Conservative philosophy professor Daniel Bonevac (University of Texas at Austin) has decided no longer to teach his popular ethics class with a thirty-year pedigree, Contemporary Moral Problems. The reason, he explained to The College Fix, is that “it’s not possible to teach the course the way I used to teach it.” Why? Because “students clam up as soon as conversation veers close to anything controversial and one side might be viewed as politically incorrect. The open exchange of ideas that used to make courses such as Contemporary Moral Problems exciting doesn’t happen.” This has been evident during my teaching as well. “Clam up” is a good way to describe it.
In his interview with Tucker Carlson, Bonevac also mentioned examples of bullying tactics recently taken up against him:
One student—who apparently hadn’t even taken Bonevac’s course—stood up to use the remaining minutes of the last day of class to denounce the course as one-sided. This surprised Bonevac (and his students), who “tries to do things in a very politically balanced way.” That is my teaching philosophy as well. I despise proselytism by professors in the classroom, and so aspire to teach in as unbiased a manner as possible by presenting both sides of a debate as convincingly as I can.
I always believed this should be every teacher’s goal. Disclosing to students, even subtly, what you believe about controversial topics can have a profound influence on them, and for that reason ought to be done, if at all, with fear and trepidation. For as obsessed as leftist academics are with power dynamics in relationships, it’s ironic to see how eagerly they take full advantage of their positions as teachers to indoctrinate their students. Perhaps it is for this reason that Carlson quipped, in response to Bonevac’s expressed aim to teach in a balanced way, “that’s always how you know the professor is conservative.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. In discussing pedagogy with a fellow conservative philosophy professor a few weeks ago, he told me that he too tries to teach in a balanced way, and for that very reason often gets pegged as conservative by his students. There is something of a pedagogical paradox here for conservative professors: if we ought to conceal our own beliefs by (inter alia) teaching in a balanced way, but that very pedagogy reveals our beliefs, what ought we do? It would be nice if leftist professors did us the favor of not being classroom activists. And I’m sure they’d love it if we held our breath until then. But we won’t. So what is a conservative professor to do?
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