Short Answer: Should professors talk about their political beliefs in class?

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 11/10/08 4:20am

In discussing politics, our professors are giving educated subjective opinions in a world otherwise dominated by uneducated subjective opinions. So long as we remember that everything we hear is but an opinion, I think our professors could and should provide us with their valuable perspectives -- it will increase our political awareness and make us more knowledgeable citizens.

--Dmitriy Gutkovich '10

Political beliefs should absolutely be articulated. No one is free from bias; acknowledging your premises and beliefs allows for an honest exchange of ideas and lets students weigh information more knowledgeably. To be able to separate and recognize bias and assumptions in arguments is a very important skill. Honesty (sans political cheerleading) will help instill that in students.

--Isaiah Berg '11

I've never been offended by a professor alluding to his political beliefs as they relate to relevant context in class, or by a passing remark or joke. However, anything crossing that line -- such as instigating an in-class debate when it doesn't belong or trying to impose beliefs on students -- is inappropriate and uncomfortable.

--Suzanne Lehrer '09

There is nothing inherently wrong with professors expressing their political views in the classroom -- it promotes healthy debate and thought. Problems arise when professors try to persuade students or become intolerant of opposing viewpoints. This moves the discussion from the academic arena into the political arena, which should be left for outside the classroom.

--Kevin Niparko '12

Politics is relevant to every human action. Marxism helped drive research into atomic physics and radiation during the Cold War, and almost every important political advancement has at least a few classics of literature written about it. We as students can only expect to encounter politics that do not match our persuasion, but our disagreement does not make them go away; as long as the politics being discussed is relevant to the class's subject matter, it should be embraced rather than shunned in the classroom.

--Chris Talamo '11

Political views are as controversial, as questionable and as significant as any other perspectives in social science or in the hard sciences. If we allow professors to air their views freely in those fields, political views should be no exception.

--Yang Wei Neo '12

There is a fine line between bias and passion. While professors should not be allowed to preach right or wrong to their students, we cannot afford to censor the passion that makes them great. I'd rather listen to a brilliant professor occasionally advocate or condemn a political view than endure a mediocre one balance the fence on every issue. As long as our professors can respect our opinions, we should respect theirs and be intelligent enough to make our own decisions.

--Jacob Batchelor '12

We should consider what a "post-modern" academic world really means: Someone's lack of open-mindedness may, in fact, be considered an unacceptable political approach. And while myopia is an ironic choice for liberal arts professors and students, neither should have to bend their ideologies for consideration's sake. Injecting personal opinion will ensure that everyone has something at stake. We're at an academic level where we should understand that academic discourse is intended to create intellectual resistance.

--Zachary Gottlieb '10

In the name of starting a thoughtful debate, professors should be able to discuss their political beliefs in the classroom.When a professor chastises students for their dissenting beliefs or when a math professor interrupts a lecture on multivariable calculus to make the case for his candidate, however, they have crossed the line.

--Emily Johnson '12

If it's relevant to what you're talking about, then why not? You should be old and wise enough not to take it as pure fact. It will only make you smarter, more empathetic and more knowledgeable -- so long as the professor isn't setting a standard of right or wrong according to his or her personal belief system.

--Lydia Chammas '09

I believe it is a subtly coercive abuse of professorial authority for a professor to take firm political stances. Students tend to uncritically accept their professors' beliefs, or at least will pretend to in order to get a better grade. Professors should present the different perspectives on political issues, but should do so fairly and objectively, without identifying which one they espouse. Once they have abandoned their scholarly disinterestedness, they are acting more as polemicists than as professors.

--Peter Blair '12

Professors should tie their political ideas to the day's lesson and include time for student opinions and further debate. Neither party should hijack the two-way dialogue for one-sided political publicity. Instead, the discussion should highlight how ideas relate thematically to the course at hand.

--Alice Zhao '12

Introduction of a professor's personal politics into the classroom unfairly creates expectations about the work that the student submits. If a teacher is particularly liberal and is explicit about those views, because of a fear of unfair and subjective grading, the conservative viewpoint of the students in that class will be stifled, and vice versa. And if only one side of every argument is presented and accepted, then the issues will never be properly examined.

--Tom Mandel '11

Classroom dialogue is most valuable when students are encouraged to examine their own viewpoints and those of their peers to understand the full complexity of an issue. To exclude the professor from this intellectual classroom community would be to assume his or her perfect impartiality -- but professors are not impartial. They are human, thankfully, and because of this (not in spite of this) we will learn with them as well as from them.

--Claire Murray '10