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In the classroom


More or less, I’m with Rob. I make no general effort to hide my views and persuasions, although I try to avoid establishing myself as a representative of one particular political tradition. So in my intro to political theory class, for example, my students will find out what (some of) my views are on the strengths and weaknesses or Rousseau, Marx, Hobbes, Locke, etc. but not with the sense that I am a partisan for one of these folks over the others.

I do this in part becuase, like Rob, trying to entirely submerge one’s own take on an issue to acheive some absolute standard of objectivity is an exercise in tilting at windmills. Students often don’t agree at first, but in point of fact, that’s one of the things I want them to learn from my class–we can change our lenses, become aware of them, and adjust them but we can’t see without them.

I also come across as perhaps rather more conflicted and undecided about various matters than I do in other settings. This is intentional. My political commitments come with truckloades or reservations and concerns, but they’re still commitments.

The point of all of this, the trick I’m trying to pull, is to get these folks to think–rigorously and carefully–for themselves. To not let habits of thought, long-held and unexamined factual beliefs, and good old-fashioned laziness dictate what conclusions they reach and how they reach them. If they arrive in my class with views identical to mine, I’ll work just as hard to challenge those views as I would otherwise. Creating ideological clones is not only unlikely to succeed, it’s boring. And undemocratic, too–goes against my principles.

…Good ol’ Ben Shapiro. I see in the comments at Pandagon that on CNN, he gave as an example of the ridiculous liberal bias of academia–a class discussion on Henry James’ work was focused for some crazy reason on the alleged “homosexual subtext.” (How dare they!) Uh, Ben: perhaps not your best example.

I’ve got another post on the college movement conservative sorts and why they’re not just wrongheaded in the way they understand the liberalism of academia–they also do more to damage the academic experience for conservatives than the vast majority of liberal faculty and students.

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