Relative Afternoons: part I

Discussion in 'Writing' started by JoRingo, Dec 12, 2003.

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    JoRingo
    Int. Pol. Sci.
    MWF 12pm
    December 12, ‘03


    Relative Afternoons (part I)


    I’ve definitely never had a teacher like him. Professor Randall Txxxxxx, or “Radical Randy” as he is known to our class, is radical in many ways. As I complete a semester in his Political Science class and prepare for the next semester in his Public Administration class, I can honestly say that I haven’t a clue where this man is coming from. He’s good natured enough to get a good laugh out of that, and I’m pretty sure he’s been more than a little puzzled about me as well.
    As a professor he is definitely entertaining, friendly, and never once confrontational. He always allowed for our endless questions and comments. He’s a natural communicator and is very likeable and personable. I enjoyed the loose atmosphere of his class, but I have to say that his inability to focus his lectures leaves him distracted and drowning in digressions. He is often very unorganized and unprepared for class, but I did appreciate his “old school” way of approaching his lessons. He hand writes all of his notes and never uses a computer. He’s what I would imagine when I think of a teacher from the 1930’s-‘50’s. He must be an avid reader and he’s very intelligent. That’s ironic considering that he told our class there’s no such thing as intelligence. He is intelligent, there’s not doubt about that, but his subjective and relativist look at life prevents him from making solid, reasoned judgments on a consistent basis.
    He nearly changed my mind about a couple of things; and that’s not easy. I remember a conversation about the Electoral College. I pointed out that it requires candidates to appeal to every state, but he countered it with how unnecessary some candidates must feel it is to appeal to a state that already strongly supports their party. He asked, “Why would George W. Bush come to Indiana?” That’s a good question because Bush can pretty well count on winning the state. I also liked his argument that the Electoral College gives individuals in states that have lower populations more political pull than individuals in more populated states. I had never considered that.
    When some of the students discussed means of revolution to change the government, he rightly pointed out that the means for change are set forth in the Constitution; only requiring our participation in the legislative process. He’s always big on participation and self representation. He is a constant champion of every individual’s absolute autonomy and he repeated countless times that each person has an equal and infinite worth. There were a number of times I thought he explained himself very well, and no one could doubt that the man knows the subject of government and science of political thought. Still I have to say that more often than not I found his philosophical and theoretical arguments both confusing and frustrating.
    On the subject of progress and the evolution of man’s societies, which I accept as evident, he refused to acknowledge that any one civilization can accurately be described as more “progressive” or “evolved” than any other. He went as far as to say, “The idea that there’s a progression of the human race; I don’t believe that we can identify that.” His focus on man’s infinite individual worth as a human being has him opposed to recognizing accomplishment and “progress” as a gauge of societies. I tend to look at substantive and demonstrable facts science and technology that set apart and make clear the progressive nature of man’s mind. I think he may believe that if he recognizes progress by one culture then he is, at the same time, recognizing another culture’s lack of progress.
    Continuing on that same subject, but with a slightly different lesson, he brought up the invention of dynamite. He said, “It was used to blast through tunnels, and mountains, and lay railroad” But then he pointed out that it’s also used to blow human bodies into pieces. His point was to demonstrate that its “goodness” is not absolute and is determined by its use. That’s obviously the case with knives, hammers, and razorblades too, but is there really any question that knives, hammers and razorblades are evidence of progress? I don’t think so. Useful tools that are created can be misused just as a person’s freedom can be misused. I can drive a car in a useful manner, but that car can be used to do a great amount of damage. Does that leave a legitimate question as to the overall “good” of a car, or whether cars are evidence of progress?
    His lectures were enlightening and often involved subjects that were presented to us as material we may not have been exposed to. Often times that was true. When we discussed the European settlement of the North American continent he was clear about not going along with the traditional and glowing recount of events. He was more focused on the innocent blood of an unnamed Indian boy that was shot down for the sport of it, the slave trade, and the mass murder and deception that were involved in the conquering of new lands. I have to appreciate the truth in those lessons, but when it comes to the birth of this great nation I tend to have the view that “the ends” do not justify “the means” but “the means” should not cause one to lack appreciation for “the ends”.
    I would agree that students should learn from any and all sides of the truth, and that it would not be healthy to bang the drum of ethnocentrism and nationalism everyday is a classroom. I just wish there hadn’t been so much of the negative side of America presented, or at least I would have liked to have seen a balance.
    When the professor spoke of the vast number of immigrants from all over the world that have flooded American shores through the decades he referred to them as “exploited and taken advantage of” rather than choosing to point out the freedoms they were enjoying for the first time in their lives. He showed the class pictures of the horror that resulted from the allied bombings of Germany, but I had to provoke from him some equivalent photos of London. What about a lesson on the events that ended the Cold War and brought about the end of The Soviet Union? I don’t want to conclude that this would be too “pro-American” for his class, but when I asked if America was superior to Soviet Russia two students immediately answered no. There were always at least a few of my fellow students that protested whenever I defended America. In a political science course I would have thought that America would be held up as an example of man’s greatest achievement. Something tells me if I were taking the class in some other countries my odds would have been better. I wouldn’t expect my professor to praise America in every one of his lessons, but it would have been nice every once in a while. By teaching about the historical underbelly of this “shining city on a hill” he is fulfilling his duty as a teacher. That duty should also include explaining why it is that shining city. -JoRingo
     

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