Bias in the classroom
Student states experience with liberal bias in AP Lang
For years, I have heard countless rumors concerning AP English Language and Composition at UAHS. The overall theme of the legends surrounding the course involved a purported left-wing political bias prominent in the class’ curriculum.
Having never experienced extreme bias in the classroom, I viewed these rumors with skepticism, and in August, I entered my AP Lang class with an open mind. Right away, my class was introduced to the idea of “lenses”; i.e. different ways to view a text. The goal of using these lenses, while never explicitly stated, was to gain a greater understanding of different viewpoints. These lenses were used throughout the year to analyze text and played a necessary part of our midterm exam. The three that were formally taught were critical race, feminism, and Marxism. Yes, you read that correctly: Marxism.
Marxism, the ideas of 19th-century theorist Karl Marx, is the ideological basis of communism. Aside from being associated with taking the lives of millions in some of history’s most brutal regimes, communism attacks traditional American values. After learning that the Marxist way of thinking viewed capitalism and the affluent as evil, associated individualism in a negative way, and shunned religion and patriotism, I was rather confused as to why I, an American high schooler, was being taught to utilize this way of thinking in a classroom setting. I assumed that Marxism would be discussed in a negative light, and would be backed up by extensive criticism. This criticism never arose, much to the dismay of myself and others who know that Marxism and communism are threats to our democratic nation.
I would like to think it is not the intention of the curriculum to advocate for these radical left-wing views, but when the Marxist lense is not taught alongside a free market-capitalist lense, an objectivist lense, a minarchist lense or any such dissenting or opposing lense, it is now clear to me why these “rumors” were started. The classroom is supposed to be a place for the free exchange of ideas, free of political bias. If the class wishes to continue the usage of the Marxist lense, it is imperative that lenses of the opposite side of the political spectrum be used as well. This method of comparative viewpoints would allow students to learn how to think, not what to think.
Response to “Bias in the classroom”
I want to disclose that my political beliefs are economically left and strongly socially liberal, so I don’t have the same experience of a “left-wing political bias” in the AP Lang course. I do, however, want to comment on your criticisms of the Marxist theory. In your letter, you surround the word “Marxist” like we are living through a third red scare. You don’t cite any real explanation of the Marxist lense, which according to the Purdue Online Writing Lab “concerns itself with class differences, economic and otherwise, as well as the implications and complications of the capitalist system: “Marxism attempts to reveal the ways in which our socioeconomic system is the ultimate source of our experience” (Tyson 277).” (https://owl.english.pur
I’m not going to pretend that communist governments haven’t caused immeasurable harm to millions, and I don’t believe we should be advocating it. But the Marxist lense doesn’t promote communism, it just examines the role of class and economics in our world and literature. You wish for the AP Lang course to teach a “free market lense”, but what exactly would that entail? Wouldn’t a “free market lense” just examine the same content that a Marxist lense does? The Marxist lense doesn’t imply a certain outcome. You can examine a text through a Marxist lense without promoting communism.
I believe it is important to use the Marxist lense. I believe all large institutions, public or private, will lose their ethics in the interest of power, and I believe these institutions should be held accountable by the people they serve. If we want to preserve our democratic nation, we should preserve the right to think freely. Are you willing to trust that our social and economic order is already perfect and that you have nothing to gain by examining it? If we demonize the criticism of our social and economic order, are we not taking away the ideological freedom of our people in our effort to preserve it? Are you willing to lose some of your freedom, just to avoid touching the word “Marxist”?
— Anonymous (2)