. The topic soon changed to last night’s presidential debate, where the sub began talking about the wealthy and “jackasses like Mitt Romney.” I instinctively gasped and raised my hand. He called on me and I asked, “Do you believe it is your role as an educator to belittle the debate about our country’s future by calling a presidential candidate a jackass?” He responded by saying that he did believe that to be part of his role, based on his freedom of speech. He then went on to tell how he was no George Bush fan, and said something along the lines of, “I don’t care if he goes to heaven or hell, but I hope it happens soon, because I can’t wait to stomp on his grave.” **WHAT?!** I continued to challenge the sub and asked him to justify or elaborate on his reasons for calling Mitt Romney a jackass and saying he can’t wait to stomp on Bush’s grave. His response had nothing to do with either Romney or Bush, and he instead talked about the G.I. Bill, and how it allowed him to get an education. This obviously did not answer my question, which I pointed out to the sub and the rest of the class, but I went ahead and attempted to show my class the importance of this upcoming election. I pointed out the high unemployment rate among youth under this administration, and attempted to show how this impacts my generation when they begin to look for a job, even after pursuing higher education. The sub admitted that I had a good point, but proceeded to talk about how Mitt Romney’s policies as president would only benefit the evil 1%. After pointing out that his claims about Romney were not factual, I concluded by telling the sub that students do not deserve to be fed false information, nor should they have to listen to an educator disrespect any presidential candidate in the way that he did.
Never before have I experienced such a blatant attempt by a teacher to smear a presidential candidate, or politician in general. While the substitute was never rude to me personally, I was taken aback by his behavior. Most bothersome to me is the fact that this sort of rude name-calling is not an accurate portrayal for students of how they should approach vocalizing their viewpoint. Had the substitute called the President a jackass, I guarantee that I would have called him out just as I did with his reference to Romney. Part of our problem in America today is an inability to have an intellectual debate with one another, which is why this incident was so upsetting for me. I truly want my peers to know that we are better than the name-calling and fully capable of discussing differing viewpoints in a civil manner.
Lastly, it is my belief that an educator’s role is to teach students how to think, rather than what to think. I recognize that this is not always how educators see their role, but today this became evident for me personally. Despite all this, I do not believe this behavior is characteristic of the teachers in my area. In fact, I would be willing to bet that the teachers in my school district are among the best in the state for doing their actual job, which is something I am now reminded to never take for granted.