Just Let Teachers Teach

Mark Laluan

REBUTTAL

In response to Professors Need Checks and Balances .

To say every student has had at least one academic who got under their skin is a broad generalization, but it is a fact.

Each human is an individual with ideas and concepts combing together to create a distinct, intellectual framework. Unfortunately, as most students enter into college that framework is off-kilter and sloppy.

Professors have no agenda other than to give some form to the formless mass that is the college-aged brain. They come from all walks of life and bring a myriad of perspectives to the table for their students to digest.

Thus the notion that academia needs a stringent “Code of Conduct” is the most hateful and misguided attack on literati since Qin Shi Huang decided it would be best to sort out “useful scholars from useless scholars” by burying his intellectual opponents alive.

An extreme comparison by any means, but appropriate given that what Ms. Phillips is calling for in “Professors Need Checks and Balances” is censorship in its plainest form.

Laws ideally should be legislated to bring out the best in humanity and thereby uplift and improve the human condition. To straightjacket the ability of academics to share their ideas and perspectives does not meet this simple litmus test.

To clarify, in the course of this argument we are not condoning abuse of students by faculty, rather we take offense to the notion that the act of flunking a student should be raised to the same level as a teacher physically assaulting a student as Ms. Phillips would have one believe.

The professor’s role is to challenge pre-convinced notions within the minds of students by revealing new perspectives. A professor cannot undertake such a task if he or she does not have a tool to weigh the quality of one’s work.

Let us accept the fact that some people fail while others succeed. Some students are able to master the concepts presented in class and others do not.

Indeed, some professors use their classrooms as a soapbox to preach their own ideas which occasionally venture into the realm of unabashed propaganda. The student may rise to challenge such notions and is then rewarded for his efforts with a less than satisfactory grade.

However, in the real-world can we go head-to-head against all with whom we disagree? Can we butt heads with our bosses, can we lord over our underlings with impunity?

The answer is that we cannot do so and expect to succeed in the game of life. The at-times intellectually abrasive nature of the student-teacher relationship teaches us a most valuable lesson: that we cannot win every argument we get into.

Professors do not need a rigid “Code of Conduct” in which students can work to undermine their ability to teach. Academic freedom is not merely a “tradition” that can be done away with as Ms. Phillips would have you believe.

Academic freedom is the very basis upon which the institution of the university was founded.

For this author, “academic freedom” is an idea worth fighting for. It is the call to arms made by such figures as Cardinal Newman and Clark Kerr, and it resounds more sweetly in one’s ears than the prattlings of a student crying foul over a few poor grades.