Is it possible to teach without bias?
Is it even desirable to do so?
For several weeks last year I was posting a series on “What’s your worldview?” and “How do you express and present your worldview through your teaching and your art?” We discussed a few points of my worldview here and here and here. I’ve been meaning to revive that series, so maybe I’ll do so soon. But there’s a basic assumption underlying that second question (“How do you express and present your worldview through your teaching and your art?”), which is that it’s good to express and present your worldview to your students or audience. Even more: that it is good and desirable to convince your students/audience of the truth of your worldview.
Now, there’s a tricky line to walk here. There’s been something of a consensus in discussions on this blog that an artist should not push her beliefs on her audience, because then the art is degraded to propaganda. There’s been agreement that if you want to present your beliefs to someone else, you have to do so in a gentle, non-threatening manner and leave your listener to decide for himself the truth of your claims. And in class this past week, several people proposed that education should proceed without bias; that all sides of a question should be presented with equal weight to a student who will then decide for himself which position, if any, is true or correct. The example we discussed was the Evolution vs. Intelligent design. AVA suggested that parents and/or school supervisors should hire two science teachers or practicing scientists for lectures on origins: one who believes firmly in and works from the premise of macroevolution, and one who believes firmly in and works from the premise of young-earth creationism. Then students should be allowed to determine for themselves which position is correct.
Well, that sounds like a good proposal. But there are at least two problems with it from a covenantal Christian point of view. First, we Reformed Christians believe that human beings are totally depraved, and therefore incapable of accepting or even recognizing the good without the work of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of more experienced Christians. Second, most Christian parents take a vow (at the time of their babies’ baptism or dedication) to raise their children in the Word of God, to train them up in the way that they should go. Therefore, if the parents strongly believe that one position or another is the Biblical position, they have made a promise to try to train their children to understand and commit to that position.
Maybe Evolution/Creationism is a touchy example, because there are plenty of Christians who think that Evolution and the Bible are perfectly compatible. But think of other “issues” for a moment. Think about other debatable doctrines, such as Predestination and Free Will, or Infant vs. Adult Baptism, or interpretations of the Lord’s Supper—Transubstantiation vs. Consubstantiation vs. “Real Spiritual Presence” vs. Memorial. Or consider moral/social/political issues rather than doctrines, such as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, illegal immigrant status, gun control, health care, education, global warming, the War in Iraq.
In these doctrinal and social debates, wouldn’t the ideal parents present both sides to their children and then also present all the arguments in favor of the side in which the parents believe? Wouldn’t ideal teachers lecture from both points of view but then announce which side they support and why? Because the perfect parents and teachers care about their children/students from a holistic point of view: as a teacher, I want you students to become well-rounded, godly people, and I’m as concerned for your salvation as I am for your grades.
I know that sounds intolerant. How dare I believe that I know what’s good for your soul? But I do believe that God has revealed what’s good for human souls, and I want my students to follow God’s way instead of the world’s way. I want to teach that, as well as teaching facts about when and where Shakespeare lived and how many lines make a sonnet and how to pronounce “epistemology” and what are the major characteristics of Romanticism.
Here’s the bottom line: Is communication with a view to persuasion always propaganda? Is certainty bigotry? Is commitment intolerance?
What do you think?