Self-Censorship on Campus Is Bad for Science
In May, Luana Maroja—a professor of biology at Williams College—wrote about how, after Donald Trump was elected president, scientific ideas that she had been teaching for years were suddenly met with stiff ideological resistance. Students began to push back on well-established biological concepts, employing an a priori moral commitment to equality, anti-racism, and anti-sexism. But biological denialism, she argued, is dangerous.
“By not talking about science that some find unsettling,” Maroja wrote, “we deny students opportunities for learning and for intellectual empowerment.”
As the author points out, bringing a priori ideologies into a search for truth can lead one astray. However, it’s my understanding that when students have a misconception, the burden of responsibility to correct it falls to the instructor and institution, not the student.
In order to provide guidance, STEM fields should offer introductory courses that directly address controversy. Perhaps a companion course teaching scientific ethics/epistemology that invites students to apply these frameworks to public misconceptions?
Biochemistry Ph.D. candidate, University of California at Los Angeles
Los Angeles, Calif.