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December 18, 2004

Classroom Bias at Yale: The Yale Free Press Survey

When I was at Yale from 1976 to 1980, I don't remember the kind of unseemly classroom bias reported by the The Yale Free Press, of which these quotes are sample:

"My teacher came into class the day after the election proclaiming, ‘That’s it. This is the death of America.’ The rest of the class was eager to agree, and twenty minutes of Bush-bashing ensued. At one point, one student asked our teacher whether she should be so vocal, lest any students be conservatives. She then asked us whether any of us were Republicans. Naturally, no one volunteered that information, whereupon our teacher turned to the inquisitive student and said, ‘See? No one in here would be stupid enough to vote for Bush.’ "

"Last year, my Spanish teacher only presented readings against Bush’s trade policy in Latin America. My Economics professor this year mocked Bush. My Spanish teacher also actively silenced people who disagreed with her. I could list many more occasions, but I have to run to class."

"In my German class, the teacher was expressing her political views and said, ‘They [people who vote for Bush] are sheep! They’re blind sheep!’ When someone protested her comment, she said in front of the class, ‘How could you vote for him?! He’s so scary!’ The following assignments were translating German articles that bashed G.W. I’ve had other experiences in my chem class as well."

I could well believe that political correctness has gotten much worse over the past 25 years. One part of it may be the increased use of non-tenure-track faculty. I can imagine this kind of behavior much more from my foreign language teachers-- often part-timers hired and fired casually-- than from professors.

Classroom bias must be looked at carefully. These examples seem to be ones in which it is unrelated to what is being taught. What is less of a problem, even if the bias is as extreme, is when the bias is integral to what is taught. We want to have faculty teaching subjects on which they are experts, and they will have opinions on the right and wrong way to think about those subjects, and even about policy conclusions. Thus, I don't mind the Marxist teaching sociology as much as the Marxist who lets his politics come into his engineering class.

Posted by erasmuse at December 18, 2004 02:48 PM

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