Many students across America on probably every college campus, have wondered whether they might have received lesser grades than they felt they deserved; not due to their academic performance, but due to controversial views expressed by students over the duration of a college course. Many college courses tend toward ideological conflict, and, unavoidably, strong, differing opinions are held by students. Some of those opinions will be consistent with the points of view espoused by instructors, and some will not.
The conflicted environment described above inherently makes for instructor favoritism of students who share, or at least pretend to share, an instructor’s view of the contested subject. I once found myself in the midst of a college class dealing with, what was at the time, an explosive issue. I asked the instructor after the first day of class if it may not be advisable for me to drop the class, as it was clear we were on opposite sides of debate. I was told that my performance would be judged based on my ability to support my arguments with research, and not on my agreement or disagreement with his views. Much to my instructor’s credit, though we spent the entire semester in opposition, he still awarded me an A in the class, and we became friends, even getting together once outside of class.
A student referred to only as G.L. in an article by Kaitlyn Schallhorn, experienced something far beyond a slight bias based on her views. In a humanities class that dealt in part with Christianity, its history, and its values, G.L. was made to answer questions designed in a manner that any response to them would be a denial of her faith and belief.
G.L. received a zero on four papers, because she would not provide a conventional answer to the questions on which the papers were based.
Two items in the case of G.L. require attention.
First, in contrast to my own experience, where a potential for instructor bias existed, and which might have been a problem with a lesser instructor, whether the bias might have been consciously or subconsciously asserted, G.L.’s experience has been one where a college instructor has attempted to dictate to the students their beliefs within parameters set by him.
Second, G.L’s experience is not necessarily a bad thing for society. Instructor bias has not been widely addressed on an institutional level within most colleges and universities. Such a brazen abuse of classroom control on the part of the professor may send a message to administrators, at least, hopefully, to the administrators at Polk State College where G.L. attends, that religious tolerance running in all direction needs to be insured for patrons of their institution.