Conflict in the Classroom

by NeW Staff on June 12, 2010 · 2 comments

As I discussed in my post entitled The Ivory Tower on 1/22/2010, academia is historically and perpetually dominated by liberal minded individuals.

Often, this may have no bearing or effect on happenings in the classroom. In some disciplines it is difficult if not impossible to weave in a political comment (math, biology, music). In other disciplines, it is completely relevant and appropriate to discuss politics (political science, history, sociology). In my discipline (communication) discussing politics is generally unnecessary and irrelevant (well, of course unless you are studying POLITICAL communication). 

When professors espouse political ideology in the classroom, and it has no relevance to the field of study, they undermine the educational environment. In my opinion the classroom is best operated like traditional media - balanced and objective. Just as it is considered unacceptable in the United States for media to be blatantly biased, it should be unacceptable for the academy to indoctrinate students. It is the professor's job to present students with useful and accurate information and to permit students to reach their own conclusions. Is this not the goal of education? 

I unfortunately encounter aggressive (almost tempted to say "angry") liberals in the academy far more frequently then I would like. Considering the current administration was successful in the 2008 election, I remain unsure where the animosity is originating from. I have witnessed blatant, arbitrary, and misguided remarks about conservative politicians as of late which continues to disturb me even after all my years in higher education. When faced with such hateful comments in a captive space, what should a conservative student do?

Firstly, stay calm. Irrational comments are not alleviated by more emotional or personal remarks.

Secondly, if the politically charged material is irrelevant to the class - consider asking why it is being discussed.

Thirdly, provide a rebuttal for the argument made by the professor. If the teacher truly values the exchange of ideas, s/he should provide the student with a respectful response. 

Fourthly, enlist the help of your classmates! You are most likely not the only student who has different ideas then your professor. 

If political comments truly get out of hand in the classroom, consider discussing the matter with the director or dean of the program. Students should also note such behavior in evaluations, for the university and elsewhere (such as the Internet). The school newspaper is also a great venue for discussing matters that program heads may wish to hide or disregard. Students have many channels to combat the subjection to political doctrine in the classroom. Hold your professors accountable - no matter which side of the political spectrum you lie all students will benefit from the free exchange of ideas.

You may be surprised how many other students agree with you. Don't be afraid to speak up!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

A Guy March 27, 2011 at 2:39 am

Here’s a suggestion. Not only stay calm, but be as polite as you possibly can no matter what the provocation. That might help you get an ally or two.
If you ask the prof a question or come up with a rebuttal, he might just say to the class, “Okay can anyone respond to that point?” The object is not to reply to you but to try to isolate you by having the class liberals turn on you, so the prof can show the class that you’re an outlier. One way to overcome that is to find out if there’s another conservative in class, so that you’ll have a “wing (wo)man,” who can respond to the attempt to isolate you by saying politely something like “but that didn’t answer the question.” That way they see there’s more than one of you, and they realize it’s not so easy to isolate you, and they might have to respond to the merits of what you’re saying.


A. Reader March 31, 2011 at 3:30 pm

The Web site for Radical Teacher has made back issue excerpts hard to search for, locate and read unless you have university access. However, I can tell you that they published a whole essay by someone who identified himself as a tenured, liberal academic. He did nothing but complain about how tenure doesn’t protect him from having to put up with a Republican student taking one of his courses and – I swear to you even though I can’t prove it right now – not having a word of criticism to offer during a single class session. He actually considers the fact that he has to *wonder* if the student might be getting ready to disagree with him an onerous professional burden. Is anyone still wondering why people want to get rid of tenure altogether? Up until now I’ve wanted that 20 minutes of my life back that I spent reading that drek, but at least I can make use out of it here!


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