The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

willful ignorance?

I was somewhat shocked today at the enormous ignorance of an average group of our freshmen. I was sitting in on one of my instructor's classes, just an ordinary FYC class, and the reading was a definitional argument about whether captured terrorists should be treated as POWs. Pretty standard stuff, for the most part, and it was a good essay for what it did. The instructor led the students in a discussion of the form of the argument--does it propose a credible definition of POW, does it lay out criteria for the definition, does it support those criteria with examples and respectable sources, etc. The instructor was trying to get them to wrestle with the complication of whether or not, if the terrorist is NOT a POW, we can torture for ticking-bomb information, but he got nowhere. They just couldn't engage because they just had no idea what he was talking about. They stared blankly and unresponsively at the following questions:

What is the Taliban?
Why are we concerned with the treatment of prisoners?
What country did we attack before Iraq?
What has happened recently about prisoner abuse?
What is Guantanamo Bay?
What is Abu Ghraib?
Has the question of war prisoners been important recently? How?

No comprehension, and no real interest. This is why, according to a Dec. 2003 Gallup poll, 53% of people thought that Saddam Hussein attacked us on 9/11/01. It's amazing that this group of kids, many of whom certainly have friends and family members serving in Iraq, know little and appear to care even less about what has been going on over there.


  • At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think

  • At 5:59 PM, Anonymous L said…

    They're the perfect fit for a Dubya administration - [Don't] question authority. I did see a lot of this when I was teaching, but it was balanced out, I think/hope, by the intelligent, aware students. Getting a clump or even an entire class of these types is pretty scary, though. The readers I used all had articles about double speak or euphemisms - "collateral damage" - so I'd use that as an entry-point to more political discussions. People blame technology for students' lack of savvy regarding current events and I suppose that's a contributing factor, but...I don't know. The water supply is getting worse...


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