Atlantis Alumni

Monday, October 15, 2007

Must Professors Be Apolitical In The Classroom?

Here's a comment that I posted to the New York Times in response to an article by Stanly Fish, who writes about PC on campus and the "liberal bias" in academia:

My question is…can professors be apolitical? I don’t think so. I don’t think anyone can totally check their beliefs at the classroom door. Not even professors. Nor should they. The students, all of them old enough to think for themselves, are smart enough to recognize what they are presented with from the podium. Of course, grading students on ideological conformity or stifling or ridiculing students for their views are clearly wrong, but stimulating thinking, discussion, and learning based upon on rational arguments is desirable even if those arguments are politically charged. Fish insists that professors must be apolitical or else outside forces (courts, legislatures?) will “clean up” academia somehow. Methinks he frets too much. That is a fight that academia would take to the finish. Where’s the beef, anyway? The right wing has been accusing academia of left wing bias for a long time. Let’s look at how that horrible lefty bias has affected us. We’ve had but two Democratic presidents in the last 39 years. The current Supreme Court includes a majority of five sitting right wing ideologues including the Chief Justice. Half of our population doesn’t vote, and half of the half that does vote gave George Bush two terms. Yes, the left wing bias of academia has had a devastating effect on the right wing in terms of political and electoral successes.

One of the best comments posted in response to the Fish opinion piece comes from someone named "EdK," obviously, a college professor. Go and read the whole exchange if you're interested.

If, as has become commonplace, the right is upset that most academics are
‘left leaning’ and that many academic discussions tend to discredit deeply held
right wing beliefs, perhaps the right would do better to come up with coherent
positions and arguments for those positions that can stand up to attentive
rational scrutiny. As long as they fail to do so, most academics, who are
committed to the principle that beliefs should be rationally justified, will
most likely — one would hope, at least, that they would — continue to reject the
right. In response, the right continues to try to suggest that the academy has a
political agenda, thus showing how deeply they misunderstand both the rational
basis of academic discussion and how little they care about it.
And I find
the idea that we need to police ourselves or avoid drawing intellectually
significant conclusions from our own discussions within the academy, or shield
our students from these so that they aren’t subject to some kind of ‘political’ discourse,
to be tantamount to abandoning *the* distinguishing foundation of academic

This is a very sophisticated way of saying that the right wing is full of it.


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