Do the personal views of our professors affect our learning experience in the classroom? It’s no secret that Witt is very liberal politically, for example, but what about those students who don’t identify in the same way? This topic of conversation came up in one of my classes this past week and it really got me thinking about the negative effects that seem to be associated with professors who insert their personal ideologies into their teachings.
Of course, it’s always good to hear differing opinions and points of view other than your own. Ultimately it helps you to better understand why you believe what you do, as well as understand what you’re arguing against and it just makes for some healthy banter. But is the classroom the place for those kinds of conversations?
Imagine walking into a general education history class and you notice your professor’s consistent comments about the inability of women to compete with men politically. As a woman myself, I know I would feel incredibly uncomfortable. I wouldn’t be able to focus on the material being taught because of my strong emotional reactions to sexist comments made by the professor. Now imagine on top of the inappropriate comments, you notice on exams and papers that anything written that doesn’t follow these same beliefs is marked incorrect. Doesn’t that just sound absurd?
Without naming any professors specifically, I’ve heard from other students that the ideology that some professors have is so aggressive in their teaching, that if the students don’t follow the same ideology or dare to go against it in essays or exams, not only does their grade suffer as a result, but they leave the class feeling bad or guilty for having an opposing opinion to begin with. This isn’t a matter of misunderstanding the material or getting answers wrong here. There’s a difference between information discussed in class that’s a matter of personal opinion and something that can be found in a textbook.
I was honestly baffled when I heard that story. If the goal is to educate students on a specific issue that you feel passionate about, “teaching” it in this way just associates the content with negative emotions and ultimately doesn’t get your point across effectively.
This isn’t to say that professors aren’t allowed to have their own opinions or even talk about them in class. They’re human, after all. But pushing personal beliefs onto students and letting said beliefs impact academic performance is wrong and inappropriate. In this specific instance, the ideologies of the professor were so aggressive, that it seems to be driving away students from even taking the class to begin with.