Saturday, October 18, 2008

Should Teachers Reveal Their Biases?

After Ellery's wonderful post on teacher bias, I noticed this related article from the Chronicle of Higher Education which references a recently published book, Closed Minds? Politics and Ideology in American Universities, written by three faculty members from George Mason University. Remember, our class discussion focused on whether teachers should ever reveal who they are voting for, etc. Would that action have an inappropriate effect on their students?

The book's authors state that based on their recent (2007) study, the majority of professors "say they keep their own politics out of the classroom". In fact, only a minority of college faculty (28%) admit that they openly reveal their political bias to their students.

But even if the above statistics are true, does it even matter if teachers conceal their political leanings? Another study, conducted by two professors from Pennsylvania State University may have the answer. In their research-based article, "I Think My Professor Is a Democrat", they published two related findings, based on student surveys:
  1. College students agree that most professors do not reveal their political bias (thus corroborating the findings from the book mentioned at the beginning)
  2. But 75% of students were able to guess correctly their professor's political leanings, anyway.
Finally, the biggest question looming behind this discussion: if the great majority of college professors call themselves liberal, does this influence their students to become more left-leaning as well? The same researchers conducted another study which found that students started shifting slightly to the left under both Republican- and Democrat-voting professors -- not just under liberal-leaning teachers.

What do these studies mean for our class discussion? What could be responsible for the shift toward Democrats? Is there a difference between college-level classrooms and high school with regard to these findings?

20 comments:

Matt L. said...

I do think the teachers should disclose their views because it does have positive results. If I were in an in class discussion I feel that knowing your teachers teachers opinion would only add to the discussion. In addition, if there are more engaging discussions then more students will pay attention, and therefore the students grades will go up. Also, I do not see many negatives coming out of the situation. What does it matter if students know who you vote for?

andrea said...

We have had many class discussion pertaining to the acceptability of open politics. I feel as though the students in these surveys, even though attending college, are very similar to us. If a professor disagrees strongly with a subject, my guess is that it would be hard for them to teach the good things about it considering the fact that it contradicts their views. With that said, i think it would not be hard for a student to guess the political leaning of their professor. People's opinions make up their personality, and my guess is that the personality of the professor could be easily matched with a political party. The possibility of the shift towards democrats could be the views the democrats have corresponding to the needs and wishes of the teachers. In my perspective, kids are influenced by so many things in the world around them if they are perceptive, by listening to a teacher who leans towards the democratic side, the students would see the pros of democrats, and that may have an effect on which way the student leans.

Heidi said...

In theory, It would be great if students could form their own political views based on facts from their own personal research but this is almost never the case. As I have noticed, over the years, most students have the same or very similar views as their parents or guardians. Why? Becuase their parents/guardians are people that they generally trust to make good decisons so when the students become aware of their parents' views, it is natural that they take the same stance, as well. So, in retrospect, I do not think that it would make a difference if teachers reveal their political views in the classroom because even if the students do form their opinons to match their teachers' views, then they are still forming their stance around someone else's view of politics, right?

So for our future class discussions what could it hurt for teachers to reveal their opinions? If the students do not already have the same view, then their personal view will only be challenged which could give the student a chance to address the other side, or strengthen their previously standing view with a chance to contradict the other side.

I think that in general, it really depends where the research and data was collected from. Certain areas have higher populations of people with views of a certain side and it can varry with derrerent regions in the country so maybe the reason they found a shift toward Democratic views was because of a certain situation that that particular area was dealing with-a potential oil drilling area, perhaps. I think that college students would be more likely to make political shifts like this because, at their age, more of the differing views relate to them; whereas, highschoolers do not have to think about a lot of the things that someone who is determining between liberalism and conservatism has to.

Here is my stab at an analysis of this information. I know that this does not fully answer your questions. It is partially because I do not know enough about the origin of the data that the university proffessors collected.
Great blog, though! There is some really interesting stuff, here!

Gutty The Great said...

This recent post brings up a great point. Looking back on my past english/history teachers, there is no doubt in my mind that they were against the republican party and our president George W. Bush. I think it's impossible for teachers to keep their bias opinions out of the classroom. We are all passionate about these topics, its nearly impossible for us not to keep our emotions and opinions out of the discussions. After several months in our current AIS class, I am nearly sure that both of our teachers are not republicans. It seems that the majority of english and history teachers at New Trier vote deomocratically. There are many possible reasons why this may be true. Though its hard for me to get into them and it may take an entire blog post(and a lot of help from Brian Frett). And while winnetka and kenilworth contain high populations of republican voters. I think that New Trier is becoming a school dominated by democrats. One theory I have is that are teacher's ideas are influencing us more than our parents. The teachers at New Trier (specifically english/ss) are extremely well educated. And while both of my parents attended colleges sometimes I just feel that my teacher's knowledge outweighs my parents. We all highlly respect our teachers which is why I think we are so influenced by their opinions and biases. This is why I believe that New Trier is becoming a democratic school. Showing the importance and effect our staff influence.

Forget Maine South.
Charlie Goro+Walt=forever and ever.

A diamond is for life, new trier football is forever.

Max Rice said...

Kids dont like to admit it, but they look up to teachers. Just as they look up to their parents. Thats why you find that most kids hold the same political views as their parents, I know I do. Thats why I believe this is a delicate issue. Just as Mr. Occonner mentioned in a post, it is illegal for religous groups to endorse a cannidate because of the enormous amount of pull they have, I think it should be the same for teachers. Teachers shouldn't stop talking about politics or hint their own views, but they must also provide a safe enviroment where all ideas can and ought to be heard. Teachers should provide students the tools, or hard indisputable facts, and let students safely assemble them as they please. I think the way our AS class is run is ideal. As Mr. Bolos and Mr. Occonner are obviously members of the dark side of the force, aka democrats, but dont bluntly state it ,or firmly steer us in that wrong direction. But they do constantly bring up politics, yet they also have created an enviroment where even a conservative like me can feel safe. So I do think politics should be brought into school but teachers have to be very careful about it.

Kelly said...

I think that whether a teacher bluntly states what their political opinion or not the students can usually tell what their opinion really is. The way the teacher carries the conversation or their body language are both give aways to what side they are on. I don't think there is anything wrong with a teacher stating their opinion because it just adds another side to the story. Sometimes their opion can change the students views but at the same time people are already set in their ways. I have had teachers in the apst that say that they will never reveal their opinions on any major topics because they don't want to be judged or start controversy. I don't think that it really matter either way. It doesn't harm the students or teachers if opinions are shared or not.

Gutty The Great said...

A week ago Gordy Campbell made a nice post about TV channels being bias. I recomend reading it and commenting. In the words of Brian Frett,"it's saucy."

A diamond is for life, New Trier football is forever.


Here's the link
https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=7602002968334981064&postID=5596677499187255748&page=1

maddie hilbrant said...

I think that having a teacher disclosing their political views is absolutely fine. I see nothing wrong with someone expressing their views on a topic, even though they are your teacher.

Jack Terrier said...

I'm a bit half and half when it comes to this issue of teachers giving out their biases. First off, when I teacher does state their beliefs, they should make sure to tell the kids that they should have their own views, and perhaps make an argument for both sides, to ensure the kids can make their own opinions. Also to do that they have to be over a certain age. Although, if a teacher does say something, and shoots down any student that goes against what they are saying, than obviously thats not right. So in all, as long as the teacher says what she has to say and also tells the students to voice their own opinions and show both sides, I think its fine.

Kate H said...

I think that teachers should share there own views, it helps to spark converstation in class. If the conversation is apropreate and productive then I think the students could benifit from different views

Brittany said...

As long as teachers aren't pushing their political views on their students I think that it's defnintely okay to share which candidate they are voting for in class. I feel like most students generally know their teachers political leanings but even so, I think that students would benefit from knowing exactly what their teachers think and why.

Danny M said...

I think that a teacher should show their opinions to their students. Everyone has biases and everyone shows their biases whether they are aware of it or not. If the students understand the teachers opinions, then they can take their teachers bias into account during class discussions. Overall, it is important for teachers to share their opinions with their students because it can help the productivity of the class a whole.

Sando Commando said...

I think that a teacher should have and share their own opinion with their students. When the teacher speaks their mind about what they're talking about the student gets a better understanding of what they're talking about.

Matt B said...

I think that teachers should be able to express their opinion to their students, however the should not be able to cater their beliefs to their students. Like we learned in AS, teachers are government employees and government employees are limited by the constitution to actively campaign for a political candidate (except for Doc OC, he is his own boss). As is says in the post, 75% of college students were able to guess what their professor's political views were, but not all of us are as smart as college students. It is very easy for a student to misinterpret sarcasm in a teachers voice about a certain policy. Also, if a student thought that they would win brownie points from expressing the same political views as their teacher they would probably change their views for a better grade.

Kimber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kimber said...

Obviously teachers can have a major impact on their students. When a teacher is well liked and respected, their views are more likely to be considered true and right. In contrast, the opinions of a teacher with a negative persona will not be as carefully considered. An interesting study by people-press.org (http://people-press.org/report/?pageid=750) looked at voting trends based on gender, age, income, and education. High school age students tended towards the Democratic Party 39% of the time, whereas only 20% favored the Republicans. With these percents, it appears that a significant number were undecided or independent. As people aged and became wealthier, there was a shift towards the Republican Party. Minority and low income groups tended to favor the Democrats. College students’ beliefs were similar to high school students. What the study didn’t mention was whether students voting choices mirrored their parents or appeared to be independent of their parents’ political leanings. I would think that the influence of people that you’ve lived with all your life might have more affect than a teacher you are with for less than a year. It would be interesting to find a study looking at this.

meredith goodale said...

I think that even if a teacher doesn't say their views out loud, they usually lead on to which side they are leaning towards. I think, subconciously, everyone gives off an opinion on different topics, whethe it be seen in their body language, or if they say it.

Boris P said...

In my opinion , teachers should reveal their biases ,but leave it at that. Students should at least have the right to know their teacher's political stance.The teacher's political stance can affect his teaching and in turn this may affect students. Revealing biases should not have any negative affect on learning.

Miles said...

Teachers should be allowed to reveal their biases, but not "preach" their beliefs to their students. To some people though this can affect their learning environment. knowing that your teacher is a hardcore conservative can put off a lot of people simply because of their own beliefs. Personally, I'm impartial when it comes to teachers revealing their biases but I think it should be limited to only that.

Anonymous said...

I found this site using [url=http://google.com]google.com[/url] And i want to thank you for your work. You have done really very good site. Great work, great site! Thank you!

Sorry for offtopic