Students should challenge their teachers

This weekend, tailgating tents lined the quad and students lined up to see the Crimson Tide take on their opponent inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. Sports were played and great merriment was made. But today, students return to class. Yep, class.

Universities are the centers of logic and reason. They are the places where scholars are born and ideas are challenged. They provide, as Oxford scholar John Henry Newman described, “the education which gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them and a force in urging them.” Unfortunately, many of our educational experiences do not seem like this at all.

In many parts of the world, and even for many people here in the U.S., going to school is a luxury. Yes, college is a time to form relationships, pursue passions and grow as an individual, but institutions of higher learning also exist for, well, higher learning. As students, we have a responsibility to take advantage of all they have to offer.

Most importantly, we should all get into the habit of challenging our professors. If a professor says something that you disagree with, don’t let them off the hook. Instead, politely ask them why they believe that to be true and then respond with your own viewpoint. I do not recommend arguing when your professor states that two plus two equals four, but if – for example – you disagree when a professor declares that the right to abortion is a fundamental human right, tell them why you think they’re wrong and initiate a discussion. From my personal experience, many professors would like to pretend that your conflicting opinion does not exist and may quickly try to hush you up, but please, free thought in the classroom needs to make a comeback. Education without the free discussion of ideas is not education at all.

Unfortunately, when our professors tell us that there is no need to talk when they present their opinions as facts instead of giving us the tools necessary to form our own opinions, we may find ourselves like Hermione Granger, muttering, “No need to think is more like it.” When a professor tells the class that their viewpoint is illuminating, we may find ourselves like Ron Weasley, thinking, “Illuminating? What a load of waffle!” But that’s okay, because we’re allowed to form our own opinions even if the bureaucratic structure of academia represses us from doing so, and we can, no, we must “compare one idea with another; adjust truths and facts; form them into one whole, or notice the obstacles which occur in doing so,” as Newman writes. Contrary to popular belief, not every theory your gender studies professor presents is a true fact.

Let’s take back the classroom.

Joe Puchner is a sophomore majoring in mathematics.

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