Give peace a chance

April 6, 2006, midnight | By Shoshi Gurian-Sherman | 13 years, 10 months ago

There's been little peace in regards to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Peace Studies class lately. Two B-CC students, seniors Andrew Saraf and Avishek Panth, recently concluded that the class and its teacher, Colman McCarthy, were overtly biased, unleashing a wave of criticism directed at both themselves and Peace Studies. These allegations have provoked a passionate debate over teacher bias in classrooms.

It is doubtful that any action will be taken against McCarthy or his class - fortunate, since there would be little justification in dismantling it. While it is true that Peace Studies does have a distinct agenda, it is a benign one that leaves room for dissenting viewpoints.

The class is aimed at teaching practical applications for promoting peace, and its curriculum even encourages students to express their viewpoints. And since Peace Studies is an elective class, no one is forced to enroll, and students who do not want to be "subjected" to the bias of the class can simply stay away, as Panth and Saraf are apparently doing.

While being purely objective is impossible, treating all students and their opinions with respect is entirely feasible. It is also necessary for a productive learning environment regardless of what is being taught.

Teachers of Peace Studies realize this, and the class's curriculum calls for open discussion and consideration of all viewpoints.

"Peace Studies is a forum in which to discuss controversial issues, and I support anyone's right to express their opinion as long as
it's done in a respectful way," says Joann Malone, who teaches Peace Studies at Blair.

While students should never have beliefs forced on them, there is little chance of this happening in an environment everyone is encouraged to express their opinions. It is only when students feel afraid to do so that a problem truly exists.

There is a failsafe to prevent against intellectual intimidation built into Peace Studies: the teacher. "There are times in discussions when the minority opinion feels overwhelmed by the majority. That's when I step in," Malone says.

Dismantling a class that relies so heavily on discussion and student involvement discourages any controversial or political discussions in classrooms. Teachers can spark students' interest in relevant political issues, and removing such discussions would be an unfortunate and troubling loss.

Because, hopefully, engaging students is a goal everyone can agree is worth pursuing.

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Shoshi Gurian-Sherman. Shoshi Gurian-Sherman is a CAP junior and a junior staffer for Silver Chips. This is her first time working on a newspaper although she has always liked reading the Washington Post and loved her 10th grade Journalism class. She most enjoys writing feature stories and ... More »

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