08w19:3 Teacher vs Student

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Dartmouth’s ‘Hostile’ Environment | Joseph Rago
“The latest spectacle is an Ivy League professor threatening to sue her students because, she claims, their ‘anti-intellectualism’ violated her civil rights. Priya Venkatesan taught English at Dartmouth College. She maintains that some of her students were so unreceptive of “French narrative theory” that it amounted to a hostile working environment. She is also readying lawsuits against her superiors, who she says papered over the harassment, as well as a confessional expose, which she promises will ‘name names.’ […] Ms. Venkatesan’s scholarly specialty is ‘science studies,’ which, as she wrote in a journal article last year, ‘teaches that scientific knowledge has suspect access to truth.’ She continues: ‘Scientific facts do not correspond to a natural reality but conform to a social construct.’ The agenda of Ms. Venkatesan’s seminar, then, was to ‘problematize’ technology and the life sciences. Students told me that most of the ‘problems’ owed to her impenetrable lectures and various eruptions when students indicated skepticism of literary theory. She counters that such skepticism was ‘intolerant of ideas’ and ‘questioned my knowledge in very inappropriate ways.’ Ms. Venkatesan, who is of South Asian descent, also alleges that critics were motivated by racism, though it is unclear why.”

Socrates in the classroom develops students’ thinking and changes the distribution of power
“When students have the opportunity to participate in “Socratic seminars” on a regular basis, a different classroom culture evolves. The students collaborate more and more voices are heard. The students develop their thinking skills in a cooperative and investigative atmosphere. This is shown in a new dissertation in Pedagogy by Ann S Pihlgren at the Stockholm University in Sweden. The Socratic dialogue is a particular way of developing children’s, as well as adults’, thinking skills through cooperative dialogue where significant human ideas and values are discussed. By participating in Socratic seminars regularly every other week, preschool children and older students develop their thinking skills. The seminars address literature and art work, with questions such as these: is Pippi Longstocking is a good friend, is Jack is stupid or smart when he sells his mother’s cow for some beans or are we born good or evil. In the beginning the students have difficulty expressing their thoughts, but with time their ability to express themselves and to examine ideas critically and logically develops.”

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