I've always had a high approval rating with my conservative students. I'm serious; I'm not kidding. And these kids know that I'm left of center.
What gives? A few things. First and foremost, self-identified conservative students know a bit more about government and politics--and I appreciate that. And they tend to appreciate me for appreciating that--and them. This isn't saying much, though, because most high school teachers will tell you that despite having a state-mandated "civics" graduation requirement for all students, a scary, overhelming majority of our students know squat about government and politics. It's true. Generally, though, conservative kids know more than their peers.
Because the rightolescents, I believe, know a bit more about government and politics than most of their peers, they come across stronger in class discussions that might address politics or debatable issues in one way or another. Of course, years ago when I first entered teaching, I came across a Sean Assity-in-training, who knew nothing other than what he thought; where did he get this from? Sean Assity, of course. He, though, was the exception, not the trend. Suffice it to say, the rightolescents know their stuff.
Frustrated with what was happening to the leftolescents I knew who were adrift, I was motivated a couple of years to help a group of students, at the high school where I teach, to form a young democrats club. I had to take some of these leftolescents out of the bell jar of the 2004 loss and educate them about what many of the righties already knew. And I had to encourage them to get involved; I am proud to say that many of them did with this past election.
In a recent phone conversation with a retired, left-leaning colleague of mine, whom I will call MC Master Teacher, MC Master Teacher has agreed with my observations and has also noted that in class discussion or debates, the rightolescents are generally much more controlled and compelling. I find this also to be true. More oftentimes than I care to admit, leftolescents, especially those who just claim to be so for no reason other than what they feel, tend to implode with emotion when addressing controversial topics, aspiring for high drama and operatics rather than a measured discussion. This helps explain why I don't get the right's infatuation with histrionic loud mouths like Mann Coultergeist and Rush Limfart. It doesn't make sense: would you rather have George Will and Peggy Noonan presenting your case or Coultergeist and Limfart? I say George and Peggy all the way.
Another reason that my approval rating has been consistently high with the rightolescents is that I--I believe--allow them to express their views and beliefs, regardless if I agree with them or not. Much to my dismay, I have heard stories from the rightolescents over the years that they felt uncomfortable coming forth with their ideas in certain classes. And while I can't cite any specific educators who do this, I knew a few trolls on the left who fit the bill of being looney, close-minded, and tragicaly one-sided. We educators need to encourage critical thinking for all adolescents, regardless if they ooze right or left. Let's work together on educating and broadening the American minds.