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« Unclogging the kitchen sink | Main | That's a little gorier than usual »

March 22, 2009

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Brandon

This seems plausible to me. I think the confusion of novelty with bias plays a role across a rather extensive range of intellectual life. For instance, students will also occasionally confuse something that they themselves don't believe with a caricature; for instance, students who are Calvinists sometimes tend to think that the Calvinism they were raised in is the Calvinism, and will sometimes confuse historical Calvinist views different from their own with attempts at caricature.

I also think, though, that students are more savvy about such things than is usually assumed in such discussions; unflattering as it may be to our egos, they are not usually passively sitting there waiting for us to form their minds but are sometimes, when they are really paying attention to us at all, listening to what we say with considerable skepticism. In undergrad I knew students who would go out of their way to give back to their professors what they thought they wanted to hear, even if they themselves thought that the ideas were completely absurd.

(Having known so many students like that has made me slightly paranoid about it. Whenever I get garbled answers on tests, where even a little common sense would have sufficed to give a better answer, I get the sneaking suspicion that my students are trying to do this to me.)

Miriam

Oh, sure--I remember students saying whatever they thought the professor wanted to hear, then snarking about it outside of class. Of course, sometimes they were wrong about that, too!

RLapides

A teacher's silence about politics can amount to agreement with accepted truth, and sometimes accepted truth is very mistaken.

I recall how grateful my classmates and I were in the 1950s when a teacher had the rare courage to disagree with establishment views, not something we ever heard anyone do. When I started teaching in the '60s, I felt it my responsibility to educate my white students about racism. Years later some of them thanked me for having done this -- but not at the time.

Someone has to raise students' consciousness about social and political reality, and if we remain silent, the corporate media will be their only teachers.

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