Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Pet Peeve About Students

I often run across students who just presume that because I teach philosophy that I must be a liberal, especially in my introduction to philosophy classes where there are lots of freshmen. I don't know if this is simply because they know how biased academia is in favor of liberals or if it is because they think there is something inherently liberal about studying philosophy. But, their comments often suggest it is the a combination of the two. Last semester, when I asked one of my classes if they thought I was liberal they all said they thought I was, and that I was just good at hiding it in class. One of them even said something like "All the Humanities professors are liberals and since you're a philosophy instructor, you're probably more liberal than most" or something like that.

Of course, there is nothing inherently liberal about philosophy. I don't think it even makes sense to think of most of the figures in the history of philosophy as liberal or conservative. Regardless, however, of the origin of the opinion that philosophy is liberal it is an obstacle to the correcting the liberal bias in academia. If conservative students are unnecessarily put off by philosophy because they mistakenly think it is somehow inherently liberal, then it is unlikely that more of them will pursue graduate studies in philosophy and ultimately become philosophy professors. So, I've taken to dispelling this idea on the first day of class when I talk about common misconceptions of philosophy. I also try and undermine the common misconception that all philosophers are atheists, which is a view that seems common among conservative-evangelical-Christians.

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