Thursday, December 02, 2004

Bush, Iraq and the implications for the Modern Studies syllabus

Updated: bit went missing in original post, sorry...

I’m planning to do a piece on the implications of the Bush presidency in general and the Iraq war in particular for the Modern Studies syllabus and I would welcome any other teachers’ comments on this, which you could e-mail to me and I could shamelessly rip off. No, only joking – although you could remain anonymous if you wish. (Although, the readings from my site meter would suggest that most people visiting the site are not modies teachers, but never mind). I would be particularly interested to hear from those who teach areas of the syllabus that I don’t but which might be relevant.

Anyway, here’s some preliminary scribblings of my own:

UK PoliticsDecision-making in central government

Obviously a rich seam, which I won’t attempt to explore in any detail just now but I thought the information coming out of the Hutton and Butler enquiries provided particularly vivid and dramatic examples that refreshed an otherwise rather dry section of the course, namely the section on the civil service.

There’s also the example of the demonstration against the war, which I thought could scarcely be a better example of what I try and get across in the pressure groups section: my customary technique is to get a class to name any pressure group that they can think of. 100% of the time I get “cause” groups rather than “interest groups” and from here I go on to make the point that the dramatic demonstrations of groups Greenpeace and now the Stop the War Coalition are indicative of a lack of power and then go on to contrast them with those interest groups, such as the BMA and the CBI who don’t need to take to the streets for fairly obvious reasons.

Ethnic Minorities in the USA

I did a wee breakdown of some of the election stats, which you can find here. There’s also the appointment of Condeleeza Rice, which I mentioned here. I thought Florida – both in 2000 and in 2004 – was a very dramatic illustration of the importance of the Hispanic vote, which hitherto had tended to be dismissed as relatively unimportant. The interesting thing about the Hispanic vote, it seems to me, is that it’s importance has a lot to do with the fact that the parties have something to compete for, in contrast to the black vote, which is more solidly Democrat than ever.

There was a very interesting piece about the experience of Arab-Americans in the Guardian. Unfortunately, I ditched my paper copy, assuming that the article would be in the online version – only to discover that it wasn’t. It was about Detroit, which has a fairly large Arab community and not a few of them were Shias from Southern Iraq. Prior to the war, this section of the community was divided roughly in half over the proposed invasion. However, since then – what with the postwar difficulties and with some rather negative experiences at the wrong end of the Patriot Act - a majority of them now oppose Bush. I’d be grateful if anyone has any info. on this…

Conspiracy theories

I don’t know if you’ll agree with this but increasingly I’m finding that the propensity to believe these - most recently with the various 9/11 conspiracies and the (to me completely inexplicable) popularity of Michael Moore – is a barrier to learning that has to be overcome. Last year in particular, a majority of my class appeared to be adherents to a philosophy that perhaps could be best described as vulgar Marxism meets the X-files. I’m getting increasingly exasperated with students whose self-image is one of worldly cynicism but who in reality appear to be willing to believe literally anything. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has had similar experiences.

Ok, that’s all for now; I’ll do a proper piece in due course.

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