There is a widespread belief amongst teachers that it is part of their duty of care, even a defining aspect of their of professionalism, that all views expressed in the classroom are to be treated equally.
I take it as one of my first duties to challenge this. The right to have a view is indeed equally shared, but this is does not imply the same for the idea itself. If all ideas are equal, then all ideas are worthless.
If we accept this, then we can meaningfully ask questions about how these views might be evaluated – true grist for the educational mill.
A fine line
An American bill, defeated ultimately by the Oklahoma Senate this year, attempted to legislate that students were not to be “penalised in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories”.
Obviously this terrain that must be carefully negotiated in the context of developing minds, but there is a core principle here that requires articulation.
Central to a liberal society is the right to discuss things. Not being able to do this is totalitarianism – the banning of unsanctioned ideas. So where on the continuum of controlling public discourse, if it is to be done at all, can we comfortably sit?
The further we move away from unfettered public speech the murkier the waters become, with calls of and for censorship beginning after the first paddle stroke. Where this boundary lies for and within individuals is highly significant in an educational setting.
Let me make the point in a broader social context, one that involves exploring that most cherished of hurts, the pain of being offended.
Written By: Peter Ellertoncontinue to source article at theconversation.edu.au