Tuesday, March 1, 2011

College Professors: Are they Fair and Balanced?

For the last three years I have been attending classes all over this campus. I am a history major, but I have always tried to pick a wide variety of classes for my general education courses and other electives. I have also begun working towards a minor in communications and took a few upper-level English writing courses, aside from the general education requirements. I have taken many courses across the curriculum, although I have never stepped foot inside McConnell Hall, so I cannot speak on what that part of the student body has been taught. My history courses have ranged from ancient civilizations to modern U.S., which is my focus. Of all the classes I have taken during my time here, I feel as though I have been preached a few overlying messages: Fox News is the devil! Do not let yourself be brainwashed by corporate propaganda! We don't get paid enough money! Sometimes I feel a little sorry for the conservative students on campus and what they have to listen to all day.

While I tend to agree with most of my professors on those ideas, even I feel that sometimes our professors at UNH can be overly liberal with their beliefs and teaching agenda. Politically speaking, I am a pretty liberal person, but I also prefer not to have my professor's personal political beliefs affect the content of a class. When a professor tells the class "We won't spend too much time on President Reagan (or Bill Clinton or George W. Bush) because I am too bias to give a fair lecture," that really pisses me off. I have had all three of those situations happen to me with different professors. I am paying thousands of dollars to go to school here and you cannot give a fair lecture on major presidents of the United States? I am a modern U.S. history major and, whether you like Reagan, Clinton and Bush or not, they are incredibly important to my field of study. I am sorry, UNH, but that does not sound too fair and balanced to me. I cannot learn everything from Wikipedia, just a large majority of it.

Everyone knows that Fox News has a conservative agenda, but so does almost every other news channel, whether they are liberal or conservative. I have had professor after professor of all subjects speak out against Fox News, but never once have I heard a professor say anything negative about MSNBC's liberal side. MSNBC has tried to become the liberal news channel, but I find myself watching and paying more attention to Fox News than MSNBC. Granted, I think that is more for the entertainment value of watching Bill O'Reilly telling his guests to shut up or Glenn Beck creating some conspiracy theory, all the while being secretly terrified that thousands, if not millions, of people believe him.

Then I have professors telling me to be aware of major corporations, media conglomerations and their tricky marketing campaigns. But then I go out to the Durham Book Exchange to buy my semesters worth of books, and when I finally sit down to study the night before the first exam of the year I see that my professor co-authored or edited the book, or it was written by one of his or her old graduate school buddies. Universities have become giant machines like most of the corporations our professors tell us to watch out for.

I do not want to come off as a conspiracy theorist (although I do have a life goal of gaining access to Area 51), but I think it is important for students to step back once in a while and really think about what we are being taught. One major learning tool that has been beaten relentlessly into my brain has been to look for bias in every source, document and article I read, and try to be fair and balanced with my analysis and interpretations. But is it truly fair for students to be expected to do that when the professor directs the class in one direction? I believe overly liberal or conservative professors can be just as damaging as overly liberal or conservative news channels, especially for students who are too afraid to question the answers. I will be the first to admit I have an open bias and agenda on my blog and in my columns - we all do in every conversation we have. But when those biases or agendas keep professors from giving a fair and balanced lecture it is not any different than a conservative school board editing what is said in high school textbooks.

Stay classy, not UMassy,
The New Hampshirite

10 comments:

  1. yes professor they are bias, but that doesn't mean they are trying to sway you one way or the other. Maybe they are trying to spark a conversation, to get students thinking about what life will be like after college (everyone is bias, your boss, your co workers, your future ex wife). College isn't like high school, college is a place where ideas are flying past you and its your decision what to do with them. You're article is quite hypocritical, where every other line you say you agree with the liberal minds and are 'secretly terrified' of the madness of the other side. Why not believe in this then? Why not be vocal, express your ideas instead of being upset that professor's are allowed to speak their minds?

    Lastly on this rant, i can't believe you compared a liberal minding professor to editing textbooks. Your a college student, basically a grown up (in a year you'll have to be) with the freedom to learn from whomever, wherever, and to disagree...right? this is UNH after all.. high school kids don't have these choices. If their teacher says that God made you, then that's what you learn. You don't get to change their minds.

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  2. I agree with this, if a prof can't give a lecture on a president (A friggen PRESIDENT!) because of their own political beliefs that really isn't fair to the students. Its one thing to try and spark a debate, but it is another to deliberately ignore core topics.

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  3. History McGuillicuddyMarch 1, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Sticking with the U.S. president example: Would you rather have a professor to get up in front of your class and recite the encyclopedia entry for each President or provide you with a verbal essay about a few presidents that engages you and makes you think and form an opinion?

    Sure, classes should be thorough, but no class can spend time covering EVERY angle of EVERY topic. Being able to form a counterpoint to an argument (or professor's lecture) is far more valuable than knowing the vital presidential statistics about Reagan, Clinton or Bush.

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  4. not one of your best articles

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  5. I thought this was good. Interesting comments though... I'm poly sci and have taken a few history courses here (and other classes with profs like you talked about) and they definitely steer the class in one direction...

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  6. Liberals aren't allowed inside Area 51.

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  7. I had my days as a conservative, talk-radio listening college student with all left wing professors, so this brings back the memories. I was in college in the lead-up to the 2004 election was in full swing, those were contentious days. I always tried to hide my views from my professors though, I figured I wouldn't take the risk that they might grade me more harshly if they knew I was all right wing. In the end, I think listening to all the liberal lecturing made me a lot more right wing-and a bit more bitter towards the left. If I attended a right wing college, though, the reverse probably would have happened. So be careful professors, your plans may backfire on you.

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  8. I think this was a fair argument. Yes this is college, and yes, we can think for ourselves, but I do know too many students here that believe the liberal agenda just because that is what is thrown in their face every day. Never once trying to find information on their own.

    As a more conservative student here, I see a ton of liberal bias on this campus. I'm not saying that's a terrible thing, but it can be detrimental for those folks who are too lazy to go out and make a decision for themselves.

    I'm also a history major. We have an incredibly liberal history department here. While I can appreciate that, it can also be a little tiring when a professor mentions Bush or Regan, and then rolls their eyes. Come on. That's crossing the line into pure unprofessionalism.

    Picking and choosing what history to teach, if you are teaching a class with a broad subject base, just hurts the students who are there to learn. If you want to teach only about liberal politicians, than create a class like that. In the mean time, do your job and teach history in the most accurate and unbiased way possible.

    /end rant.

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  9. It sounds like a lot of commenters are saying think for yourself, you aren't in high school anymore. Well I think the author is capable of that. I understand why he is disappointed because he pays THOUSANDS of dollars for each class, just to have a professor skip out on necessary information for his major.

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  10. Its very informative and interesting article.all the points are very useful. Simple but very effective writing. Thanks for sharing such a nice post.

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