Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Question About the (Non)Politics of Teaching

My question: is it possible to teach history, art, literature, philosophy, science, business, economics, etc... without a political agenda? Is pretending that you have no political position and teaching the materials as the dominant society constructs a subject a political agenda? Is it possible to "profess" or hold an "opinion" or construct a history or create art that is free of "bias" or "political agendas"?

Just curious ... ;)


Joachim said...

Perhaps with art it is possible. But History is, as you phrased it, "constructed". Aspects are always chosen out of an impossible thicket of historical factors. As such it must be pre-interpreted to be anything at all. And politics seems to me to be a less clear-cut concept. Perhaps it depends on how you delimit it in instruction. But say we are teaching about government - if its relationship to how we (the students, readers, etc) live is known, then it permits any evaluation based on values which are going to be embedded within curricula, and within the limits of social grouping, no matter what.
But your question seems hypothetical... I don't believe I've met an educator who teaches such political things claiming to do so apoliically. Is this a formal claim in some part of the educational system? If so, I'd guess that it was an aspect of neoconservative PR ("fair and balanced"), basically just plain doublespeak. (of course the group who politicizes most is the one who must claim not to at all)

Joachim said...

I like your blog!

Michael said...

Thanks Joachim,

I would say you have been lucky, there are a lot of professors (like journalists, historians, scientists, pundits, etc) that believe you can produce and transmit knowledge (or truth-statements) objectively.