The Democratic Classroom

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Chloe Bennett is a sophomore media studies major

It’s no wonder that USF’s class dialogue can become politically charged being that it’s in the heart of sanctuary city, San Francisco. This past semester was filled with weeks of tumultuous banter from both the left and right on every media outlet, so professors may have found the need to express their own concerns. But is this political expression justified?

Generally speaking, class climates at USF remain open for discussion, which means politics tend to play a considerable role in lectures. USF prides itself on being a school of social justice with ethical practices. To ignore the issues that directly affect the student population is both neglectful and irresponsible. Having political discussions in a college setting allows students to not only discover views they identify with, but also achieve a better understanding of other’s perspectives, and learn how to engage in political conversations.

 

Chances are that your high school teacher did not stand in front of the classroom and voice their concerns about the possible defunding of Planned Parenthood. This is why it may come as a surprise to you when your college professor shares their opinion on reproductive rights. Some may argue the sole reason people attend college is to get a degree in their area of study. However, an equally important reason to receive a college education is to gain a better understanding of the world and its abundance of  problems.

 

In a 2015 National Public Radio report by Steve Drummond, “Politics In The Classroom: How Much Is Too Much?,” Drummond questions authors Diana E. Hess and Paula McAvoy, on whether politics belong in the classroom or not. Working at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Hess is the dean of the school of education, while McAvoy is the program director. What Drummond concluded was that colleges and universities should be political communities, only without partisan restrictions.

 

This means politically-driven professors should lecture how they see fit and not be quiet about their own beliefs. But all of this comes with a caveat: professors must be tolerant of the beliefs of their students.

 

Somewhere down the road, the consensus among many conservatives became that the left has infiltrated universities, and are programming young intellectuals into liberal snowflakes. While it is true college campuses are known to be more liberal, conservatives blame professors for this. It is because of this belief that advocates and students from the right have voiced their own concerns about professors allowing their political beliefs to influence their lecturing.

 

This could be a problem if students were changing their political stances to better fit their professors’ beliefs, but that is not the case.

 

In a New York Times article written by Neil Gross on higher education research done by Mack Mariani and Gordon Hewitt, Gross discovered that students were not becoming more liberal in colleges with more left-leaning professors. In addition, Gross found that a contributing factor to the overwhelming amount of left-of-center college students, is the fact that liberal high school students are more likely to attend college.

 

Living in a country ruled by partisan politics means that it is increasingly crucial to open up the classroom floor to all perspectives. Since USF admits thousands of out-of-state and international students, encouraging an inclusive learning environment helps educate and understand an extensive array of thought. The notion that professors overshare their political positions and thus alter their students’ politics is not only a myth, but is something that should always be plainly discouraged.

 

Because the college classroom serves as a space open to challenging, reasoning and critical thinking, it would be morally wrong to strip both students and teachers of their right to express their own outlooks. A professor is effectual in their sense to be serviceable, fair-minded and truthful.

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