Upon entering college, it is clear that professors operate on a vastly different dynamic than other educators one has encountered prior to attending. Generally speaking, this can often be attributed to the large amount of creative control a professor has over the classes they teach. Even classes that are exactly the same in title can be a completely different experience, sometimes with an entirely different teaching methods.
This control is what makes education at the college level so great. It allows for professors to be innovative and personally connected to their work, allowing for some truly unique classroom experiences. Though there will always be simple general education lecture halls, as students progress to higher level courses, the control professors have over their courses becomes more apparent.
Each professor has a unique style, and the collegiate environment allows for this to be fully fleshed out. However, a recent incident at the University of Colorado puts into question just how much free reign professors can have before going too far. Patty Alder, a sociology professor, recently put her job in jeopardy because of the way she chose to teach a unit on prostitution.
Adler had her teacher’s assistants dress as prostitutes and then act out scripts that would describe their life. Adler would interact with them as if they were actual prostitutes, the idea obviously being to simulate an actual interview. Creating a hybrid lesson that included both theater and discussion was interesting, and was described as being the highlight of her semester.
However, the lesson was deemed controversial, and Adler nearly lost her job. Partially due to a student outcry, Adler was fortunately invited back to the University to continue as a professor.
While there should be some clarification as to what is going too far, if there is clear educational value in what a professor is doing then they should be allowed to continue. Unless there is a strong case for intervention, to create too strict of limitations could only harm the quality of lessons that a professor produces.
This would be especially relevant in classes that deal with controversial topics. If professors are punished for attempting to tackle these topics in new ways, even if they seem edgy, then innovation cannot truly be nourished. Many students will agree that lecture is amongst the plainest form of teaching, yet more of this can be expected if professors aren’t completely free to design their own lessons.
Ultimately, students are the best way to gauge if these types of lessons are ineffective. If grades are low or comments of a professor’s performance are not favorable, then clearly a professor’s approach is not working. However, even if a lesson is edgy, if it is clearly having a positive effect on the education of students, why should it be stopped?
Public universities should be as free from censorship as possible. After all, one of the greatest aspects of public universities is the variety of opinions and beliefs. This cannot be fully expressed if the threat of censorship is looming. The quality of education, especially the impact on students, would be tarnished.
The creative control a professor has over their course is often undervalued and overlooked. This is too bad, as it is an important quality that professors should embrace and students should appreciate.