Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘Free Speech’

What makes good “academic” or “pedagogic” discussion?

In Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 03/11/2012 at 10:45 am
As some of you will have noticed, I have been MIA in the blogosphere for a fair bit – been on me travels, seeing my big, little girl in big, bad London and buying stuff I really do not need!
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A change is as good as a rest – and I wanted to do both…
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I was just about to start banging away on the keyboard, when my old friend Laurence dropped me a line. He had noticed that I ain’t done a lot of blogging of late…and that he had not much guest-blogging either.
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Laurence is an academic / educator here in in Ankara and is also the editor of the Journal of American Studies of Turkey (despite his very British accent) – he’s also the chappy that I am co-authoring my new book with…
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I’ll let him take over…
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I’ve been asking myself this question a lot recently, after having read posts on a listserv (which shall remain nameless) focusing on issues of academic freedom, bullying, and the right to express one’s opinion. Sometimes the posts have become quite libellous.
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So what is “academic” freedom anyway? The right to express oneself is an important one, and should be developed in every educational sphere, whether in school, university or elsewhere. Group work is an ideal method of doing this, allowing participants to “uncover” new truths, as well as develop their own approaches to LEARNing.
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However freedom of expression must be tempered by a concern for other people.  Respect for feelings, emotions, and beliefs is as important as developing one’s own perspective.  LEARNing depends on being able to LISTEN as well as comment.  If we don’t believe this, then we might as well give up the idea of discussion.
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Just listen to THE JEREMY KYLE SHOW someday, or any one of those so-called ‘chat’ shows where people come and talk about their (failed) marriages, and just see how the guests shout at one another without giving anyone the chance to speak.  In that kind of atmosphere, no one LEARNs anything, either about themselves, or those around them.
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The business leader John Bryan once remarked: “You have to be willing sometimes to listen to some remarkable bad opinions.  Because if you say to someone, ‘That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard, get out of here!– then you’ll never get anything out of that person again, and you might as well have a puppet on a string or a robot.
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Make no mistake: I believe in the importance of free speech.  At a northern university in England, an educator has been suspended with no right of reply, either in spoken or written form.  He should be given the right to put his point of view.  But there’s a world of difference between expressing one’s viewpoint and ranting for the sake of it.
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The same goes for blog posts: people will listen to you if you listen to them.  You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.  Learning depends to a large extent on asking questions; but to ask questions, you have to be engaged in what you’re reading or listening to.  Ranting turns people off, rather than engaging them; as a result, no one wants to ask questions.
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So next time you feel like ranting against someone – in public, in print, or online, just bear the following idea in mind: “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood.  The best way to understand people is to listen to them.
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That is what academic “freedom” truly represents – the power to be able to understand.
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Laurence Raw,
Baskent University – Department of English
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
www.radiodramareviews.com
@laurenceraw (Twitter)
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