I thought you might find it interesting to see a recent exchange
between my Carnegie colleagues about the recent tragic events in
the US and how folks in higher education are responding.
Thanks for these excellent thoughts. I have no doubt a lot of the students in our classes are looking for an open discussion about the events. Most engineering
classes here went on as normal yesterday and today.
I would like to encourage everyone to give some class time to this tragedy. I think our students deserve a forum for critically looking at this as it happened during
their college years. I suspect most Carnegie fellows are just the sort of teachers who can give students this opportunity, each in your own way, if you are comfortable
doing so. I in no way think you need to, but I am writing this because I was very uneasy doing so, and did not find a lot of local support among my peers advocating
class discussion. Richard's email this evening makes me want to say, to those who are inclined to do so, give your students the chance to debrief and talk about their
position. I had no idea what was going to happen, but it ended up being a tremendous experience talking to my students.
I spent the afternoon with my freshman engineering design students, discussing yesterdays events as a group, and even setting up a couple of debates they generated.
An example was "what were the responsibilities of the passengers if they knew what was about to happen?"
A few students declined my invitation to debate, which was fine, but they did stay and participate in the discussion. I set the discussion up asking people to throw out
ideas or things people might be thinking, we were not to judge any opinion or question. I was amazed with the maturity most of my students were able to engage in
this discussion, throw out idea and counter ideas with no judgement. I think the fact that we were all in agreement this event was wrong and horrible, gave us a
strong discussion base. I also gave them an opportunity to share personal stories related to the tragedy if they wished, quite a few did.
Just a couple of observations, if you are interested.
It was interesting that my freshman were very focused on "How did they get on the plane, how did they take control with a simple knife, etc... " I think they might not
be ready to look at the aftermath, but they very much wanted to analyze the cause and possible response. A few students said we need to "Nuke them", somewhat
jokingly, but as a group they had a hard time seeing how violence or "war" (which might involve more friends dying) could really solve the problem or make people
feel better... but what was the alternative.
We talked about it seeming like a movie, was this OK? How about the media role? The media are swamping the poor widow & children of the CO pilot, to the
dismay of the students. Some of my local students were in Littleton HS or near by when Eric and Darren gunned down the school. They have some interesting
thoughts on violence and the cause. However, no one would take the side that exposure to violence on TV and in movies was any problem. Nor could they
understand how Tom Clancy could be of concern because of a book.
They also concluded Presidents should not be allowed to take vacations.
We are organizing a blood drive in a few weeks. It was a relief for students to know they can help, in a few weeks. It helped ease their feelings that they had to do
something to help.
Thanks for letting me share! And thank you so much Richard, for your email.
At 02:42 PM 9/12/2001 -0700, Richard Gale wrote:
After spending the day talking with freshmen about yesterday's events, it
occured to me that, aside from those digging through the rubble in New
York, we may have the clearest jobs in the country - clearer, certainly
than our leaders.
So many of my friends have been asking themselves "what can I do" and
feeling helpless ... and hopeless. But for those of us fortunate enough to
be teachers, especially teachers committed to looking at the events of our
world critically and responsibly and actively, the next step is obvious,
although far from simple.
We are teaching and learning, talking with students and together trying to
ask hard questions, dig beneath the surface of the media blitz, unpack the
rhetoric, look beyond the saber-rattling, and see the human faces amidst
the wash of fear and anger and confusion.
In _Pedagogy of the Heart_ Paulo Freire writes "the struggle for hope is
permanent, and it becomes intensified when one realizes it is not a
We are cultivating hope through understanding, communication, and critical
engagement, and in the process we are helping our students to build a new
world. Clearly, despite the events of the 11th, I am still "a hoping
machine" ... and I suspect many of you are as well.
Keep up the good work.
Assistant Professor of Theatre and Interdisciplinary Arts
Hutchins School of Liberal Studies
Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Avenue
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Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed: http://www.unomaha.edu/~pto/
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Professor Vaneeta D'Andrea
Director, Educational Development Centre
London EC1V 0HB
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