Professor Thomas Adams asked his student’s personal political questions that raised tensions in his Public Speaking class.
During the first week of school, Professor Adams sent his students a “Getting to know you questionnaire” Google form. The google form included a place for your first and last name as well as basic icebreaker questions like “Dream Vacation?” or “Favorite late-night snack?”.
It then leads into a multiple choice question “Black Lives Matter” with the options being “true”, “false”, “it depends”, “blue lives matter”, “all lives matter”, and “seriously there is only one acceptable response here”. More questions follow asking “Do you consider yourself a feminist?”, “Is Fox News a reputable news source?”, “Donald Trump is honest in his communication T/F”.
Adams addresses the politics in his classroom, “Most students don’t considerably like politics. But if any students have ever maybe had a conversation with a roommate about who’s taking out the garbage, that’s politics. So in that sense yeah [we talk about politics in the classroom].”
One question stood out, “Donald Trump Lost the Election” which gave only one answer – true, and the only required question on the “questionnaire.”
In response to this question, Bud Mallard stated “He forced us to answer it, it was like ripping out your own voice. You know, like putting tape over your mouth even though you were trying to say something else, they just slapped tape over it.”
Bud Mallard is a student of Adams’ who enjoys the class and believes he was trying to give a nudge to his students in order to make them feel more comfortable about controversial topics.
As Mallard goes on to say, “That’s why I like Thomas Adams so much is because he forces you to do it. Because I think some people need that push. I don’t think that google form was okay, but everything else he does is good and he is very good with getting us to talk.”
A few more questions into the form Adams has his students go onto Political Compass and take a test to “Find out where you stand on the political compass” the website explains. After the test Adams redirects his students to the form to submit their scores. This was not a required response but the sharing of personal political ideologies stimulated more anxiety within individual students.
An additional student in the class Tommy Vetrovsky felt overwhelmingly uncomfortable by the form. So much so, an hour later he dropped out of the class. When Vetrovsky saw the form his immediate reaction was “What the f**k!” He shared that he was ticked off after reading it explaining “I was confused on how my political view affects how others think.”
Asking Adams about the first week of school and how he integrates his new students into the classroom to feel comfortable, he “Creates a welcome space. I make sure that students see the school as a safe space created for them.”
“I dropped the class because I could tell [Thomas Adams’] political views and assumed if he knew mine, I was going to be mistreated. I don’t understand how getting to know someone is political views. I don’t want to be singled out.” Vetrovsky continued.
This then brought on the ethical questions regarding politics being in the classroom.
The National Education Association has a “Code of Ethics for Educators” where they outline in their first principle “The Commitment to the Student.” Marking eight points to which the educator has to fulfill their obligation to the student.
Following these outlined ethics, numbers two, five, and six have been breached by Adams.
We see number two infringed upon by denying students access to skip the mandatory “Trump lost the election” question, only offering his students one varying viewpoint.
Number five was violated from the “Black Lives Matters” question as to which Adams noted, “Seriously, there is only one acceptable response here.” Students who disagree with Adams are presented with embarrassment if they do not agree with him.
Number six was defied by discrimination on the basis of political beliefs. Identifying again with the “Black Lives Matter” question and Adams’ comment.
We see all these to be true by Vetrovsky immediately dropping out of the class. He experienced the feeling of embarrassment and his political beliefs being discriminated against. Vetrovsky even stated, “I don’t want to be singled out.”
For Vetrovsky it was made clear it was an uncomfortable learning environment he didn’t feel welcome in. Mallard agrees that the google form was out of left field that made him uncomfortable to an extent but that Adams’ uses it to help the students grow in a variety of topics.