What are our professors trying to teach us?

In case any of you out there were just dying to know, I am currently pursuing a biology and political science double major. In the course of completing the requirements for the biology half of my degree, I’ve been introduced Darwin’s Theory of Evolution on multiple occasions.

Now, don’t tell anyone, but I don’t completely believe in evolution. (I know-how archaic of me.)

That admission begs the question, of course: Does the fact that I am required to take several classes specifically about evolution in order to graduate with my degree bother me? Not really.

The thing is, all of us, at one time or another, have sat through a 50-minute lecture, paid attention, taken all the notes and left the room in staunch disagreement with whatever was just said.

However, we’ll still regurgitate it back in perfect form come Finals Week because we all know that answering a mere essay question is not quite the same as converting to a different religion.

This is why when I hear people complaining that they don’t agree with what goes on in their teachers’ classrooms, I’m not inclined to be sympathetic.

It’s not like you have to believe everything they say, or agree with the way the present it-you only have to endure it until you get your credit.

In other words, until my professors stoop to the level of making fun of my mother, I’d really rather just smile and nod.

However, after The Chronicle ran a few pieces last week about the invitation of a somewhat controversial guest speaker to a communication class, I started to think about the role that students actively play in their professors’ academic freedom.

Traditionally, the term “academic freedom” refers to the rights of faculty only.

According to the American Association of University Professors, academic freedom means that teachers are entitled to, among other things, the freedom to discuss their subject in their classroom.

The stipulation in that definition is that teachers don’t have the right to introduce questionable material that has no relation to the subject at hand.

Additionally, they should be aware that the public may judge their profession and their institution by statements they make, and should therefore attempt to be accurate, respect the opinions of others and exercise appropriate restraint.

If statements are made that are needlessly controversial, inaccurate or disrespectful, they have no place in the classroom.

If statements could possibly be detrimental to the educational process of the student, they cannot be tolerated.

Let’s face it-when you sit in a classroom, you pay to be there. You have every right to demand that your money is used wisely.

If you feel that your educational experience is being damaged, you should demand satisfaction instead of sit idly by.

I say this with a word or two of caution.

When a topic, presentation, or theory comes up in a classroom that you disagree with, it is not the time to stand up and shout in your best Cartman impression, “Screw you guys, I’m goin’ home!”

Instead, when you are taken aback by something that happens in a classroom, evaluate in your own mind why an educator would make such an inflammatory statement in the first place.

Muddy as the distinction may be, each of us must decide for ourselves whether or not our professors are trying to promote our educational experiences.

Often, educators are called upon to present controversial points of view in order to let their students make their own value judgments on a subject.

Educators occasionally have to introduce topics that their students flat-out will not agree with, regardless of their veracity.

Sometimes students have to be introduced to subjects they’d rather pretend don’t exist at all.

In all those cases, students can either stick with the tried and true “regurgitate” method or choose to learn the lesson that their teacher was trying to impart.

Face it-teachers don’t show graphic clips of criminal proceedings or war coverage to piss you off or hurt your feelings.

They do it to teach their class a lesson, and it’s important that you learn it.

The thing to remember is that our professors’ academic freedom is, in a lot of ways, defined by how we receive what they tell us.

Let’s all try to spend less time getting offended by it, and more time trying to figure out what we’re meant to learn from it.

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