The Best of What’s Around: We don’t need no indoctrination · 29 January 2007

By Craig Finkelstein
Filed under: Press Coverage

When free-wielding professors abuse the clasroom with personal agendas

The Breeze

As students we are expected to abide by a strict honor code where we promise to abstain from plagiarism, cheating or any other forms of academic dishonesty. We are given honor code definitions and warnings when receiving syllabi for the first time and must sign honor code statements before every test. Yet at the same time, as we are put through a system where it is already assumed that we may be dishonest with our work, there exists no guarantee that our professors are bound by any sort of accountability that what they teach is accurate and of quality scholarship.

There is a great book out that details the danger of the classroom when professors are allowed too much free reign in what they teach or even preach, “The Professors” by David Horowitz. In Horowitz’s book, he details 101 professors at well-respected universities where the power of the classroom is abused to promote a personal and often political agenda. In these classrooms, professors often defend acts of terrorism, promote anti-Semitic or anti-Israel agendas and preach one-sided partisan politics. While none of these extreme cases detailed in Horowitz’s book are not from JMU, that does not mean our campus is free from professorial abuse.

Once a professor enters a classroom — especially if he or she is tenured — the classroom is literally their platform for pushing any sort of agenda he or she may possess, even if it does not in any way serve the interest of the students. Classes outside of the political science department, or classes that are not defined as having a political focus often become politicized and can become preaching forums for professors to push politics that are far outside their area of expertise.

When professors over-politicize classes, they run the risk of alienating students, promoting an unwelcoming intellectual environment and losing credibility. If a student must endure a lecture where his or her political party (doesn’t matter which one) is continuously bashed, that student may feel stigmatized by that professor because of his or her beliefs. How can a student who may have a personal connection to a political issue, be it faith or personal ethics, feel comfortable if he or she must endure a professor preaching about issues that may morally conflict with his or her beliefs?

Students pay for tuition, and in essence are paying for a service, the service of learning. When professors do not fulfill this service or abuse their power by politicizing classes toward either end of the political spectrum, we as students are entitled to better service. If you pay a dentist to work on your teeth and instead he performs a medical service outside of his field and does not do his job, you are not required to pay for this service. When you pay for a professor to teach a particular course, you are not supposed to be subjected to unsubstantiated propaganda and political agendas that do not conform to the intended classroom objectives.

Professors who only present one side, preach politics and push their personal political ideals are not serving their students well. Most students who lack interest in politics, world or social issues may not be informed enough to know when a professor is promoting ideas of conspiracy theory that lack credible scholarship. Thus, the student runs the risk of being indoctrinated with falsehoods instead of inspired to seek out complex truths and answers.

It is essentially an abuse of power for a professor to perform any of these actions inside the classroom. At JMU, an institution where I have experienced both very many outstanding faculty members and very many pathetic ones, we knowledge-seeking students deserve more than political hacks for teachers and to learn the subjects that we are paying to learn.

Craig Finkelstein is a senior international affairs major.