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Tom Heehler

"Students detect that their teachers find it very hard to objectively mark an essay defending the war in Iraq on its merits..."

I would very much enjoy hearing about these "war merits" you speak of.

Tom Heehler

Stephen Digby

"The teaching evaluations for courses in my university are made public" Great Idea ! Are they online ? Where ?

I don't think that "Biblical fundamentalism" "dismisses the need for interpretation altogether". It is merely an extremely dogmatic defence of a particular interpretation. Indeed, a comparatively mild case of the same intellectual disease that dominates the overwhelming majority of states that have a significant proportion of Muslim adherents.

Strongly agree with the tendency of youth to "(crunch) historical narrative into neatly packaged morsels" rather than expect to handle complex physical and moral causation with their inevitable imperfect solutions.
As a teacher, I would suggest some of the blame for this rests with the over representation of committed left wing among the teaching work force. Many of my colleagues are motivated by political certainties that they have developed over decades. They are impatient to get students to come to very specific conclusions about such complex issues as world poverty, acceptance of diversity of behaviour, morality etc. Who wants to end a 3 week unit, with no conclusions except that the issue needs more study ! Students detect that their teachers find it very hard to objectively mark an essay defending the war in Iraq on its merits, or a presentation arguing that pollution is more a by-product of the planetary plague of humans rather than over consumption by the greedy.

Another factor encouraging this “rush to judgement” mentality is the educational fad of “relevance” which has plagued curriculum development over the last few decades. There is no awareness of absurdity when the Grade 2 teacher introduces the topic of “global warming” as the project focus for the next few weeks. In later years, students are reluctant to revisit this issue as they have already “done” it. Teenagers get annoyed when older people don’t just get of their butts and do the obvious to ‘solve” these issues. Complexity is interpreted as obfuscation.

“Enlightenment persuasions” such as individual liberty, certainly do dominate the high ground. But to say that Iraq is a disaster in its failure to “(dissolve) identities produced by long histories”, we must also examine the lens that this view reveals. The chips in the “Great Game” in Iraq have been relatively few US lives and a large amount of money. But what if we also strip back the prejudice that overvalues the most overabundant and renewable resource on the planet – humans, and recognise that a political debt from an oil rich may repay, over a short period, the investment made in bringing it to power ?

It is when any argument is allowed on its merit that culture and philosophy are recognised as the essential context for understanding. It is when dogma, whether religious or political, shuts off debate that the humanities become merely decorative.

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