Students shouldn’t fear reprisal for opinions

Aruen Sood

Students come to colleges such as CSUN to learn facts and gain new skills and experiences. However, I have noticed that many times students are forced to be told the opinions of their given teacher even if they do not agree or are not interested. Many times, this results in students either staying quiet, speaking to only be quickly silenced, or trying to argue their point while being harassed and risking their grade being effected.

The Bill of Rights guarantees many freedoms. Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and the freedom to peacefully assemble are a few of the major freedoms guaranteed. In a sense, our right to voice our opinion in a public school is a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. But are we really getting these rights in full?

First consider that all teachers have their own bias. This is natural. So what happens when an opinion of a student conflicts with what a teacher thinks is right? Many teachers will teach objectively. Other teachers will discuss the matter with respect. But other times, a verbal attack results. So sometimes, the answer is that we are not getting our freedom rights in full.

Students who agree with the teacher are usually called upon more, especially to go against any student who has a radically different opinion from the teacher. In some cases, disagreeing students are considered to be ignorant and are disrespected by other students and even the teacher.

If you’re ever in a Sociology class that deals with racism or gender, see what happens when you go against the teacher. Tell your professor race is not an important matter and thinking in terms of race more results in more racism. Tell any liberal feminist men and women are different. Tell an advocate of the immigration protests something they argued is wrong. Tell anyone who supports the war in Iraq or President Bush that they are wrong. Tell a religious person their beliefs are not necessarily the only right ones. See what happens.

Keep in mind I am not telling you to do these things because I personally am against racial studies, feminism, immigration, religious beliefs, or all politicians and war. I am saying this to show you that when you disagree with even one aspect of issues most people take for granted, the teachers, and sometimes the students, will verbally attack you and avoid listening to you. And it will be hard to be rest assured that your grade will not be harmed.

The question is how do we know teachers are going to grade us fairly as a result? The answer is we don’t. So sometimes, when a teacher wonders why some students are so quiet, this is the reason. We don’t know what they’re going to think or do.

I personally have little to no fear in this area. Sure this is not always the case, especially when I was younger. But I think it is just wrong to stay quiet when you think or know something is not being said right. And I also think no student should fear being attacked by another student or teacher. So I leave it up to the conscience of the teacher to still grade me as fairly and objectively as possible.

But the problem here is that not all students think this way. I myself sometimes do not have that courage.

There are only a few possible solutions. The first is that all teachers should be reminded that they might think their observations are right, but that does not make it so. And even if they are right, they can teach facts as facts, and admit when something is just their opinion. In either case, they should encourage all students to speak up without any fear of loss in grade or respect.

The rest is up to us as students. A teacher can silence one opinion. But we are the majority. We are paying for education. So none of us should fear voicing our opinion, no matter if it is in agreement or disagreement of what the majority thinks. And do not hesitate to remind a teacher that he or she is being paid to teach facts or allow an open discussion, and base grading on the knowledge gained in the given class. Anything other than that is in violation of ethical teaching and our constitutional rights.