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Professors find ways to discuss war

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by Amanda Stutevoss
Editorial Director

In the midst of a war, it is hard to focus on anything else, especially for students who are directly affected by the war in Iraq.

Although the University of La Verne has students and alumni deployed overseas and other loved ones fighting in this war, some faculty wonder if the reality of war is being ignored.

War is a current event that should be discussed, according to some professors.

Every academic subject, in one way or another, can integrate the surreal and intense conditions of wartime into a lecture or discussion, these professors say.

And it is these types of discussions that involve students and require them to think critically about a crucial situation.

Such discussion may also provide emotional support to students for whom the war has hit close to home.

Visiting Professor of Theater Arts Steve Kent said he delves into these sensitive issues in class.

“The classroom is a forum for current events; it is a place where students can form their own opinions,” Kent said.

Kent said that in an institution that is supposed to be teaching people to think, exploring these issues is necessary in the development of strong-minded individuals.

“To not touch subjects that touch everyone’s life means that we are not investigating these subjects,” he said.

It is important to remember that a classroom is not a forum for a professor’s opinions; however, it is also important for professors to attempt to address these issues in an unbiased and open environment, Kent said.

He added that he is only candid with his personal opinions about war when he is asked to be. He does not want to alienate any of his students.

“I want honest students; therefore I must be honest with them,” he said.

One may wonder why the issue of war would be so important to a theater professor.

“I teach theater. Theater is people exploring the issues of their own lives.”

There is no pretending. One cannot live life ignoring the world around them.

Or can they?

Although ignorance may be bliss, as the saying goes, in today’s world ignorance is dangerous, some here believe.

However, some teachers find that the discussion of the war in their classrooms is too personal.

Professor of Zoology Dan Merritt finds that talking about the war in his classes is a sensitive issue.

“One of the ways I address this kind of issue is that I try to emphasize the root cause of the problem rather than symptoms,” he said. “I encourage people to think in terms of the larger context in which things take place.”

This type of thinking is important to encourage, especially in a learning environment, Merritt believes.

Encouraging students to explore the issue tends to promote independent thinking.

Although Merritt said he does feel the war is an important issue for students, he finds that addressing this issue may sometimes be harder than ignoring it.

“I probably have held back and not talked about it as much, partly because I have been so active in it,” said Merritt, who has been involved recently in many anti-war protests.

“For me, I act out of conscience and reason, and my actions have been from my heart and my head. This issue is very personal for me,” Merritt said.

But while the war is so personal to many students and faculty members here, some believe there is no place for such discussion in the classroom.

In fact many ULV professors believe the greatest support they can offer students during such a confusing time is the stability of a regular course curriculum.

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