The Ethics of Teaching and Scientific Research

By Sidney Hook; Paul Kurtz et al. | Go to book overview

Objectivity in Education

Marvin Zimmerman
SUNY, Buffalo

For the teacher, the pedagogical choice is not merely between opinion or fact. There is a third choice consisting of both opinion and fact. There are some who settle for fact alone, on the theory that this avoids controversy or indoctrination. Avoiding indoctrination may be a necessary condition for sound teaching but hardly a sufficient condition. It is a mistake to suggest that indoctrination and opinion are the same and thus eliminate all opinion from the classroom. Though all cases of indoctrination may well be cases of opinion, the converse, i.e., that all cases of opinion are cases of indoctrination, is blatantly false. Where the teacher presents his own opinion and criticism of same, this is preferable to prohibiting his own opinion (and others as well). Excluding opinion from the classroom withdraws valuable blood and muscle from any course worth teaching and taking. Indeed, one of the significant parts of the learning process consists of making everyone aware of the problem of indoctrination, objectivity, and related issues.

In the strong desire to avoid indoctrination, one may eliminate all reference to opinions of any kind. On the other hand, in the strong desire to make the subject-matter digestible, interesting, meaningful, one may go to the other extreme and provide huge doses of opinion, attitudes, biases, etc. Both groups above have picked up a half-truth and made it a whole truth. Ironically, if students were subject to both kinds of teaching in equal amounts, the combination might be desirable. The most desirable state should consist in being taught by faculty members,

-49-

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