FACE OFF: Are political tirades by professors appropriate for classroom instruction and discussion?

YES - Professors' opinions are vital to the learning environment

Andy ParetiGoings on Editor

Politics and school are always touchy subjects. Being on a college campus where the majority of students are either liberal or apathetic doesn't help when a professor decides to give his two cents about the government or the president, for instance. It's stomach-churning enough to make one think that such discourse is inappropriate in a classroom setting. However, barring political opinion from the professor's vocabulary is no better than restricting that professor's personality.

This is, of course, assuming the opinion is relevant to the class discussion. I think everyone can agree that any talk, whether it be political or otherwise, should only take place within the bounds of an applicable dialogue. I've had several professors in the past who offer a non-aggressive opinion on politics in an honest but fair way. The issue here isn't really whether the professor is being careful to treat the matter tactfully and make it clear that his or her view is just that - an opinion that the students may consider but do not necessarily have to follow. Such consideration is a basic part of any kind of conversation, not just politics, and a professor who teaches with a left or right-wing angle without making it clear that these views are his own is violating that basic right of the students.

Assuming Geneseo's professors know this (and I sure as hell hope they do), offering a personal stance on politics reflects both an interest in the material and a personal angle on the topic. Such individuality should be encouraged in the lecture hall. In a time of evolution in the classroom where chalk handwriting is replaced by digital PowerPoint and interpersonal communication is substituted by e-mail, recollection and self-reflection is even more important for professors to connect with their students.

College students are at an age of independence; their views are all but set, and are not in jeopardy of manipulation by some innocent chatter regarding the current political climate. While a professor's political views may not influence a student's opinion, it gives the professor a depth the student hadn't realized prior. Without this new dimension, the professor has effectively lost the students.

NO - Biases keep students from forming their own positions

Taryn ThompsonNews Editor

A professor who allows his or her political views and opinions to infiltrate classroom discussion is a professor who fails to recognize the importance of an objective education. Students may enter the classroom with some pre-conceived idea of what they will be learning, based on the description of the class given by the College. And with some exceptions, they will assume that controversial comments will not enter classroom discussion.

To have the professor then attempt to teach something objective and neutral interspersed with his or her personal spice hinders the student's ability to form his or her own opinions. A student can easily be persuaded by the seeming intimidation or prestige of the professor to conform to the professor's system of thought. This is not necessarily good. A student should be free to take of the academic setting what he or she will, without biases or influences coming from the source of the information - the professor.

It's the professor's job to make sure he or she presents the material as neutral yet multi-layered, objective yet effective. If the job is done well, students will be able to understand the dynamics of whatever is being learned, and from there will be able to come to their own conclusions. The goal is not for the pupils to simply regurgitate what they were taught. The goal is for them to increase their knowledge base and gain as much insight as possible into the subject studied, so that upon entering the real world the pupil will understand the difference between reality and popular sentiment.

If a professor brings any form of sentiment into a classroom full of students generally ignorant to the subject matter being taught, these young adults could graduate assuming they know and understand reality, when, in fact, they have unfortunately been subjected to the powerful and possibly skewed perception of reality presented by their teacher. Then, how is the student to have an open-minded attitude toward other systems of thought, opinions or other ways of life?

Professors should give encouragement and thoughtful, sensitive guidance to their students so that the students may develop into critical and analytical individuals, yet still have the ability to accept different views.