Today in lecture we discussed political activism and whether or not it is productive in certain aspects of life that are unrelated to politics. As Mill says, “let us examine whether…men should be free to act upon their opinions…so long as it is at their own risk and peril.” This is a question of when someone’s expression of individuality is harmful to others or society as a whole.
In general, we live in a society with many different groups of people with many different beliefs. This means that there are irreconcilable differences among people and groups, and these differences are inevitable. The question is: when is it appropriate to advocate for these different beliefs and values?
In general, it is inappropriate to advocate for these political differences in any position of power, and this includes teachers or anyone in power in education. However, this can cause problems because teachers are supposed to teach students about political issues, so it can be difficult to give them an unbiased lesson. Maria Baca describes this issue teachers have as, “how to encourage lively discussions with a captive, impressionable audience without pushing their own personal views on the students.” . Teachers have a responsibility to educate students on controversial political issues in the present and the past.
Darren Linvill attributes much of these issues teachers have to the fact that teachers believe that it is their responsibility to just give knowledge for the students to absorb. Often times, they just present their case to the students and expect them to absorb it without any rebuttal. As Mill says, “No one’s idea of excellence in conduct is that people should do absolutely nothing but copy one another.” This one sided approach is not effective. A more effective method of teaching would be to approach these issues with more of a dialogue rather than a one-way communication. Students should be able to share their views and discuss them with their peers, so that all sides to the issue can be evaluated.
It is extremely important that students learn all sides to an issue and have an opportunity to express their individuality. Hearing and learning a variety of views is extremely important for an effective education, and this is what Mill is describing when he advocates for variety in situations. He says that, “there is no reason all human existence should be constructed on some one or some small number of patterns.” The best way for students to learn is to hear variety in opinions from their peers.