What I’m learning in my political science class

Ralphie the Buffalo Student, University of Colorado
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I can’t say I wasn’t warned by like-minded friends here in Boulder. Even so, as I sat in my American Political System lecture at the University of Colorado earlier this month and heard the professor openly bash conservatism as a vestige of religion that ultimately leads to economic collapse, I felt my stomach turn. But it didn’t end there. Shortly after I heard the phrase “I don’t mean to sound like an Occupier but …” come out of the professor’s mouth, I grabbed my phone and, out of frustration, started texting my friends and parents about the situation. I looked around at the class of young minds craving knowledge, and realized that they were looking to this man to satisfy that craving.

This is a man who stands in front of a 500-person lecture hall and argues that conservatism is far less effective at solving problems than liberalism, without providing any balance or mention of liberal failures and conservative successes. This is a man who frequently makes sarcastic remarks about George Bush, Ronald Reagan and other conservative political figures, often followed by a deep guttural laugh, and encourages students to join in.

The first day of class, he asked us to raise our hands if we were conservative, because, he said, he was curious. Half of us raised our hands. A couple weeks later, he followed up with clicker questions asking students what programs, institutions and policies they would be most willing to scale back in order to decrease government spending. We were told it was just an exercise based on his own curiosity and that we would discuss the cultural implications afterwards. When he received the results, he expressed how surprised he was, and immediately began ridiculing some of our opinions. He noted that we supported cutting Medicare spending and remarked, to paraphrase, “So you guys want your grandparents living with you?”

To make matters worse, the professor’s lectures are reinforced by textbooks and articles that he wrote. (In a commendable effort to accommodate my concerns, an administrator told me that faculty members could supply me with articles from the “other side” if needed.)

Professors shouldn’t use their influence and power over their students to try to impose their views like this.

I knew the possible risks of pursuing a political science minor at a traditionally liberal institution as a conservative student before I decided to pursue one. But it’s sad to have to question whether I’ll receive a quality, unbiased education, and even sadder when my concerns are confirmed in class. I know it’s not what my parents expect when they pay my tuition bills. And it’s not fair to the young, impressionable students who sit through this professor’s lectures three times a week. Many of those students are taking this class to fulfill a requirement, and for a lot of them this will be the only political science class they ever take. They’ll bring the knowledge they glean from this class with them the next time they head to the polls to vote.

I don’t want to attack the University of Colorado’s political science program or its professors. This is the first political science course I’ve taken, and I hear that there are conservative professors in the department. But I want to raise awareness about a pervasive issue at the University of Colorado and in classrooms across the country. What message do professors — whether they’re liberal or conservative — send to students when they only present information that supports their own beliefs and biases?

Ralphie the Buffalo (not his real name) is a student at the University of Colorado, Boulder.