Saturday, January 28, 2006

companion post

This is a companion post to the previous "the students strike back." A while back I wrote a column about professors using their classrooms for political indoctrination.

*College name has been omitted for privacy purposes.

Spout politics at me, just not when I’m paying you to teach me something. When I polled 50 college students, I discovered that one in five students said their professors talk politics in class unrelated to the subject matter.

A survey by the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) revealed, “70% of students surveyed say their professors express their political views in class.”

I’ve had three professors who used their classroom as a political soapbox. Two of those professors didn’t stop at the level of inappropriate and unrelated political jokes. They went so far as to imply that Republican views were idiotic and unreasonable.

In one class, the low level of student participation caused me to wonder if students were intimidated. The professor routinely ridiculed the Bush administration and conservatives. In that class, I felt that if I spoke up, the professor would treat me like an imbecile.

In the IWF survey, close to a third of the students, “are uncomfortable expressing their opinions in class if they differ from their professor’s point of view.”

Before I continue, it’s worth mentioning that political debate has a place in some classes. Several students I’ve spoken with said political discussion occurred in history and political science classes.

However, I’m really talking about the difference between an open debate, and a professor who expects the students to quietly listen to their political rant.

Imagine going to the doctor about your headaches, and instead he starts your visit by talking about the best way to grow lavender. After a little while, he starts addressing your headaches, and you get billed for the entire visit.

It’s sad when 1 in 5 college students must pay to hear someone using their classroom as a political pulpit.

I find it interesting to compare two of my history professors. One of them consistently presented quality lectures, and somehow managed to avoid injecting political beliefs into the class.

Another history professor’s lectures consisted of some historical facts, but tended to include sensational tabloid style historical stories and political bias sprouted from every topic. Yes, I still had to pay for the class.

David Horowitz, founder of Students for Academic Freedom and author of the Academic Bill of Rights, wrote, “What they [professors] must not do is jump into the controversy on one side, wielding all the authority of their greater experience and superior knowledge, backed by their grading power. They are not in the classroom to recruit students to their political or religious agendas. They are there to teach them.”

The Academic Bill of Rights includes a crucial section, “Faculty will not use their courses for the purpose of political, ideological, religious or anti-religious indoctrination.”

Some professors seem to think that they are paid to provide political views on topics of their choice whether the class is Spanish 101 or English 104. Maybe they think that political jokes are a constructive way to teach students about differing points of view.

I doubt I will gain the best understanding of politics from listening to an English professor undermine our country’s leaders.

Soapboxing professors might do well to follow Obi Wan’s advice, “You should go home and rethink your class.”

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