Politically Motivated Teacher

There is always that one teacher, the one who is always bringing his or her politics into the classroom and is extremely passionate about it. Be it about religion, the government, or ethics, morality, and values, this teacher is always ready with their own arguments and/or long-winded speeches. Typically, this person teaches a class involving social sciences (e.g.: history, sociology, politics), but it can be any teacher in any subject. College professors are even more likely to be politically motivated.

The Politically Motivated Teacher can be portrayed either as a positive or a negative thing, generally depending on whether or not the teacher's views align with the author's. If it's shown in a positive way, then the teacher will often stimulate intelligent debate, helping his or her students to think more critically about the events in the world around them and get more involved in society. If it's shown negatively, the teacher will run the classroom with an iron fist and punish students who voice dissenting political views instead of promoting discussion. Either way, expect anvils to be dropped like a bowling ball tied to a weak tree branch.

A Hippie Teacher can be related, for reasons of hippies being very politically radical. The negative version of this trope often takes the form of a Sadist Teacher with Strawman Political elements, while a positive version is usually a Reasonable Authority Figure.

This trope is definitely Truth in Television, as any college students (and sometimes high school students) can attest to. The political alignment of these teachers often correspond with the general atmosphere of the school in which they teach, though there are without a doubt many who go against the grain of their institution's political philosophies.


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    Comic Strips 
  • Dykes to Watch Out For plays with something seen under "Real Life" in this exchange from 2005 between Neoconservative student Cynthia and Ginger:
    Cynthia: The evidence speaks for itself. On a faculty of 250, there are only 15 openly Republican professors.
    Ginger: What are you proposing? Ideological diversity through affirmative action? That's real Conservative.
    Cynthia: I'm proposing that impressionable students hear all sides of the issues. Does that threaten you?
    Ginger: If all sides includes Creationism and Holocaust denial and the novels of Ayn Rand, then, yeah, I guess it does.
    Cynthia (angrily scribbling): 4:22 p.m. Professor Ginger Jordan mocks one of my intellectual heroines. (to Ginger) I'll just post this little incident to the Academic Freedom Complaint Center.
    Ginger: Cynthia, if you really want more Republicans on the faculty, try getting our salaries quadrupled.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Clueless has Miss Geist, who wants to inspire her students to save the environment and aid disaster victims. She's portrayed as dorky, but likable.
  • The teacher obsessed with Vietnam in Back to School brings a certain kind of psychotic passion to his classes.
    "Mr. Tergeson's really committed. In fact, I think he was."
  • Mr. Keating from Dead Poets Society spends more time spouting Romantic and Transcendentalist ideals in his class than actually teaching.
    • Then again, he is a literature teacher, so that comes with the territory. The trope is actually subverted because Keating arouses the ire of parents and administrators for actually realizing what it was he was teaching and doing so effectively.
  • The Women's Studies professor from Sorority Boys is a terrifying example of a Straw Feminist. Among the lecture topics in her class is the "Myth of the Male Orgasm," prompting a confused look from Dave, the only male in the class.
  • A mild example appears in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a negatively-slanted Trope Codifier. She's overtly sympathetic to Mussolini and Francisco Franco, an ideology that turns her classroom into self-centered personality cult. Her teachings warp her charges to the point where one girl goes to fight in the Spanish Civil War and dies. She's pointedly called out on this at film's end.
  • Professor Radisson from God's Not Dead is an atheist philosophy teacher whose first action in his new class is to make his students sign a statement saying "God is Dead" or else he'll fail them; The Christian protagonist, Josh, refuses to do so, so Radisson challenges him to debate God's existence with him in front of all the classroom at the end of every class session, and if he can't prove God's existence he'll fail him. It becomes clear that Radisson only intends to humiliate him for his beliefs and it later turns out that he is a Hollywood Atheist who has always hated God because his mother died of cancer when he was little.

  • Justified in Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers. The History and Moral Philosophy class every student is required to take attempts to implant pro-military beliefs and encourage joining the Federal Service, so the teachers — all retired veterans, by law — naturally push these political and philosophical values on their students.
    • In StarshipTroopers, he puts his money where his mouth is, resuming his commission with the Mobile Infantry.
    • HMP instructors are very focused on exposing their students to this philosophy and belief, but as is explicitly pointed out, you can't fail and there are no penalties for either sleeping through the course or passionately disagreeing with every word being stated.
  • A similar example is Kantorek in All Quiet on the Western Front, who encourages his students to join the German army in World War I, greatly romanticizing it as something glorious. Of course, he couldn't be farther from the truth. One of Kantorek's former students gets payback when he becomes his commanding officer. He reminds Kantorek of a fellow student who died in agony after joining the frontlines thanks to Kantorek's speeches and makes Kantorek follow humiliating orders.
  • Professor Dillamond in Wicked is extremely passionate about his beliefs about the prejudice against talking animals in the school system and his fears about what is happening to them, fears which turn out to be correct. This has a profound effect on Elphaba, particularly because of the prejudice against her for her green skin.
  • The eponymous subject of Tuesdays with Morrie, Morrie Schwartz, was said to have been very much an activist, even giving his students all A grades to prevent them from being drafted.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Dolores Umbridge is a negative version who teaches Ministry propaganda and punishes students (and eventually teachers) for disagreeing with the party line.
  • An interesting subversion in Avi's Nothing But the Truth, in which everyone except the teacher (and the student that the book focuses on) has an agenda.
  • Bill's old writing professor in It is a negative example. He cared more about pushing a liberal agenda than about teaching his students how to write good stories. He failed Bill out of his class solely because Bill challenged his attempts to make everything about politics. Bill's final "screw you" to his old professor was to send him a copy of a magazine that liked one of Bill's stories and published it.
  • In Speak, Melinda's teacher Mr. Neck likes to rant about various political topics, such as how illegal aliens are stealing jobs from hardworking Americans.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Square Pegs had a Vietnam veteran turned football coach who obsessively compared every event on the football field to Vietnam, and blamed the team's defeat on the treacherous liberal media.
  • One episode of Bronx Zoo had a science teacher become a born-again Christian after surviving an accident where a cross-shaped beam narrowly missed falling on him. He become convinced the Bible was the literal word of God and started teaching creationism rather than evolution in his class.
  • Not exactly a teacher, but in The George Lopez Show, Max's Treetop Rangers leader liked to rant about how recycling is bad and how cops should be allowed to profile Mexicans. When Max's dad George confronts him, saying that he is Mexican, he says "Oh, not like you. I mean one of those 'Me no speakee' Mexicans."
  • Nicky Reagan tangles with a leftist teacher in one episode of Blue Bloods and is denied entrance to Rutgers after flaming her on Twitter. When Erin takes Nicky to apologize, the teacher has a portrait of Che Guevara on her wall. Things go downhill from there.

    Web Comics 
  • In the early arcs of Better Days Fisk had to deal with a particularly anvilicious liberal social studies teacher.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Bobby's History teacher on King of the Hill is ridiculously pushy and political.
  • South Park's Mr. (or Mrs.) Garrison has been known to do this on occasion, though less blatantly, as it's often left to offhand comments (such as in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut when he declared the Mothers Against Canada were "probably just all on their periods"). In "Follow That Egg!," however, (s)he manipulates the lesson in a ploy to keep gay marriage illegal (though his/her motivation is more personal than political). (S)he does the same thing when it comes to teaching evolution (first being vehemently opposed to it as a creationist, then switching to being vehemently anti-religion). (S)he explains that her/his only consistent belief is that you have to be an asshole to anyone who disagrees with you.
  • The Fire Nation schools in Avatar: The Last Airbender are staffed entirely with these sorts of teachers, whose lessons all carry a heavy undercurrent about how wonderful their country is and how their imperialism is for the good of the world. This has less to do with the teachers themselves and more the Fire Nation seeing that these values are imparted to the younger generation. Since the Fire Nation has been in this state for a hundred years, it's likely the school was like this before the current faculties were ever old enough to attend.
  • Daria: Radical feminist Ms. Barch, though her motivations are more personal than political. She never bothers to espouse any feminist viewpoints, nor tries to teach any to her students. She simply uses class as an opportunity to repeatedly vent about her no-good ex-husband, and take out her frustration on the male students.

    Real Life 
  • Andrew Schlafly, creator of Conservapedia, is a teacher who greatly encourages his students to use his website for research. The site is pretty up-front about having a strong conservative bias (the idea being that it is opposite to the purportedly liberal Wikipedia). The site itself is, against his wishes, practically a parody of itself due to the number of Trolls who've infiltrated it.
  • There was a kerfuffle a few years ago when a high school history teacher named Jay Bennish was recorded going on an explosive political tirade comparing the style of George W. Bush's State of the Union address to Adolf Hitler (remember, this was history, not current affairs), and was suspended as a result. Bennish claimed he was trying to get his students to "think more in-depth," an explanation that didn't really gel with the nature of his rant.
  • In the United States, universities are often accused by conservatives of being centers of liberal indoctrination. To be fair, there are numerous studies that come out in which the college's liberal-leaning teachers outnumber the conservatives by absurd numbers. Suggested explanations as to why are myriad, and which (if any) are the truth is a discussion outside the scope of this article.
    • Though there's little denying the bulk of university professors (and those who work in academia in general) tend to be liberal, but the professors, by and large, don't stand up and simply preach about their political opinions in class (speaking at out-of-class lectures and events which take place for this very purpose, or discussing something relevant but considered controversial in some circles, such as a biology professor explaining why evolution is a real process, or simply explaining the flaws in someone's argument, which isn't the same as saying their conclusion is wrong per se, don't count). Usually, you can pick up on any given professor's perspective on the issues, but most of them are good at allowing students to speak their minds, even if it's only because they're bored with hearing the same cliched and redundant observations being voiced again and again by undergrads ("History is written by the winners;" "Communism works on paper"). That said, it is an old observation that college students tend to be arguably the most left-wing demographic in America, and, no matter what subject it is, there's always a self-appointed PC policeman in the room (though one should be careful to use gender-neutral pronouns and the current appropriate word for any non-white hetero-male demographic since the beginning of time). Many of them won't be nearly as liberal (even those who continue to identify as such) in another 10-15 years, but don't try telling them that, unless you want to make yourself a pariah and see fifty pairs of eyes roll at once.
  • A North Carolina teacher named Tanya Dixon-Neely was suspended in 2012 for her screaming tirade against one of her high school students in which she claimed that the student was not allowed to "disrespect" President Obama. One of her students was recording the rant because Dixon-Neely apparently had a history of anti-conservative behavior.
  • Lynette Gaymon, a Philadelphia high school geometry teacher, publicly bullied and humiliated a student for wearing a "Romney/Ryan" t-shirt in class. Gaymon claimed the school was "Democratic" and compared it to wearing a "KKK shirt". The teacher's harassment continued until the student had to leave school, at which point the student and her parents were harassed by other students and had obscenities shouted at them as they left.
  • Ron Jones and his "Third Wave" experiment, intended to teach his students on Nazi Germany and the dangers of fascism. It was later adapted into a Made-for-TV Movie, a book, and a German cine film.
  • Jonh Freshwater was dismissed from Mount Veron Middle School for teaching creationism instead of science and buring crosses in children's arms using a Tesla Coil. He claimed religious persecution and claimed he was fired for having a bible on his desk.
  • The schools of any totalitarian government exist almost solely to instill their political philosophy into the next generation, or when they don't have one, indoctrinate students into the personality cult of the Glorious Leader.
    • In the words of Adolf Hitler himself, "He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future".
    • There have even been accusations of this against non-totalitarian education, citing the Bleached Underpants version of events taught to children in history classes (the story of Thanksgiving in the US being a big one).
  • Ward Churchill is one of the more infamous real life examples. Although to his credit he was an ethnic studies college professor. He just took being outspoken and opinionated to whole new levels
  • Especially in the American Deep South, it's not hard to find history teachers who are very adamant about making sure their students know that the American Civil War was mostly about other issues than slavery, usually mentioning how the North was very Federalist (strong central government and pan-US-nationalism) whereas the South was very Anti-Federalist (weak central government, strong individual state-government and state-nationalism.)