A Statement from Educators for Social Justice – Nova Scotia
During election season, teachers of all levels seize the opportunity to learn about politics.
Many students have the opportunity to hear first-hand from politicians running to represent them in Parliament. More than a million students across the country will participate in the Student Vote program, and many will host candidates’ forums in their schools.
Regrettably, in this election cycle some politicians are spreading particularly hateful messages regarding immigrants, refugees, LBGT people, and others, and promoting climate-change denial. In Nova Scotia, the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) and the National Citizens’ Alliance (NCA) are running candidates in several ridings. Both parties use rhetoric ranging from explicit hatred to more subtle but familiar “dog-whistle” phrases targeting marginalized groups.
These candidates should not be invited into our schools. It is incumbent upon us as educators in a public system not to provide platforms where these politicians can promote harm to our students and their families.
Some well-meaning observers might ask “but what about free speech?”
Free speech does not mean that anyone may say anything at any time. Institutions like public schools have the responsibility to filter out speech that may incite discrimination and violence, or that is based in faulty or misleading pseudoscience.
Our centres for education (formerly school boards) have anti-discrimination policies such as this one. All schools in the province are subject to the provincial Guidelines for Supporting Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students.
It’s one thing for politicians to express their hateful and unscientific views online, or out in the broader political world. It’s another thing for our public schools to legitimize them by inviting them to speak at assemblies of children.
We encourage teachers to explore the world of politics with their students, but to be mindful of what information we choose to share – just as we would expect of our students.
Our students and their families – especially those from marginalized communities – trust us to create a safe and welcoming environment for all. This is not to be taken lightly.
EDIT (October 9th): Some principals have sent teachers a directive that “All candidates [a] district/riding must be invited” if any one candidate is invited. This is apparently coming from higher up. It’s disturbing that the Department of Education would decree this in this context, but teachers should know that the directive is out there (and that technically one could face discipline for not following what is apparently provincial policy).