Mr. Woessner teaches at Penn State Harrisburg, and Ms. Kelly-Woessner at Elizabethtown College. After the 9/11 attacks, "the classroom environment became very politicized," she says. In discussions about war and antiterrorism measures, "you saw students really taking sides ... and you had to wonder to what extent your views on that were influencing your class."
She polled her students to make sure it wasn't obvious whether she was a Republican or Democrat (she's the latter). Her husband also took care to present various sides in class, but outside class, he dropped a policy of keeping his conservative views quiet. With so much liberal opposition being voiced on campus in advance of the Iraq war, he says, "being the political minority, I had a certain responsibility to be visible."
To get beyond their own experience, they surveyed the students of 30 professors around the United States. In nearly 1,400 responses, students rated their professors and themselves on ideological and partisan scales. They also addressed how much they liked the course and the professor and how much they learned.
"This is probably empirically one of the best studies I've seen on this topic," says John Ishiyama, editor in chief of the Journal of Political Science Education, which will be publishing the Woessners' most recent peer-reviewed article in September.