Academic Bill of Rights Unneeded · 04 March 2005

Academic Bill of Rights Unneeded
More accessible teacher evaluations would help alleviate the small existing problems.

Editorial from MinnesotaDaily.com--03/04/05

Political science professors might have to change their teaching strategies if a bill proposed to the Minnesota Legislature is passed. The bill would require professors at public universities to leave their personal political beliefs out of the classroom and also would protect students from being graded according to their own political beliefs. Such a bill is just another example of the government trying to nose in on the practices of higher education.

The bill is being promoted nationally and has finally made its debut in Minnesota legislation. It is part of a movement for an "Academic Bill of Rights" proposed locally by Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, and Rep. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake. The bill is mostly supported by conservatives who feel left-wing professors are imposing liberal views into students' minds through the use of their classrooms.If the practices of political science professors showed a significant trend toward bias teaching, the bill might be necessary. The reality is that few professors actually do teach their own political beliefs and ideologies.

Most professors try to teach students the skills they need to make their own minds up about their political beliefs. This might involve ideologies the student might not agree with, but will add to the overall education of that student in some way by teaching him or her to understand the reasons why he or she doesn't believe what his or her professor does.

It is obviously wrong for professors to grade students based on their beliefs. Cases involving professors who actually grade as such or regularly use their classrooms as a tool to inflict political propaganda are seldom in coming and can be handled on a case-by-case basis.

One other tool to deal with the actual problem would be more easily accessible reviews, which the Minnesota Student Association is working on. If students see others have thought the professor preached too much, they can avoid the class, and lower class numbers and negative reviews would get the message across far better than this law.

The proposed bill would serve only as a safety blanket. The state is trying to shelter students who generally don't want to be sheltered, who want to see the story from both sides and learn from it. Higher education facilities should make decisions regarding their professors' teaching habits themselves and remain free of government interference.

Read a UMN student's response.