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What do the terms liberal and conservative mean anyway?

Reader comment on item: Conservative Professors, an Endangered Species

Submitted by Ron Lukens-Bull (United States), Apr 16, 2005 at 12:17

A sociology colleague of mine describes his transformation from being a conservative to being a liberal. He did not have to change his political views at all. All he had to do was to move from New York to Jacksonville, FL and voila -- his views are now conservative. The point is that the terms are sometimes rendered meaningless by overuse.

Also, I do not think expressing political views in class is necessarily inappropriate. Granted, the comments should be related to the class material. And the students must not be required to believe the point of view to do well in class. However, before I ever mentioned my take on things, students compalined, "What does this have to do with anything?" Now they know at least on way to apply to knowledge to the real world.

Of course, they do not have to agree with me. And in fact, students who disagree with me often get better grades that those who do agree with me, because those who agree with the prof often get lazy.

In teaching students how to think we must challenged their view points and challenge them to support their arguments. And this must be done without regard to their poltics and whether the prof agrees with them or not.
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