Teachers’ Personal Bias in the Classroom


Spencer Gilbert

How much bias enters into a teacher’s classroom?

Teachers–particularly in classes like English, history, and government–have significant opportunity to express their personal beliefs, but many are conflicted about doing so.

“Everything that is taught to another human being has a bias in it,” said Kelly Hillesland, AP English 11 teacher. However, she and many other teachers agree that classes like English and Social Science deal largely with philosophical ideas and politics–thus widening their ability to be manipulated. But do teachers take advantage of this?

“I actively try to avoid allowing my personal beliefs to influence what other people think,” said Jessica Mann, AP English 12 teacher. “Part of my educational philosophy is that I don’t think your personal philosophy should be a thing. It may come across unconsciously, but I try to avoid it consciously.”

Government teacher Carrie Jackson also tries to avoid bias, but feels that it is ultimately left up to interpretation–what a teacher may discern as unbiased, a student may perceive as unfairly biased.

“I think being very vocal and open about your own views is a more authentic way of being human,” Hillesland said. The varying opinions teachers hold regarding biased-teaching illustrate the complexity of their jobs. Although they are professional figures, many still feel strongly about issues they teach and are caught between their passions and positions.

“It can be very hard to be yourself but then also give a public persona,” Mann said.

Vice Principal Lori Emmington has received complaints from parents who feel that certain teachers share too much political bias. “Well, on one hand I understand it. On the other hand, that’s the world we live in. When you get to college, you’re going to hear and see a lot of political and social bias,” she said. “It’s our job to teach students–especially high school students–to detect bias and to question it.”

“I think that people with really strong views open up a dialogue about things that otherwise wouldn’t be discussed,” said Jackson. “And so, even if students disagree with what some of the teachers may be teaching, I think it challenges them to either strengthen their own views, or maybe at least be open-minded to the fact that there are other views out there.”

Many students recognize this bias in the classroom and understand how it both helps and hinders the classroom. “I think encouraging students to have active dialogue with the teacher is pretty beneficial,” said senior Joseph Franklin. “But it starts getting bad when the teacher assesses the students based on their opinions.”

“I’m fine with teachers stating their beliefs about things, but when they make it sound like their opinion is the only right opinion–I don’t think that’s going to positively affect a learning environment,” said senior Hannah Braidman. Many students and teachers echo this statement–it is okay for a teacher to express his/her beliefs, as long as they’re open to the beliefs of others, and they create a classroom atmosphere where those opinions can be shared openly.

Teachers walk a thin line between expressing their beliefs and maintaining a neutral position. But as detailed by several teachers, bias as a whole cannot be prevented nearly anywhere. In fact, this article may be biased in itself.