Professors: Where's the line between opinion and bias?

In summary: Seems like 99% is a pretty wide generalization to make.Most courses are pro-capitalist, without even mentioning there might be some problems with capitalism. Would you consider such classes biased as well?Yes, I would consider such classes biased.
  • #1
Derek Francis
17
15
With social science courses, there's lots of opinions and perspectives. I think it's inevitable that the professor will lean one way or another, and I don't think having an opinion is bad insofar as you're overall fair about the class.

One professor I knew taught in Introduction to Global Economies class, and 10 out of the 13 books he's basing his class lecture on are anti-capitalism books. Thankfully, he is a very nice guy and he has allowed his students to write papers disagreeing with his thesis, giving most of them A's insofar as they back up their thesis with sources.

The problem, of course, is that most of the text of the class leans toward one viewpoint. In a 100-level introductory gen ed class, the goal is to usually give the students a breadth of different opinions. I think his class would have been great as a "The Problems of Capitalism" class as an elective for an economics major to take, in which that information is within the context of studying the pros and cons of numerous economic systems.

But ultimately, even if what they are saying is true, professors should try to be as neutral as possible.
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
As a student, I have politely called professors out on their biases before, and they've usually been very nice about it (particularly the politics/history professors).

Generally, as a student, what I've found is the best way to solve this issue is to be very polite and professional. Just raising your hand and calling them out during the first class is going to be met with equally brash feedback. What I've generally done was, for the first few classes, I would complete all the homework assignments, participate in class a lot, go in their office and ask them for their insight. And then, a few classes into the semester I would say something polite such as "I have a lot of respect for you, but I think it would be best if the class was based more on the textbook and less on your personal opinions", and usually they've responded very well. With super-ultra feminist professors too, instead of saying "oh that's a load of crap", it works better saying "I agree with this aspect of that view, but I disagree with that aspect of it because..."
 
  • #3
In social sciences, there is ALWAYS some opinion present. It is impossible to present social subjects without any ideology. This is in what they differ from science.
As far as the professors allow expressing opposite opinions, it's OK.
I understand your point with studying mainly anti-capitalistic textbooks. But hey, most of the courses are 99% pro-capitalist, without even mentioning there might be some problems with capitalism. Would you consider such classes biased as well?
 
  • #4
Sophia said:
I understand your point with studying mainly anti-capitalistic textbooks. But hey, most of the courses are 99% pro-capitalist, without even mentioning there might be some problems with capitalism. Would you consider such classes biased as well?
Yes
 
  • #5
Derek Francis said:
Yes

That's good, then :)
Your approach to teachers is very good. That's how it should be. It is very common for teachers of social studies/ humanities to have their favourite theory or ideology. It is not ideal, but it happens quite often. If the teacher gives an A to a student with opposite opinion, I think it's not a huge problem.
You can express your opinion and suggestions both during the semester as you already do and in the final feedback that most teachers accept in their last lesson. If you feel that the content of the course or the teacher's behaviour is highly problematic you can contact the head of department (economics department in this case).
 
  • Like
Likes Derek Francis
  • #6
Sophia said:
I understand your point with studying mainly anti-capitalistic textbooks. But hey, most of the courses are 99% pro-capitalist
Please back up this statistic with some evidence. I believe that 99% is wildly inaccurate, at least in my country (the U.S.), as well as much of Europe.
 
  • #7
Mark44 said:
Please back up this statistic with some evidence. I believe that 99% is wildly inaccurate, at least in my country (the U.S.), as well as much of Europe.
OK, it wasn't meant to be statistically accurate. I was only trying to say that most courses I attended or heard of were like that. I had two very anti-capitalistic courses at the Uni, but we were both told by the proffessors as well as confirmed by economics students that such courses are not common. On one occasion, "real" economics students attended and started arguing with the professor and basically rolled their eyes and sighted all the time claiming such a course could never be taught at the faculty of Economics where mostly mainstream neoclassical economics is taught (this anticapitalist course was in the faculty of Social studies, meant for Environmental science students). It was in the Czech republic. I don't know, maybe it's caused by post-communist fear of everything left.
 
  • #8
I took a course in public opinion and propaganda and in one class, my professor set aside his lecture to tell the story of how he got Christmas banished from campus. When your bias/beliefs interrupt your teaching, that's going too far.
 
  • Like
Likes Derek Francis
  • #10
russ_watters said:
I took a course in public opinion and propaganda and in one class, my professor set aside his lecture to tell the story of how he got Christmas banished from campus. When your bias/beliefs interrupt your teaching, that's going too far.

As someone who would be considered a liberal in this political climate, I'm not sure what's so important about banning Christmas. It's only going to validate the uber-conservatives who say that liberals are trying to steal Christmas.
 

1. What is the difference between opinion and bias?

Opinion is a personal belief or viewpoint about something, while bias is a tendency or preference that influences one's judgment or decision-making. An opinion is subjective and based on personal experiences, while bias is often rooted in societal or cultural influences.

2. How can we identify bias in a professor's teaching?

One way to identify bias in a professor's teaching is to look for patterns in their lectures or assignments that consistently favor one perspective or viewpoint. It is also important to consider the sources they use and whether they present a balanced or one-sided view of a topic.

3. Can a professor's bias affect their students?

Yes, a professor's bias can potentially affect their students by influencing the information they receive and the way they think about a subject. It can also impact their grades and their overall learning experience.

4. How can professors maintain objectivity in their teaching?

To maintain objectivity in their teaching, professors should strive to present multiple perspectives and encourage critical thinking in their students. They should also be open to feedback and willing to consider alternative viewpoints.

5. What steps can students take if they feel a professor is crossing the line into bias?

If a student feels that a professor's bias is negatively impacting their learning, they can first try to address the issue with the professor directly. If that does not resolve the issue, they can speak to the department chair or file a formal complaint with the school. It is important for students to advocate for their own education and speak up if they feel their learning is being compromised.

Similar threads

Replies
14
Views
897
  • General Discussion
Replies
3
Views
2K
Replies
4
Views
3K
Replies
27
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
8
Views
1K
  • General Discussion
Replies
1
Views
5K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
23
Views
4K
  • General Discussion
4
Replies
105
Views
12K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
9
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
8
Views
2K
Back
Top