Education, Not Brainwashing
Using influence over students to push politics isn’t just wrong, it flies in the face of what they’re supposed to be doing.
By Emma Taubenfeld, Pace University
Today, I walked into my Managerial Accounting class, and my professor immediately said to the classroom, “I think my theory that Donald Trump is the Antichrist is gaining momentum!”
There were scattered chuckles around the room, and quite a few students that engaged him in his belief. The conversation went on for a while, and I completely checked out, waiting for the signal that he was going to begin teaching accounting, but all my ears caught were comments like “We should all just convert to Catholicism!” or “I think this could possibly be the apocalypse!”
I attend school in New York City, so one may say it’s safe for a professor to speak so openly in class because of Manhattan’s liberal population, but out of the fifty students in the course, there are likely some Republican supporters who are sitting in silence. A new president has a huge effect on what we learn in school, whether that be economics, public health or environmental studies, so politics is beneficial to discuss, but instead of a lecture on opinions, a discussion on how new policies can affect the industry relating to the class is more worthwhile.
Professors should definitely incorporate current events into their teaching, because realistically, life doesn’t follow the chapters in the textbook, but they should be encouraging discussion of all beliefs, whether that professor believes them or not, in order for students to gain their own perspective. College is all about “finding yourself,” but it’s difficult to figure out what you actually believe if someone you look up to for knowledge, such as a professor, is pushing their one-sided opinion on you.
Some might say that the professors are simply sharing and adding to their students’ knowledge on the political sphere, but with our recent, very controversial presidential election, sharing biased viewpoints can be misinterpreted. A professor or teacher trying to convince a class to adopt their views is bad for the general public, in that every student should form their own opinions and stances on different political issues.
I think it’s safe to say that many college students know that doing well in school isn’t always about mastering a subject; good grades coincide with how well you tell your professors what they want to hear. You retain the minimum amount of information to score decently on an exam, but the rest of class, you’re scrolling your way through “Buzzfeed” straight to a B+.
When professors push their beliefs onto students, they are essentially turning their students into followers, not setting an example of how to think on their own. Students are rewarded for their silence and penalized for sharing their own thoughts. The standards are set by the person lecturing, which leads to students, who look up to the professors as leaders and role models, to blindly follow suit.
Some professors just don’t seem to have a filter. Often, the educators with tenure don’t really care what comes out of their mouth or how they are affecting the minds of their students. College is as much of a business as a place of higher education, so administrators just want to ensure that tuition is paid.
Professors should encourage all thoughts to be heard, regardless of whether or not they match their own. They should be teaching respect and understanding of differing opinions. The phrase “safe space” seems to be thrown around a lot these days. Regrettably, the world is not safe, and unfortunately, not everyone is going to be as accepting of differences as they should be. Students of all sexualities, races, religions and identities have the First Amendment right to a voice.
Some people believe that the freedom of speech applies more to themselves than it does to other people.
Professors often take advantage of their positions of authority, allowing them to believe that their ideas are more relevant.
Because of this, students are often stripped of the right to express their opinion in the classroom.
My school is filled with people of all cultures, religions and backgrounds who travel from all over the world to go to college in New York. That diversity is what made the school so appealing to me when I first came here. Despite this cultural goldmine, a professor preaching Catholicism to an introductory level accounting class of students who practice all forms of religion, such as Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and atheism, only takes away from the diversity of the university.
Some may argue that hearing a professor’s political view is actually insightful and brings a new perspective to the table, but when a professor starts a sentence with “We should…” or brings religion into the conversation, it can turn into unnecessary coercion to the class. If a professor decides to preach, there needs to be room for open discussion among the students as well.
Politics has an effect on everyone, both good and bad, and the effects are different for everyone. It’s important to listen, but it’s just as important to speak.