I went to a public high school in Connecticut where, like most other public high schools, teachers were supposed to stay completely (or at least relatively) unbiased when discussing political, moral, and religious topics (among others). I never truly had the chance to question whether or not I liked this teaching style since it was the only one I knew.
Fast forward to my freshman year of college at Villanova University – a private, Augustinian Catholic institution – and there were some noticeable differences in some of the classes. Where was the code of objectivity professors were supposed to adhere to? Instead of the teachers serving as debate moderators, the professors were actually part of the conversation. They had an agenda to push, and though they were never disrespectful of a student’s contrary opinion, they did not hesitate to give a hasty response to that opinion. By the end of the semester, their goal was to get you to agree with them on whatever overarching theme the class explored.
Some friends of mine completely detested this concept. To them, it was inconceivable and morally wrong for a professor to push a certain moral viewpoint in the (mandatory) freshman seminar course we were all enrolled in. They mistook an admitted subjectivity at the professor’s end for discrimination against opposing viewpoints. This was simply not the case. I found this confession – and this new teaching style – extremely refreshing for a variety of reasons.
1. The instructor was much more passionate about the material. The classroom was observably more lively and intriguing. You could tell how much the professor cared about what he was teaching, what we were reading, and his and the class’s influence on us as students and as human beings. With one being tied to absolute objectivity in teaching, a lot of the fun can be drawn out of it. Again, this freedom does not equate to intolerance of other viewpoints or opinions – it just means a more vibrant and impassioned learning environment among both professors and students.
2. I learned more. There’s definitely something to be said for a broad education and learning different perspectives objectively. With the different opinions of the students in discussion-based classes, this goal is still accomplished. However, along with the breadth of education comes a certain level of depth that is necessary and only tangible in classes where the professor is not afraid to dive a little further into one viewpoint. Courses with a distinct agenda are able to attain the necessary depth that forces you to grasp and understand the material much more than a surface skim or broad survey would.
3. I thought more critically. I went into the class with a viewpoint very different than that of my professor’s – and though I admit I was swayed in certain areas over the course of the semester, I was forced to hold my ground and further my understanding of my own views and opinions in order to successfully maneuver class dialogues and papers. So not only was I able to learn an opposing philosophy in detail, but I was also able to tweak my own philosophies and strengthen my own arguments and explanations. You never learn when you are in a room full of people with the same opinions as you.
I hope for your own sake that you come across these types of classes and professors during your time in college. It might be different than you’re used to and it might catch you off guard, but that’s the fun of learning. When you need to change, adjust, and adapt in the spirit of finding more out about yourself and the world, it can only be looked at as an intriguing opportunity and enriching experience. Take advantage of what’s presented to you.