Phi Beta Cons

re: Classroom Bias

In that piece that John mentions, it’s reported that the argument made by a University of Nevada-Reno sociology prof is that if conservative students have lower overall grade averages, that is explained by the fact that they tend to take more courses in fields (such as economics), where grading tends to be lower than in fields attractive to liberals (such as African-American studies). His research supposedly shows that there isnt any large-scale pattern in grading that hurts conservatives.
That’s probably right, but it’s a red herring. Rarely would you find even a virulently leftist prof assigning low grades to students who disagree with him, for two reasons: 1) to do so is to court trouble and most profs don’t want to waste their time on administrative procedures, and 2) most conservative students are shrewd enough to spill out the answers the prof wants, even if they completely disagree. Therefore, this finding doesn’t do anything to disprove the contention that there is a significant problem with professors turning their classrooms into re-education camps.
There are many anecdotes about this. Consider, for example, a pair of sociology courses taught at North Carolina State this year. The professor gave exams calling for students to regurgitate Marxian platitudes about oppression. The courses received the Pope Center’s “Course of the Month” award.
Sometimes, the professors who want to play the role of “change agent” proudly proclaim that they seek to change the views of their students. I wrote here about one such admission.
College courses should be used to instruct students in bodies of knowledge.

When they are being used for other purposes, administrators should reprimand the instructor. If a course consists of no body of knowledge, but entirely of opinion, it should be dropped from the curriculum.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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