Politics in the Classroom

Throughout my time at Bentley, I have been pleasantly impressed with the way most of my professors have handled politics in the classroom. Without overly imposing their own views, they are able to facilitate healthy debate and discussion. It is absolutely essential that college students stay up-to-date on current events, and many Bentley professors help incorporate the events going on in the world by teaching about “politics” within their unique disciplines. The reason I put politics in quotation marks is that it touches on every part of our lives, so even marketing professors often find themselves faced with political questions in the classroom. Regardless of what class it is, students often have different sets of beliefs about a particular issue because of their values, the way they were raised, and the way they have been taught to view the world. The following are some of the best things my professors at Bentley have done to properly address politics in the classroom.

 

1. Bring up a topic in the news and ask, “How does this relate to what we are learning?”

 

This helps students connect class concepts to what is going on in the news and allows them to lead the discussion rather than the professor imposing his or her views.

 

2. Ask, “Have you seen anything interesting in the news recently?”

 

This is a slightly different way of doing the first version. Rather than addressing one specific news topic, it gives students the opportunity to bring up things they find intriguing. When I have seen this happen in the classroom, students automatically know to connect whatever story they bring up to what is being learned in class.

 

3. If a student makes a very political point, ask, “Does anyone have a counterpoint to that?”

 

One way to make sure a variety of perspectives are represented is to facilitate healthy debate by asking for counterpoints. The best teachers are able to make sure that students only attack other students’ points and not the other students themselves. Healthy debate should never turn into personal attacks, but arguing is not inherently bad.

 

4. Incorporate personal views but minimize them

 

When a professor tells you how they feel about a certain topic, it lends authority to what they say and students feel more of a connection to that professor. It also encourages students ask questions. However, professors need to be careful to imply that “although this is my view, you are welcome to disagree with me.”

 

5. When a student disagrees, this should never impact their grade.

 

The worst professors I have ever had are those who so passionately disagree about something that they let it cloud their judgement while grading. Professors should not only encourage debate amongst students, but debate with the points that they themselves make in class. When it comes to papers, if a student takes an opposing viewpoint, the grade should reflect the quality of the argument, not whether the professor agrees with it.

 

Overall, I would like to commend the professors at Bentley with their ability to properly incorporate politics in the classroom.