“Loose Lips Sink Schools - The Threat of Teacher Talk to Democracy”
DR. KRISTINA LLEWELLYN, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT STUDIES, RENISON UNIVERSITY COLLEGE
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 30TH, 2012 | 12:00 – 1:00 P.M. | DUNKER FAMILY LOUNGE
Dr. Llewellyn’s talk explores the national apoliticization of teaching in mid-twentieth-century Canada and how it provides insights for post-9/11 panics about ‘unpatriotic’ talk in classrooms.
‘Loose lips sink ships’ is a North American idiom meaning be aware of careless talk. It originated from government propaganda during WWII to warn citizens that unguarded speech could be used by enemies. Good citizens keep mum about politics became a maxim for schools following the war. The state turned to schools to restore ‘normality’- citizens pledging allegiance to the Anglo-Saxon, middle-class, nuclear family as the basis for democratic order. School officials deemed talk that challenged ‘normal’ citizenship, whether communist sympathy, gender equity demands, or youth politicization, as harmful to the nation. Teachers were the conduits for this lesson. Commentators warned against the professional sin of ‘loose lips.’ In response to public concerns that teachers ‘talked too much’ or were ‘poisoning the minds of youth,’ teachers’ federations created codes of ethics that focused on containing its members’ speech.
Dr. Llewellyn argues that the historical limitations placed on teacher talk, exemplified by the postwar period, have left a legacy. Teachers’ political subjectivities continue to be perceived as a threat to producing free-thinking citizens, even though apolitical classrooms are the real danger to democracy.
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