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Academia Should Be Honest



Titus 2:7-8 commands teachers “…In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

Paul was talking about teaching in the church, but this is good advice for all who aspire to teach. Above all else, teachers must have integrity, this principle does not just apply to Christian teachers but also applies to secular teaching.


As classes were moved online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yale University Professor Dr. Jason Stanley used his Twitter account to warn his fellow professors that Turning Point USA, the conservative activist group for college students, could record their lectures to expose liberal biases in higher education.


“…Turning Points USA, which announced itself with a Professor Watch List, is going to be on the hunt. Both for our community, and as an individual who has been hit by this before, I've got some advice…If one of your colleagues gets hit, support them. It is not a time to lecture them about [what] you think they did wrong. They need your support, not your moralizing and sanctimoniousness. We're all in this together. This is an attack on academic freedom, not a time for Schadenfreude.” [1]


Dr. Stanley’s attitude is dangerous because he is actively encouraging his fellows to defend anyone accused of biased and academically dishonest teaching, regardless of whether the accusation is true. Essentially, he is saying that professors should not be questioned.


Contrary to Dr. Stanley’s opinion, professors should be unafraid of questioning. The father of Greek philosophy, Socrates, is famous for advocating the dialectical method of teaching. This is a fancy way of saying that the great philosophical teacher welcomed argumentation and discussion. He did not fear disagreement and was willing to argue for his beliefs, even though tradition says that it cost him his life.


Many modern universities would shudder at the loss of as little as one place in the U.S. News and World Report college ranking system, which, in and of itself, creates bad incentives for universities. [2] The idea of standing by academic integrity seems old-fashioned in an era that has been rocked by college admission scandals. Nonetheless, on an individual level, professors ought to be fighting to change that narrative.


Dr. Stanley’s position seems to encourage attacking anyone who would dare to critique the teaching of an elite professor. Those who teach have a responsibility to their students to provide a high-quality education that teaches critical thinking, as well as knowledge. Many students pursue an education hoping for the experience of Proverbs 13:20, which advises “Walk with the wise and become wise…” It is important for professors to take their role as mentors seriously. This means that these professors, who often have a great deal of power over their students, have a responsibility to promote discussion and allow themselves to be questioned.


The book of Proverbs further emphasizes the importance of speaking the truth with the verse 4:24, which says “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.” College professors should heed this advice and keep their “devious talk” to themselves. Deceit is never justified and should be rooted out in all its forms, especially from people who are in positions of trust. People like college professors.


As Dr. Kelly J. Baker argues, professors should not be afraid of criticism from their students. She says, “I have a sneaking suspicion that some instructors are unsettled that they cannot play provocateur because their speech has consequences. They cling to academic freedom, but won’t extend the same freedom to students.” [3] Ultimately, if professors have biases, they should be unafraid of being questioned. If their motivation is to improve education, then it is their duty to welcome valid criticism. Defending a fellow professor who is unfairly criticized is one thing but asking academics to protect their own, no matter what they have done, does universities a disservice and is contrary to Biblical and secular wisdom.


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[1] Jason Stanley, Twitter (March 22, 2020), https://twitter.com/jasonintrator/status/1241911434226917377

[2] Brennan Bernard, “End College Rankings: An Open Letter To The Owners And Editors Of U.S. News And World Report,” Forbes (September 28, 2018), https://www.forbes.com/sites/brennanbarnard/2018/09/28/end-college-rankings-an-open-letter-to-the-owners-and-editors-of-u-s-news-and-world-report/#6c4e20c476cc

[3] Kelly J. Baker, “Dear Liberal Professor, Students Aren’t The Problem,” Chronicle Vitae (June 10, 2015), https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1030-dear-liberal-professor-students-aren-t-the-problem

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Foundations of Truth hereby waive all claim of copyright (economic and moral) in this work and immediately places it in the public domain; it may be used, published, edited, and distributed in any manner whatsoever without any attribution or notice to Foundations of Truth.