Monday, April 15, 2013
deprives students of a deep understanding of how it is that people can actually hold those views, and still go to church and sleep well at night -- to understand themselves to be doing the right thing. Besides making students shallower people where it comes to understanding history and political and social thought, it make them shallower in the understanding of themselves: only by seeing how odious and unjust ideas issue from sophisticated and powerful logics (typically in conjunction with intense emotions), can they begin to feel the necessity of continually examining themselves, asking how in their own time and place they might be following similar logics and scripts, both time-tested and new. Learning how others think –- including badly -- is a critical part of learning to think effectively themselves.
When I teach our Foundations of Justice course, I ask students to argue both sides of the abortion issue -- not because I want them to conclude that moral truth is in the eye of the beholder, but because I believe that they will be better advocates when they have put themselves in the shoes of those who oppose their views. Now assigning to high schoolers a proposition that demonizes a religious minority is a much different notion than a case law-driven exercise in advocacy for law students, and so I agree with those who question the high school teacher's prudence in selecting that particular topic, but I'm leery of any emerging tendency to equate categorically the assigned content with the pedagogical objective.