The Professor's Viewpoint: Should We Say What We Think in the Classroom?

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Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics

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A colleague tells this story: one day after a contracts class, several students came up to speak with her. One student said, “We've been having an argument among the students all year over whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. The Republicans in the class think you're a Republican, and the Democrats think you're a Democrat. Who's right?” My colleague was delighted, because she felt it indicated that she had achieved a neutrality of professorial viewpoint in the classroom, thereby allowing students to feel comfortable expressing their own divergent views. When she later told another law colleague this story, however, the other professor replied, “That's terrible. You should at least tell them where you're coming from and where you stand.” * Should health law teachers tell their students “where they're coming from?” Should they disclose their own personal or professional perspectives on the controversial topics they teach? If a professor has come to a considered conclusion on a particular issue, should she tell the students what it is and how she reached it, or should she try to keep her views in check while she engages the students in reaching their own conclusions? And philosophical or political leanings aside, should professors inform students of personal background or experiences that may shape their perspectives on the issues they raise in the classroom, such as their religious convictions, sexual orientation, or health status or encounters with the health care system? This essay reflects on these questions.


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Recommended Citation

Charity Scott, The Professor's Viewpoint: Should We Say What We Think in the Classroom?, 35 J.L. Med. & Ethics 490 (2007).





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