A June 25th op-ed in the Winnipeg Sun by a writer for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy claims there is not enough diversity of thought amongst Canada’s teachers. Too many are left-wing ideologues and because of that, students aren’t learning about the wide range of political and social views held by Canadians.
The writer states the reason so many teachers are liberal rather than conservative thinkers is that education faculties at universities are filled with liberals. Prospective teachers are taught by one left-leaning professor after another and so it is hard for them not to become left of centre thinkers themselves. There is momentum for making the teaching profession more diverse by gender and race. According to the Frontier spokesperson the profession also needs to be more diverse when it comes to ideologies.
The op-ed left me wondering how you would determine whether an educator is left-wing or right-wing? It is fairly easy to identify someone’s gender or race in order to create a more diverse teaching staff, but if you wanted to hire teachers on the basis of diversity of thought how would you go about doing that?
There are quizzes online that claim to determine whether you lean right or left on social, political, religious, and economic issues. Would you give prospective educators a quiz like that to discover their ideological bent? But how would you know if prospective teachers answered such a quiz completely honestly? Might their answers be influenced by the fact that leaning towards a certain ideology could get them a job?
What if their ideologies changed over time? Would you have to administer the quiz annually to be sure left-wing and right-wing teachers had remained in the same ideological camp and hadn’t had their perspectives changed by new information or personal experience? And if they had changed their ideas, would they be fired and replaced by teachers who had the views necessary to create an ideologically balanced teaching staff?
And how would you determine if teachers were indeed promoting their ideological bent with their students or keeping their opinions to themselves? Would you need cameras in the classroom to ensure teachers were voicing either the left-wing or right-wing ideology for which they had been hired in order to make their school or university more divergent in its thinking?
The op-ed writer suggests educators representing all of the country’s political parties should be in the classroom and indeed party affiliation might be a way to create a more ideologically diverse teaching staff. Except that even within political parties the ideas of members can be very different. Recent votes in the Canadian Parliament on the issues of conversion therapy and sex-selective abortion for example illustrate the wide range of opinions on those topics held by members within the Conservative Party.
You also have the problem of determining political affiliation. Only a very small percentage of Canadians are actually political party members. In some federal elections, only 60% of Canadians even vote and many alter the party they vote for from election to election based on a whole variety of factors. How could you reliably determine the political affiliation of teachers or professors? Would you need to make joining a political party an employment requirement?
I don’t question whether educational institutions have teaching staffs who lean towards more progressive, liberal ideologies because the most recent Pew Research polls show that the more educated you are the more likely it is that you will be left of center on social, economic, religious and political issues. Much as some people might like to change that, I wonder if it is possible in a democratic society where citizens are free to think and learn for themselves.