Why deal with the “hard stuff” in class?

Or, the danger of sterilizing education (Reblogged from UMinn Techniques in Teaching and Learning)

 

“So, what did you learn?”

I asked this recently of a former student become a friend as we were sitting together in my office. She was catching me up on her previous semester, specifically an interesting class on the history of science.

“You know, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton… How science changed through all of those things.”

“Sounds interesting. Did you learn about eugenics?” I ask.

This question has been present on my mind as soon as she started talking about the course. Maybe it was growing up Jewish that made me particularly attentive to this question, or maybe it was my education in ethics. Either way, it felt like an important thing to learn about in a course purportedly training our future scientists about their historical roots.

“No, what’s that?”

“The scientific movement that provided the ammunition for Hitler’s attempted extermination of the Jews and the forced sterilization of mentally ill people in the United States and indigenous people in Australia.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Did you learn about IQ? How it was used to justify racism?”

“No…”

Social Darwinism?”

“No… We probably should have learned these things, huh?”

Yeah. Probably.Continue Reading Why deal with the “hard stuff” in class?