Readability

Bias and the Classroom

A con­ser­v­a­tive stu­dent gave me a Christ­mas gift I rel­ish. The indi­vid­ual wrote in the course eval­u­a­tion that I was one of the few teach­ers who allowed con­ser­v­a­tive opin­ions in my classes.

Pro­fes­sor Harper is a breath of fresh air in the God-​forsaken, lib­eral, biased school. Unlike almost every other pro­fes­sor, he didn’t push his polit­i­cal beliefs or per­sonal pref­er­ences on any­one. And he didn’t make me feel less respected or val­i­dated when my opin­ion dif­fered from the major­ity, and I expressed my con­ser­v­a­tive beliefs. He is highly intel­li­gent and well-​informed when it comes to pol­i­tics and the true agenda of the media and the left­ist state,” the stu­dent wrote in this semester’s eval­u­a­tions.
I teach at an extremely lib­eral uni­ver­sity in an extremely lib­eral city with an extremely lib­eral fac­ulty and stu­dent body. Con­ser­v­a­tive stu­dents are often tossed to the wolves in class­rooms either by the pro­fes­sor or fel­low students.

I taught two sec­tions of Jour­nal­ism and the Law. The class can be a tough trick. The course is required for grad­u­a­tion, and most stu­dents admit they expect the class to be bor­ing when I pose the ques­tion at the begin­ning of the semes­ter. More­over, the class tack­les some tough issues, such as hate speech.

Dur­ing the semes­ter, I take the stu­dents through a doc­u­ment few peo­ple really under­stand: the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion and the Bill of Rights.

With­out impos­ing my polit­i­cal views, I point out some impor­tant truths:

–Unpop­u­lar speech, like hate speech, is pro­tected by the U.S. Constitution.

–Jour­nal­ists have roughly the same rights as all U.S. cit­i­zens. Free­dom of speech appears before free­dom of the press.

–The First Amend­ment isn’t the most impor­tant one. In fact, the amend­ment was actu­ally the third in the orig­i­nal draft of the Bill of Rights. The first two were defeated dur­ing the rat­i­fi­ca­tion process. There­fore, the right of free­dom of the press shouldn’t make jour­nal­ists feel so special.

–The First Amend­ment, how­ever, should make jour­nal­ists feel grateful.

–Pri­vacy isn’t men­tioned in the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion but should receive as much, if not more, pro­tec­tion than free­dom of the speech.

–Ethics and the law are not the same. What may be eth­i­cal may not be legal; what is legal may not be ethical.

–Anony­mous sources must be cho­sen care­fully and infre­quently. The U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t pro­vide much pro­tec­tion for jour­nal­ists if they decided to use such sources. Jour­nal­ists must tes­tify before grand juries about anony­mous sources and must pay dam­ages to sources if reporters break the agree­ment for confidentiality.

By the time the class is over, the stu­dents are gen­er­ally grate­ful for the course in how to work as a jour­nal­ist under the law. More impor­tant, the stu­dents have a greater under­stand­ing about the rights they have as a cit­i­zen and how pre­cious those rights are.

The stu­dent eval­u­a­tions do pro­vide some con­struc­tive crit­i­cism when I go over the top. Dur­ing the class, I rant about the amount of gov­ern­ment inter­ven­tion espe­cially the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion. The FCC is one of the most pow­er­ful gov­ern­ment bod­ies, which reg­u­lates broad­cast­ing, satel­lite trans­mis­sion, wire­less tele­phones, and myr­iad aspects of our daily lives.

More­over, the FCC is one of the few gov­ern­ment enti­ties that has the pow­ers of the exec­u­tive, leg­isla­tive, and judi­cial branches all rolled into one. To me, the agency is what’s wrong with government.

One stu­dent called me out in the eval­u­a­tions: “Maybe a small amount less of his opin­ions on gov­ern­ment restrictions.”

A conservative student gave me a Christmas gift I relish. The individual wrote in the course evaluation that I was one of the few teachers who allowed conservative opinions in my classes.

“Professor Harper is a breath of fresh air in the God-forsaken, liberal, biased school. Unlike almost every other professor, he didn’t push his political beliefs or personal preferences on anyone. And he didn’t make me feel less respected or validated when my opinion differed from the majority, and I expressed my conservative beliefs. He is highly intelligent and well-informed when it comes to politics and the true agenda of the media and the leftist state,” the student wrote in this semester’s evaluations.
I teach at an extremely liberal university in an extremely liberal city with an extremely liberal faculty and student body. Conservative students are often tossed to the wolves in classrooms either by the professor or fellow students.

I taught two sections of Journalism and the Law. The class can be a tough trick. The course is required for graduation, and most students admit they expect the class to be boring when I pose the question at the beginning of the semester. Moreover, the class tackles some tough issues, such as hate speech.

During the semester, I take the students through a document few people really understand: the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Without imposing my political views, I point out some important truths:

–Unpopular speech, like hate speech, is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

–Journalists have roughly the same rights as all U.S. citizens. Freedom of speech appears before freedom of the press.

–The First Amendment isn’t the most important one. In fact, the amendment was actually the third in the original draft of the Bill of Rights. The first two were defeated during the ratification process. Therefore, the right of freedom of the press shouldn’t make journalists feel so special.

–The First Amendment, however, should make journalists feel grateful.

–Privacy isn’t mentioned in the U.S. Constitution but should receive as much, if not more, protection than freedom of the speech.

–Ethics and the law are not the same. What may be ethical may not be legal; what is legal may not be ethical.

–Anonymous sources must be chosen carefully and infrequently. The U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t provide much protection for journalists if they decided to use such sources. Journalists must testify before grand juries about anonymous sources and must pay damages to sources if reporters break the agreement for confidentiality.

By the time the class is over, the students are generally grateful for the course in how to work as a journalist under the law. More important, the students have a greater understanding about the rights they have as a citizen and how precious those rights are.

The student evaluations do provide some constructive criticism when I go over the top. During the class, I rant about the amount of government intervention especially the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is one of the most powerful government bodies, which regulates broadcasting, satellite transmission, wireless telephones, and myriad aspects of our daily lives.

Moreover, the FCC is one of the few government entities that has the powers of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches all rolled into one. To me, the agency is what’s wrong with government.

One student called me out in the evaluations: “Maybe a small amount less of his opinions on government restrictions.”