How to Handle Ideological Bias in the Classroom

Ideological Bias in the Classroom

Eighteen faculty members from colleges and universities across the United States gathered in Washington, DC to explore classic statements on ideological bias in the classroom.

Today’s concerns about ideological homogeneity and political conformity on campus provided the backdrop for the IHS Discussion Colloquium: Ideological Bias in the Classroom.

Eighteen faculty members from colleges and universities across the United States gathered in Washington, DC from November 8-9, 2019 to explore the topic in a colloquium marked by insightful discussions. The viewpoint-diverse group of junior and senior scholars represented a broad range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.

…that bring together people from across the political spectrum to think together about how ideological bias figures in teaching and knowledge production are few and far between and IHS is one of the few places that makes this possible.

– Dr. Amna Khalid, Associate Professor of History at Carlton College

Discussion sessions explored classic statements on ideological bias in the classroom from such towering figures as John Stuart Mill and Max Weber, historical examples of ideologically-driven higher education, modern statements on ideological bias in the classroom and contemporary challenges around teaching controversial material.

Images to the right: John Stuart Mill by London Stereoscopic Company, c1870 and Max Weber image courtesy of economist.com

Ideological-Bias-in-the-Classroom-Max-Weber-and-J-Stuart-Mill

Dr. Amna Khalid, Associate Professor of History at Carleton College and one of the participants that weekend, remarked that events such as this one “that bring together people from across the political spectrum to think together about how ideological bias figures in teaching and knowledge production are few and far between and IHS is one of the few places that makes this possible.” 

A common concern was that today’s campuses face serious internal and external threats to open inquiry, with the very purpose of universities seemingly up in the air. Which of those threats is the most significant and how best to address them was vigorously debated.

gave me real hope for the future and the stamina to carry on with energy and optimism.

– Kathryn Lynch, a professor of English at Wellesley College

While discussions tended to focus on challenges to open inquiry on campus, the final note was one of hope and optimism. Programs such as this one, it was suggested, can be a platform for positive change, and faculty can set much-needed and much-appreciated examples for their colleagues by bravely speaking their mind in the classroom and in print.

One participant, Kathryn Lynch, a professor of English at Wellesley College, said of the program that it “gave me real hope for the future and the stamina to carry on with energy and optimism.”

For more information on IHS discussion colloquia, funding, and faculty or graduate programs, visit TheIHS.org.

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