Is the classroom a level playing field for debate?

I found multiple points worth consideration in this article from R. C. Sproul on being prepared for the classroom in potentially “hostile” environments. He writes, “I try to communicate to them [students] that, as valiant as their attempts [at debate] may be, they are in most cases exercises in futility because the professor controls the discussion. The classroom is not a place where open debate is usually encouraged.”

This is both a sobering and a convicting point.

It is sobering because our fond imaginations of truth gaining the upper hand even in a hostile classroom environments which are designed to undermine it are mostly naive pipe dreams.  I know as a teacher that I am most often working from depth of study and experience that places me at an unfair advantage in debate. It is not a level playing field.

Because I am a teacher, however, the point is also convicting on account of the responsibility.  Ultimately, this responsibility is given for the purpose of encouraging others to grow in their knowledge of God. Even when the truth we are pursuing is the God’s Truth, there are virtuous and vicious methods for advancing that truth. I think vicious methods rarely result in the growth that we seek.

From the student’s perspective, Sproul encourages both parents and students to Be Prepared. Be prepared by knowing the convictions of the institutions and the faculty; and discerning when those convictions are in conflict with our own–even when those institutions might make Christian claims.