A marathon teach-in held on April 2 continued the ongoing campus discussion of the war in Iraq.
The seven-hour event, which focused on the effect of history on modern society, was sponsored by the University’s History Department in conjunction with the American Historical Association.
The event was part of a nationwide teach-in and featured expert historians and University faculty members presenting on various historical topics relating to the war.
Other colleges across the country, including Stanford, New York University and Pennsylvania State, held similar forums to promote scholarly discussion about issues relating to the historical developments relating to the Iraqi war.
Presentations at Temple’s day-long teach-in focused on such issues as colonialism, wartime presidential leadership and United States’ mass media coverage of the war.
Temple history professor Arthur Schmidt spoke about the effects of colonialism and neo-colonialism.
Schmidt has been a part of several similar forums in the past and has stressed the importance of increasing understanding of events happening in the world.
“The main purpose of such forums is to raise questions, promote debate and get people to think,” he said.
“They also serve to provide a historical perspective, taking things from history and asking what they suggest about events of today.”
Richard Immerman, a history professor who spoke about the United Nations at the teach-in, shared a similar view.
“The aim of the presentations, along with the discussions that follow, is to provide historical background and context, raise questions and post arguments that challenge all in attendance to think critically and reach informed decisions,” he said.
Political science professor Daniel Chomsky, who spoke about the mass media’s role in covering the war, also believes in the significance of teach-ins.
“Citizens can passively absorb information from the mass media, but teach-ins allow us to actively participate in our own education. This is a way to create a truly informed public,” said Chomsky.
Participants in the teach-in said that they walked away with a new perspective.
Wilbert Roget, a French language professor who spoke of the historical roots behind the feelings that the French have towards the United States, said he learned a great deal from Chomsky’s presentation.
“I was just astounded at the tremendous power that money and influence can have on determining editorial policy of the big newspapers,” said Roget.
Approximately 100 people showed up to hear and discuss the lectures throughout the day, according to history professor Ralph Young, who praised the quality of the presentations and the discussion they sparked.
“The discussions explored so many of the nuances of the historical past. The primary thrust of the presentations and discussions was to understand the past for what it was and not how the present administration perceives it,” said Young.
In addition to helping orchestrate the all day event, Young also organizes a weekly teach-in every Friday afternoon dealing with a variety of issues.
Since the beginning of last semester, Young and members of his “Dissent in America” class have organized 21 teach-ins, and two more are planned before the end of the semester.
Evan Hoffman, a Dance major who has attended many antiwar demonstrations, recently presented at one of the weekly teach-ins.
Using many visual aids, including protest signs and newspaper clippings, Hoffman discussed his experiences while attending peace rallies and marches.
“These teach-ins are a fun way to keep up with what’s going on, and I think they are a really important way to communicate about issues,” said Hoffman.
Jessica White can be reached at email@example.com.