Date of this Version
Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 19:1 (Spring/Summer 2018), pp 33-38.
In Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care?, Neil Gross introduces research that suggests fifty to sixty percent of college professors are leftist or liberal, a much higher proportion than the seventeen percent of Americans in general (7). He posits the conservative fear that “bias” in higher education is a “very serious” problem (Gross 5). April Kelly-Woessner and Matthew Woessner examine studies that also show that college students are more ideologically diverse than the professoriate (498) and, further, that students tend to discredit information presented by biased professors and consider them untrustworthy sources (499). If the majority of faculty placing emphasis on social justice education (SJE) are liberal, how do we nullify the apparent conflict with the essential honors mission, as defined by the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC), to develop critical-thinking skills? The answer lies in the fallacy that correlation equals causation. The fact that faculty are liberal does not mean that SJE must be taught with an ideological agenda. I contend that we can and must teach social justice from a non-partisan perspective and will offer recommendations for best practices for SJE in the context of an honors program. To the question of appropriateness of SJE for honors, the NCHC goals of helping students explore “enduring questions” and teaching skills for “leadership” and “engaged citizenship” parallel objectives of SJE. Also, the LEAP Initiative of the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), a “national public advocacy and campus action initiative,” suggests nine principles of excellence for universities, at least three of which are relevant to SJE: “to engage students in the ‘big questions,’” “to foster civic, intercultural, and ethical learning,” and to “connect knowledge with action.” Teaching SJE is thus in line with recommendations for best practices from two recognized pedagogical authorities.