Bill Jordan

History Instructor Bill Jordan in his Academy Building classroom

"We shouldn’t be telling our students what to think, but helping them learn how to think.”

Want to talk turkey? Head to Bill Jordan’s classroom. There the history instructor of 22 years fosters dialogue about American and ancient history, politics, and the law across ideological and party lines. It’s a teaching philosophy reinforced around the table and on each of his room’s curated walls. There are rally placards for Trump, Obama, Newt and Ron Paul, he notes. “I want it to be as balanced as possible.”

Valuing all perspectives is a skill Jordan P’12, P’17, P’17 first honed at home (“My father was a newshound and politics junkie.”) and further developed during his time as a newspaper reporter covering crime, local government and school board meetings in Massachusetts for The Beacon and The Malden Evening News. 

He brings that selfsame passion for community involvement and civic engagement to the Academy as a long-time boys cross country coach, dorm affiliate and adviser to the Exeter Political Union. 

Here’s the scoop on a few notable objects in Academy Building Room 028.

— Jennifer Wagner

Button collection
The George McGovern button is Jordan’s favorite. The two met in 1972 while McGovern was on the campaign trail and Jordan was at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. “We chatted. He’s a very nice guy,” he recalls. “It was one of my best political moments ever.”
Voter card
“Studying national politics can make you feel a little bit hopeless about the future,” Jordan says, which is why he brought students to a deliberative session in Exeter, where they picked up this voter card. “They’re not at each other’s throats and they’re not polarizing,” he says of local politicians. “They can compromise, they can listen to each other. [Students] see that in person in that room.”
The Political Classroom
“This book is my bible,” Jordan says. “Classrooms are political spaces, there’s no way around that, but they should not be places of indoctrination. We shouldn’t be telling our students what to think, but helping them learn how to think.”
I could be wrong
Jordan designed these stickers to hand out to students. “I am into this notion of epistemic humility,” he says. “One of the things we need to teach people to be good citizens is to always think, ‘Could I be wrong?’ That way, they listen to other people, take in other views, and don’t assume that they’re always right.”

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the winter 2020 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.