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Posts Tagged ‘authority’

What would Thucydides think of the current debate about the banning of the burkini in various French coastal resorts in the name of secularism? On the one hand, there is his notorious scepticism about religion and its manifestations, which, coupled with his equally notorious conservatism and indifference towards women, might have inclined him to side with those who see the costume as a symbol of intolerance and ignorance. On the other hand, there are the words he puts into the mouth of Pericles in praise of Athens as a liberal state where people’s private lives and behaviour are their own business so long as they obey the law, coupled with his keen ear for the hypocrisy of politicians and the lamentable tendency for society to fragment into factionalism and mutual intolerance.** (more…)

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There’s a very interesting article up on Eidolon* by Lisl Walsh called Giving It Up in the Classroom, about navigating questions of authority in teaching classics: the authority of existing interpretations and scholarly consensus that manifestly needs to be analysed and criticised (indeed, this is our core task in teaching students, even if they think our job is to convey a fixed body of essential information and then test them on their ability to regurgitate it), and the authority of the teacher. The crux of the problem that Walsh addresses is the relationship between the two: the risk that, in developing a critique of the former and emphasising the openness and ambiguity of historical and literary interpretation, the teacher undermines her own authority, with adverse consequences for student motivation and learning, and thereby for course evaluations, career prospects etc. (more…)

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