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Should Professors Share Their Political Opinions and Beliefs in the Classroom?

By Andrew Smith 

Most college students have experienced being in a classroom where their instructor has shared their personal opinions on various topics. This can either be associated with the class discussion or completely irrelevant, leaving you puzzled about why their professor shared their personal beliefs. In today’s heated political climate, it can be very challenging discussing topics that may make students feel uncomfortable. It is difficult to find the middle ground in a discussion especially when personal emotions are prevalent. When professors express their opinion, are we as students genuinely benefiting from it or just being lectured to?

Some professors share their opinions to build class discussion and encourage more student participation. When discussing a topic in class that requires participation, it can be beneficial if the instructor shares their opinion. Professor Wilison Anaya believes it is important to share his opinion, especially when the topic allows it and where he has expertise. 

“If my opinion can produce a positive outcome and bring a better understanding for the students, then absolutely,” he said.

During classroom discussions, professors might present the opposing opinion to encourage more conversation. Photo from Pexels

Anaya has a master’s in philosophy and a doctorate in Spanish Latin-American Literature. He published his book “Bolívar y El Modernismo,” which discusses the role and importance that Venezuelan revolutionary Simon Bolivar had on political motives and modernist writers that came after him. Anaya now teaches Spanish Literature, Spanish Cross-Cultural Concepts and even Spanish for Healthcare Professionals.

However, Anaya stressed that he would always avoid sharing his opinion if the topic was controversial or irrelevant to the lesson plan.

Professor María Souto-Portas of the College of Arts and Sciences shared a similar sentiment. “For my class, I don’t think that [sharing personal opinions] is important. When we talk about controversial topics, I think there are many degrees, and sometimes this depends on the moment. I teach Spanish, not politics.”

However, if a topic arose in a class discussion, Souto-Portas would support the conversation by sharing her feelings first to ensure everyone felt included and safe to speak.  

“Sometimes I ask my students about their ideas about controversial topics,” she said, “but first I express mine just to open myself to them, and then I tell them that maybe they have different ideas or points of view, and when I ask, it is because I want them to speak in Spanish. Of course, I always tell them I don’t have any intention of criticism and every opinion is valid.”

College is a time for students to be exposed to different opinions and classroom discussions help prepare individuals for the real world. Photo from Rawpixel

Discussions about real-world issues can encourage students to speak more in a language proficiency class, which Souto-Portas welcomes. It can be a great learning experience and help students practice the language they are studying in real-world settings. “As a language professor, I need to correct my students’ pronunciation and grammar. I don´t tell them that what they say is wrong, I just say it in the right way,” she said.

Sharing opinions in a college classroom setting can also encourage students to be more open-minded to the opposite viewpoint.

Professor Sofia Fasos of the Communications Department stressed that the college level is an excellent time for students to be exposed to different viewpoints, respect others and defend their positions. 

During classroom discussions, Fasos sometimes presents the alternative side to make students feel more comfortable and, more importantly, include everyone’s opinion. As a result, more students are encouraged to participate and build invaluable soft skills essential in the professional world. 

Sophomore Carolena Vicale, who is double majoring in psychology and English, shared a personal reflection on this topic and where she stands on this critical issue.

“I personally have never experienced a professor sharing an opinion that made me feel uncomfortable,” she said. “I know many students can find it uncomfortable and inappropriate in some instances though I have never experienced this.”

However, Vicale stressed that while everyone has their right to an opinion, a classroom may not be the best place to express it, as it may make students feel uncomfortable.

“I don’t think it’s necessary for some opinions to be shared if it’s going to make people feel alienated especially in a classroom setting where professors are supposed to create a safe and welcoming environment for the students,” Vicale said. “Though I might not agree with someone’s opinion, we all have our opinions that we formed one way or another based on what we have experienced in life.”

College encourages growth and awareness and can serve as a forum for different viewpoints to be shared and discussed. By hearing the opinions of your mentors and peers, you will be much more equipped for the real world and more prepared to defend your beliefs and opinions.

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