October 22, 2008

Opinions Based on Reason and Evidence Must be Shared

What do you think a teacher should do when confronted by a controversial issue? There are those who say that we have to be objective and not "impose our own bias" on the students. But, I think such an approach misses the point of education.

We're paid to have a professional opinion. We've spent lots of time & energy thinking, researching, formulating theories and views. Yes, we don't always agree--and that's good. But, we do exchange our ideas in the currency of reason. An intellectually honest person has to accept the evidence and the rhyme of reason.

There are several issues that divide our society, namely on matters of politics and religion, and, in the US, science! Take the latter, for example. There's a consensus in the scientific community on most important subjects, like evolution--one of the strongest scientific theories we've got. Should we, as educator, shy away from offering an opinion? The earth is not a few thousand years old as many Americans (and sadly several leaders) believe. Should we say, "well, there are two sides to this story"?!!!

Personally I think we've given too much respect to views and people who don't deserve any. There's widespread ignorance, so by often avoiding controversy or challenging false ideas we allow ignorance to persist. The academia should be a place for free discussion and learning. Often you learn by revising, amending, and accepting the reasonable. Some of our great successes as a human species came because some brave persons challenged the status quo and the "wisdom" of the "tried & true."

Being objective doesn't mean we can't have a strong opinion or that we shouldn't express it for the fear of offending others. The earth isn't flat; it's old and wasn't created in 7 days. This is a scientific fact and until someone with a better argument and evidence to back it up comes along, this view is a fact!

October 06, 2008

Greg Julian, Professor of Political Science, Takes a Shot at NYS Senate

Reprinted from PAW PRINT (9/24/08), Pace University, NY

I think it's a great idea that people who have a connection to reality run for public office. We definitely need more of those to represent ordinary Americans. The argument, the more experience a person has the better, is a valid one, except when such experience removes said person from reality. Being in power for a very long time can have this effect. It does take a great effort & courage to go against the stream, the status quo.After all, even dead fish go with the flow. But, going against the flow when necessary should be a valiant and worthwhile effort. I believe only very few individuals in power have actually been an inspiration to the rest of us, and have been on the side of the people.
I heard Gov. Palin saying, "It's time to put the government on the side of the people." The Republicans keep saying, but I don't think they have in mind what I think. That the government on the side of the people is by definition an activist government. It's a government that empowers & protects.

But, it's up to us to give advice & consent, provided, of course, we have the ability to do so by being informed and interested citizens. No matter what you think about politics, those in power and those who want some of it, come to us every so often to ask for our advice and consent. Are we up to the task? If so, why do we get so many incompetent and corrupt people in power?

Technology can be a means to openness, information, grass-roots organizing, and transparency. The bottom line is that, especially after the 8 years of this outgoing administration, there's any margin for being lax and indifferent, so we cannot afford to act like tourists in our own country.

Greg Julian seems a new breed of a citizen-activist that could bring be a much-needed changed to Albany. For a professor--whom I happen to know very well--is not the stuffy, stuckup kind. He has a great connection & rapport with the students. This shows not only communications skills, but the proper attitude of caring and of the need to engage the younger generation.

Here's the article in the Paw Print:

Featured Reporter

As a Political Science professor, Gregory Julian knows all about election races, but this year he is gaining first hand experience as he runs for a seat in the New York State Senate.Julian, who has been teaching since 1971 and teaching at Pace for 19 years, says he was first inspired to run for state senate by his University101class last fall where a few of his students where helping with Barak Obama's campaign. He "wondered why the young people want[ed] to be involved in a political campaign," he said. Although moved, that's not where his decision to run for office was made.

Last winter break while in Florida, Julian attended a Martin Luther King parade. A group of people were walking with a large cut-out of Obama at the front of the procession, and Julian and his wife joined the group and continued marching. "I realized the feeling I had while walking in the parade was the same feeling I had when I cut class to hear John F. Kennedy speak in my home town," he said."Racism has no part in the Democratic Party or democratic process and there is some reluctance [to support Obama] because of race," says Julian. "Racism needs to be overcome."

He said his main priority, if elected, would be to "create a sustainable, developing society."In the state of NY, for the past 70 years the state senate has been majority Republican with 31 Republicans and 30 Democrats in office. Despite the long history in favor of the GOP, Julian expressed confidence that Democrats would win the majority in this election."The polls are in favor of the democratic party taking senate. We're going to break the grid lock,"he said.Not only did Pace students influence his decision to run, but Julian said they also influenced some of his view points. "When I came to Pace, I realized that the Pace student population is the most unique population because almost all students had to work to get through school," he said. This affected the way Julian looked at youth development.

In his classes, Julian tries to make each assignment a work project. One year Julian had his students write an environmental bill and lobby it. It was passed and signed by the governor, and then the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared the Hudson River a no-discharge river. Julian said that working with Pace students, "confirms the belief that working middle class people deserve the opportunity to gain success." If Julian is elected to state senate, the job is not full time. Julian said he is "hoping to make the political career complement my teaching."

For more information, visit his campaign website, http://www.julian08.com/