Survey Says: Local Public Perception Finds Most College Professors to be Liberal
From the onset of my college experience I have observed what appears to be a preponderance for "liberal" professors within the social science departments (politics, economics, history, psychology, philosophy etc.) who are maintaining the lion's share of positions among most of the subjects taught. At times I have detected observable bias from these professors for students who hold views similar to their own. Not only this, but I feel my grades have several times reflected this bias, particularly after having had "open discussions" on issues that expand on the opinions and attitudes of individuals in the class. These experiences have led me to analyze the roll of the college professor and what, if any, responsibility they have in creating an unbiased learning environment.
There doesn't appear to be good reason for arguing against the superiority of an unbiased learning environment verses a biased one in these kind of subjects, the advantage is presumed. In fact, this advantage is necessary in subjects such as politics and religion, where personal beliefs and varying faiths tend to meet at an impasse; these subjects often embody the foundation of an individual's decision making process. Our views on morality, purpose, justice, self-worth, obligation etc., create habits and instincts, if you will, on how we should conduct ourselves in the world. With such diversity in the U.S. on these topics, it isn't illogical to attempt an offering of good balance and variety in academia.
Still there are some questions that haven't been asked, for instance, should a professor be held accountable for using his/her inherent authority in creating (or not creating) an environment free of biased viewpoints? Do professors even possess this so-called inherent authority, or do students operate on the notion that professors are just a guide in their already solidly formed views of the world? Should people have any expectation regarding how they will be exposed to opinions during instruction?
What about measurable student learning outcomes? Can students be expected to display mastery of concepts, analyze information, and express themselves creatively when they are taught in a manner that appears to stifle views outside the range of views of the host? Finally, who is the responsible party for providing balanced views? Does it lie with each professor, or is there an inherent problem in asking a person to disavow personal attitudes and opinions while teaching subjects that often times deal largely in attitudes and opinions? Does it then lay in the hands of the college to provide a new approach when hiring faculty?
To come to any personal conclusion on the matter I wanted to first find out whether this was just my point of view, or one perhaps others shared. I decided to do a local survey in Wichita Falls in which people would be asked just five questions about their experiences with college professors. These questions were posed to reflect what individuals believed the role of the professor actually was, if abuse was possible, and whether they felt correction or "punishment" should occur if that role was abused.
In all questions I received 115 responses. That is, 115 individuals willing to state a claim one way or another to each question posed on the radio station’s website regarding this issue. Keep in mind that my questions were postured with possible answers that varied in number based on the type of question, and the typical responses I felt foreseeable. At the end of every set of responses I left an option to state their own opinion on the matter if they didn't find any of my responses to be fitting. The answers here are reflected in highest to lowest percentages.
Other answers to Q1 included:
- "Sometimes, depending on the age and grade of the student"
Other answers to Q3 included:
- "Professors often are unable to keep personal opinions and beliefs out of the classroom (even though they should) however there is no majority of conservative or liberal professors."
- "Yes, but I've found their views seem to depend on what they are teaching"
- "Some do and some don't."
Other answers to Q5 included:
- "The same"
- "I don't know" (4x)
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below!