Professors pushing personal agendas in the classroom

Marissa Wall

You’ve probably all experienced it: you’re in class and your teacher ventures off on what they were originally educating you on, leaving their actual subject and entering the treacherous waters of viewpoints and
opinion.

Your chemistry teacher tells you what they think of your religion or conversely what you should think of theirs.

Your English teacher pushes politics.

Your sociology teacher declares their worldview.

Your economics teacher shares his/her judgements as facts, and you’re left asking: why is their opinion on this more important than anyone else’s? Is it because of their degrees, their doctorates? If it is, then we have an issue here.

Being certified and educated enough to teach a subject or class does not grant you the rights or power to teach anything you choose or to share your theories as facts.

While this is difficult to consider, it would be an unfair and nearly impossible standard to expect our professors to be completely free of bias.

But maybe, in fact, smothering their viewpoints and beliefs would actually impound them more inseparably into what and how they teach, hiding their opinion like a pill hidden in the slice of an apple, so that you can’t be sure what is information and what is their opinion unless you look closely.

In my Intro to Biology class, following a short film about stem cell research, my teacher deviated from our discussion to talk about his own judgement of the film. The overarching atmosphere in the classroom was one of disdain for any opinions that differed from that of the
professor’s.

The professor asked for what people thought, and several people strongly shared their ideas in support of what the professor had discussed while the professor nodded sagely in agreement with them.

Good logic, his nods said, you picked the one correct opinion: mine.

“Does anybody else want to share what they thought?” He looked around the classroom, and I shrunk deep into my seat, disagreeing, but not wanting to face ostracization by the entire class with whom I shared all of my freshman block classes and would see in almost all of my classes.

There was a brief silence. “Well it seems we’re all in agreement,” and he moved on, pleased. I sat with a sinking feeling in my stomach, knowing that I would not be accepted, that my perception was considered the wrong one, and that, worse: everyone thought the situation was normal or decent behavior.

It was accepted as completely fine for the professor to state his own moral compass and judgement, without any detailed explanation, as being the one correctly informed response.

As if what he were actually teaching us was that he was irrefutably right.

If the professor wanted to teach us philosophy, or ethics, or anything, it would necessitate him holding a degree in those subjects, yet he just declared that he had a higher knowledge of a subject he had no certification in other than his students syncing his opinion with “right” and any others with “wrong.”

I would be completely fine with the professor and students disagreeing with what I believe or think. It is their freedom, and their right to reach their own conclusion and to argue it just as it is mine.

However, that being said, it is not the professor’s place to declare something as being inherently correct, especially when it comes to a moral or political choice.

I would argue that to create such a stiff environment, where it seems there is only one way to look at the situation if you want to get good grades or be favored by the professor, is the opposite of what any teacher’s goals should be.

Regardless of what is taught, the goal of education is to help foster an interest and understanding within your students, and to help build them up into being independent and strong thinkers.

You want them to be fully engaged and passionate about what you’re teaching. The best teachers let the students process information through questions and their own research.

If you simply turn your education format into a logbook in which the information you’re teaching is plugged, all they are going to remember is the stiff set of rules and how it seems irrelevant to their life as a whole.

How it is only relevant if they see things the same way as you. However, take your information off the page, let it live and breathe and take a stretch in their minds and you’ll find that your students can grasp a lot more than you would’ve expected.

If we are spending our college education—our time, our focus and our money—on these classes, isn’t it fair to expect that we should be taught facts by professors who are highly educated on the topics that they’re teaching?

If our professors are going to be teaching us merely what they think to be true, but aren’t informed on the subject, or are merely teaching a personal opinion, then are we spending our valuable time and resources well?

Do we attend class to listen to opinions?

We could spend our time on Tumblr, Facebook, in conversation, or, maybe, reading articles that actually back up their views with legitimate research and facts if that was our only objective.

It’s important to learn from educated people, but that does not mean that it is worth our time and money to listen to educated people talk about something that they’re not educated on.

Similarly, it would be pointless to listen to a football coach who tries to correct you on the rules of tennis. We will all only gain from the realization that we have things to learn from the people around us, as well as the fact that we will sometimes be wrong.

Professors, just like everyone else, are right about some things and wrong about other things.