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Student Questions Professor’s Bias

Is education about telling students what to think or letting them form their own opinions?

By:  |  October 22, 2020  |    459 Words

(Photo by Leif Skoogfors/Corbis via Getty Images)

Are universities and schools politically biased? There is more and more concern that educators have become intolerant of political ideas they disagree with. Professors and teachers have come under increasing criticism for pushing their political opinions onto students.

Recently, a history professor named Troy Daugherty of Illinois Central College assigned students the task of writing an essay on Donald Trump. The homework assignment gave students the choice of writing either a research paper or book review of five to seven pages. To write the book review, students would need first to read one of several anti-Trump books offered as choices.

The professor revealed that he was reading John Bolton’s book The Room Where It Happened and that it was “fascinating and confirms for anyone interested that Donald J. Trump is not fit for the office of the presidency.”

Rather than basing classes around his or her personal views, is the ideal educator not one who presents facts, opinions, and possibilities to encourage students to make up their own minds?

Differing Opinions

One brave asked the professor whether he was allowed to hold a dissenting view about the president – he wanted to write favorably about Trump. The student emailed the professor:

“I realize that we are going to have differing opinions, which is okay. I am willing to listen to other views, but I know we will disagree on many topics. I am wondering if our differences will affect my grade in class.”

Daugherty approved the topic, but he was not encouraging, writing back:

“Know his history, be wide-eyed, and recognize what he has personally done in his own life relative to his current political stance and how even that has changed. If you simply recite his political view espoused for political reasons and fail to dig deeper, you will get an F. Do you understand?”

Note that it’s the student who sounds like the teacher, reminding his professor that we all have differing opinions, which is OK, and it is essential to be willing to listen to dissenting views, even if one disagrees. The professor requires the student to “truly” write about “his [Trump’s] personal view and his political view” – something he didn’t demand this of the other students.

A Biased Approach

The college is now “actively investigating” the situation, according to Campus Reform. It issued this statement:

“Presentation of a biased approach, of any sort, is inconsistent with the free exchange of ideas we promote and is not condoned by the college. This serves as a great reminder to us all to practice etiquette regarding political preferences and beliefs.”

There can be no place for bias of this kind in education as it deprives students of the opportunity to make up their own minds.

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