September 10, 2013
I’ve just stumbled across the course outline for a political science seminar to be taught this semester by Clifford Orwin at the University of Toronto (and as I was actually there last week, I really wish I’d known about it then so I could have asked him about it). The general heading is ‘Comparative Topics in Jewish and Non-Jewish Political Thought’, the course will compare Herodotus and the Book of Esther, and the outline includes the following statement re teaching methods:
OUR CLASS MOTTO IS THAT OF THE OREGON TRAIL: THE COWARDS NEVER STARTED, THE WEAK DIED ALONG THE WAY
Now, I’m certainly not arguing for a free-for-all, in which all teachers are given license to teach exactly as they like, to teach only high-level courses related to their research, and to make completely unreasonable demands in terms of workload. On the contrary, in a more differentiated system there would need to be a range of different kinds of course (in place of the current requirement that all final-year courses should be basically identical in terms of the demands they make on students), and I would point to my commitment to teaching lots of introductory survey and skills courses as evidence that I’m sensitive to the needs of students who don’t share my interests or who need extra support at particular stages of their studies.