Paradoxes of an Open Classroom: Limits on Student Discourse

Open ClassroomSnapshot: When a student proposes a civics project his teachers fear is homophobic and possibly threatening to the wellbeing of the LGBTQ members of their class, what should they do? Stop a student from pursuing a project in line with his deeply held religious beliefs? Or step in an effort to protect the rest of the class?


Case Description: Teachers who strive to create an open classroom climate frequently face a trade-off between honoring their commitments to both open dialogue and student safety. While uncivil or meanspirited comments may be uncontroversially prohibited in the classroom, sincere political dialogue that may reasonably make some students in the class feel unwelcome and unsafe poses a serious challenge for the teacher committed to maintaining an open classroom. "Paradoxes of an Open Classroom Climate" revolves around two teachers who must decide whether or not to allow one of their students to pursue a civics project denouncing gay marriage for religious reasons. Should they prevent him from pursuing his chosen project, thereby foreclosing on the possibility that religious inquiry can inform civic action? Or should they allow him to proceed, knowing some students will be made to feel unsafe?


See also: Politics, Teachers, K-12, K-8