ERIC Number: EJ781477
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007
Reference Count: 0
The Fear Factor
Miller, Richard E.
Academe, v93 n6 p33-37 Nov-Dec 2007
Today's major problems all share the same outsized modifier: the global economy; global warming; global terror. As the Internet and the marketplace continue to commingle peoples, desires, conflicts, and opportunities, the frenetic pace of change accelerates, dragging in its wake an ever-increasing sense of impending doom. The markets will collapse. The damage to the environment is irreversible. In the rush to know the end of the story in everything from the War on Terror to the meaning of one's life to the nation's role in the global future, something crucial has been missed. Indeed, every time everyone relates their movement through time as a story, whether that story casts the main characters as "evildoers" or liberators, they ensure that the very essence of reality is hidden from view. The future is unknown; it is not out there waiting to happen or to be revealed or to be fulfilled; it is created by ones' actions in the current moment. Thus, in this article, the author states that as an alternative to pre-emptive retaliation, which claims to know in advance what the future holds, those of them in the teaching professions have the option of committing themselves to providing their students and colleagues with proactive training in the arts of remaining calm in times of calamitous change. This doesn't mean making sure everyone knows what to do when the gunman is at the door; that's a question for the folks in emergency-response training. Their job is to establish an environment that promotes reflection and to provide their students with multiple opportunities to experience mental acts that take them to the edge of the unknown. That is, before they have their students argue for or against a given position, they need to teach them the finer arts of deliberation, speculation, and meditation. The function of the humanities is to provide such instruction. Those who work in the humanities can do a much better job of fulfilling this role by committing themselves to showing their students that there are ways to respond to the unknown other than lashing out in frustration. To counter the instinctive tendency to react to the unknown with pre-emptive judgments about others, they can illustrate the challenges and the opportunities that come from living in a multi-perspectival world. If they are to realize this goal, they will have to set aside the profession's obsession with critique and devote themselves, instead, to providing students with concrete opportunities to engage in the creative work of generating local, temporary solutions in an imperfect world.
Descriptors: Student Attitudes, Global Approach, Climate, Humanities, Social Change, Fear, Terrorism, Environment, Teacher Role, Educational Environment, Thinking Skills, Responses, Cultural Pluralism
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
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