Politics In The Classroom

      Politics do not belong in the classroom. Nearly every political debate turns into a heated, and sometimes downright ugly argument, but the classroom should be a refuge from political discrimination and intimidation. In a perfect world, professors would be able to stand up for their political values while maintaining a classroom environment of acceptance, decorum, and objectivity. In reality, students with dissenting political opinions are often pressured to remain quiet and pretend to agree with the person in power, the professor. The professor wields an extraordinary amount of power over her students. Students all too often approach assignments for the class with the intention of writing what the professor wants to hear, which is problematic in itself. When the professor obviously favors one political opinion over another, students with differing opinions are suddenly put in the tough spot of deciding which is more important: pandering to the professor’s opinion, or staying “true” to their political values, and in turn, risking a lower grade.  Regardless of gender, age, likeability, or political identity a professor should only grade the student with regards to their performance in a specific class. Even when grading a paper that argues for an idea the professor disagrees with, he ought not to mark down the paper simply because he disagrees with it. If the argument the student presents is truly unintelligible, than it should be graded as such, but the professor should never give a lower grade simply because he disagrees with the argument the student is presenting. Though hopefully very few teachers approach grading in this way, even if a professor has no intention of marking down a paper or assignment that challenges their personal beliefs, it can still appear this way to a student when the teacher is extremely vocal about her political stances.

      There is a place for professors to share their political opinions with students. When students approach the professor and ask about his specific political beliefs, the professor should by all means share his opinion. In a more personal and private environment, where fewer misunderstandings are likely to occur, a conversation about personal political beliefs can be beneficial and good. Professors should have opportunities to have more personal conversations with students. In class, however, the professor’s job is not to impart their own beliefs or agendas onto the student. A good professor ought to teach the students how to think critically and discern for themselves what is true.

      Charitable and lively political debates should be encouraged on college campuses. Professors asserting their own political beliefs during class time does not contribute to a healthy political environment, and in fact, detracts from it by alienating all students in the class who disagree. Though it is impossible to have a completely unbiased professor, the teacher should foster an environment where every student feels comfortable to argue for their ideas and engage in true discussion.

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