This I Believe

Jennifer - Tallahassee, Florida
Entered on April 26, 2007

I am a teacher, and as such I believe that in order to shape minds and develop critical thinking skills in our youth, we should expose them to contemporary controversial issues. But, in doing so, we teachers should put away all of our personal beliefs and biases, and present all sides of an issue. But this is not always the case.

In my school, there is a science teacher who is discussing global warming with his students. I wholeheartedly agree with his decision. However, his belief is that the movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” is the gospel on this topic. He has shown this movie to all of his classes, and inundated them with numerous “facts.” But this is the only side he presents – the other side is not just “wrong,” it is nonexistent in his eyes. Students astute enough to argue with him are silenced. And he is not alone. All over America, and the world, people are being fed only one theory, one side of this issue. And yet, the only fact humans know about theories, is that theories are not facts. I worry about the impact of this on our students. How are we as a society going to create critical thinkers, if we don’t allow them to think? How are we going to instill in them the importance of freedom of speech if we don’t allow them to speak? Right or wrong, everyone is entitled to their perspective. We have to teach students to look at ALL of the evidence with a critical eye, and draw their own conclusions. Healthy skepticism is valued in the scientific community, but how can we create skeptic thinkers if we dictate what they think?

I believe that freedom of speech is one of our most important rights, even if you do not like or agree with what is being said. To squelch this freedom in our impressionable youth is to create a future where scientific progression and understanding is limited, and our citizens are no longer willing to take risks in expressing their thoughts and ideas. Our country was founded by leaders who were willing to take risks and fight to ensure their right to speak and think freely. It is necessary for us to continue to have a balance of ideas, to explore all sides, and to encourage healthy discussion and debate among our future leaders. You are never too young to form your opinions. As a teacher, it is my job to be the model for my students, to help students find out the facts and come to their own conclusions, not to censor materials so that the students come to the conclusion that I believe they should have. I believe in the freedom to express what you think, but more importantly I believe in the freedom to think for yourself.