Politics in the Classroom

By Sandra Zichterman in Opinion

Sixty-two percent of students believe that instructors should not share their political views in the classroom, according to an online 365-student poll conducted by The Independent from Jan. 7-12.

However, debate is a good way to exercise the mind and professors should share their political views in the classroom to promote critical thinking.

“The world is not limited to the point of view you see out your kitchen window,” said Faculty Union President Kim Sullivan.

Clark instructors have academic freedom and it is important to a classroom dynamic for the instructor to share how they feel about the world.

According to idebate.org, healthy debate stimulates critical thinking and effective communication. If someone is bringing evidence and being respectful, debate can be very helpful in elaborating thinking.

“If it’s not excessive, then people have the right to their own opinions,” said Deena Godwin, the Interim Dean of BEECH.

Anita Fisher, an “open book” history professor at Clark, said, “I’m not here to insult anyone, but we [as a college] need more debates about things like politics.”

“I want the students to learn how to critically think about what they believe,” Fisher said, “and I want them to develop their own reasons why they think that.”

There haven’t been any major problems at Clark with professors expressing too much political opinion, according to Godwin.

“It’s not that I don’t think they happen” Godwin said. “I think the division chairs are interceding and talking to both sides and coming to a satisfactory decision.”

Sullivan said, “Students tell me they don’t like it when instructors rant.” However, she said she has found they appreciate a good dialogue.

Clark Student Michael Maben said that even though he thinks instructors shouldn’t share their political views in class, he likes “the idea of debate as long as there is education behind it.”

He said he feels that if the professors are getting paid to teach and are in a position of power, they shouldn’t promote their political views to their students.

There is a fine line between promotion and debate. So long as the instructor’s goal is to encourage their students to think critically, political debate in the classroom should be allowed and even encouraged.

“I’m not trying to convert anyone to anything,” Fisher said. “I just want to engage them.”

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