But is this suspicion warranted? From my own experiences as a student, usually not. I do recall a couple of professors from my undergraduate days who used the classroom as a soapbox. However, most were generally fair and tolerant enough of those who disagreed with them. Last month, an article at insidehighered.com discussed this issue in the context of the charges of David Horowitz and others, who seem to want affirmative action for intellectual perspectives. However, according to the study cited by the article, students believe that other students are more of a problem than professors. Less than half of those surveyed said that they believed other students were tolerant of the political views of all students. By contrast,
Asked about what professors do in the classroom, only 13 percent of students said that they believed professors had presented their own political views in an inappropriate way. A larger percentage — 23 percent — said they had felt that they had to agree with a professor to get a good grade — although the majority of those students felt this had only happened once in their time in college. Even with these findings, there is evidence that suggests classroom expression isn’t necessarily squelched. For example, of those who believed that professors had inappropriately presented their views, 62 percent said that they felt free to argue with the professor. And of those who said they had felt they needed to agree with a professor to get a good grade, only 42 percent said it was because of something the professor said.
Ideally, if we can foster tolerance by modeling it in the classroom, perhaps over time it will become more prevalent in many of our students both during and after college. My question, then is this: What have you done or seen done in the classroom that seemed effective at fostering tolerance in the classroom?