Back to College 2018
Through her eyes: A millennial girl takes on Central Florida
By Alisha Ashford
If you have been in college before, you probably have had at least one professor that doesn’t shy away from teaching their opinion on politics, religion, and other serious subjects in addition to the course curriculum. If you haven’t yet, I am certain you will.
It can be a bit uncomfortable when the opinion they so passionately exhort is one that you fundamentally disagree with. There’s not much stopping professors from doing this kind of thing—nor do I think there should be. While it can be uncomfortable, I think hearing ideas that differ from our own is such an important part of education and allows us to form a more well-rounded opinion.
This dilemma recently led me to come up with just a few tips that can help any college student deal with opposition in the classroom, regardless of your values or political standpoint.
- Be open to hearing new opinions while staying true to your values.
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to hold a firm conviction while allowing someone to share their own. Hearing other ideas doesn’t by default take away the value of your stance. We should all be empowered as young people, not to push away ideas that we disagree with, but instead to invite them in and let discussion take place with others and within ourselves. It is important not to remain in an echo chamber of thought. Doing so would only allow you to be exposed to your ideas and prevent everyone from having a proper dialogue about essential subjects. As individuals who are trying to further and deepen our education, we need this dialogue.
If you are truly sure of what you believe in, being taught by a professor that disagrees with you should not cause you to feel angry or offended, it should instead give you a better sense of what others think and believe.
- Understand that these are merely opinions and don’t have to be taken as absolute truth.
Even though I strongly urge anyone to hear ideas they disagree with, I think it’s important to remember that our college professors are not all-knowing. College professors should most definitely be respected and trusted in the subject they teach considering they studied that particular subject for years. But, keep in mind that your Calculus professor does not teach you family values, your Biology professor does not teach you religion, and your English professor does not teach you politics. Sure, they can hold an opinion on such things, but just because a professor discusses these matters, doesn’t mean they’re always right. It is a dangerous thing to believe everything these people say without looking into it yourself.
You do not want to be the person that gets asked “so, why do you think _______?” when the only answer you have is “well, my college professor said so.”
That response would make as much sense as taking medical advice from your hairdresser.
- Use their opinion to your advantage.
If you have an outspoken professor, take a cautious note of their stance, and keep it in mind when you need to write a paper. I know it sounds silly, but if you discuss topics in your research papers that your professors are passionate about, it may just catch their interest and give you a better chance of getting a higher grade. I’m sure they have had to read hundreds of college papers throughout their career; why not make their job a little more exciting by writing about something that so clearly interests them?
If politics and debate are important to you, this situation can also be used to your advantage by giving you topics to find a rebuttal. There is nothing more uncomfortable than holding a firm stance in something that you cannot properly defend when asked.
If you disagree with your college professor, keep what they say in mind, and go do your own research. So, the next time a similar topic comes up, you’ll be able to articulate your stance successfully.
- You do not have to win them over.
It is crucial to remember that you are going to class to learn that subject and to work towards your degree. Sometimes when someone like a classmate or a professor disagrees with us, we feel like it’s our responsibility to tell everyone our stance and prove that we are right. While I don’t see anything wrong with standing up for your beliefs, most of the time it is just wiser to stay quiet and get your classwork done.
People around us throughout our entire lives are going to disagree with us—its inevitable. Let your class experience with this situation allow you to be okay with the discomfort that comes when you are exposed to new ideas. That discomfort is what will enable you to grow and form a new perspective about the world and people around you.
Alisha Ashford is a graduate of Lake Mary High School that spent a year in Spain through a student exchange program. She is currently a journalism major at Seminole State College.