Professors find a teachable moment
attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center provided teachers
throughout the University with a challenge and an opportunity
how to draw lessons from the devastation. University President
John T. Casteen III urged professors to take the time to discuss
current events on spiritual, emotional and ethical levels.
professor Phyllis Lefflers history and interpretation class
was meeting at the U.Va.
Art Museum. She told the students business as usual would
not be appropriate. The class had been planning to look at the
art of author John Dos Passos, who was alienated from capitalism
in the 1920s and 1930s and worked this out through literature
and art. She suggested the students take advantage of the quietness
of the museum to work out some of their own feelings.
has a sense that many students had no way of coping with the impact
of the attack. Some students havent grasped the magntitude
of events, she said. They can look at [the art] and
see what it says about western civilization and values.
Leffler was not the only one to turn to the arts. Casteen cited
poet John Donne in a letter to the University, and poems were
read at the U-Hall ceremony to mark the national day of prayer
artifacts achieve a kind of universality, Casteen said later
of art and literature. That is, sometimes they become unifying
and true statements that we can all own. I doubt that this experience
of the universal truth belongs only to people in times of trauma
or only to members of academic communities.
in addressing the University community Sept. 14 at University
Hall, said the response of the University community has been a
vote for life.
has been the message of the vigils, the teach-ins, the quiet discussions
in classrooms, and offices, and dormitories, and libraries, and
laboratories and hospital corridors throughout these days when
we have together felt the agony of those lives now extinguished
and their surviving families and colleagues and friends and neighbors,
teacher Angeline Lillard talked with students taking childhood
development about the attack, using it to talk about how children
cope with difficult circumstances.
said when people go through a tragedy, some bottle up their feelings
and others need to acknowledge them. She used her children as
an example, telling students that her nine-year-old daughter is
now saying she does not ever want to fly and is concerned that
an airplane will strike their house, while her seven-year-old
daughter is into problem-solving, coming up with ways to prevent
Childress, Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Religious
Studies, was holding a seminar on Social and Political
Thought on War. He opened the class with a moment of silence
and then had students look through the class materials, mostly
historical and theological texts, for insights into the attack.
Childress said the discussion of war seemed more real with the
images of devastation that came across the television.
sight of destruction can be so awesome, said Childress,
who added that the details of this attack will probably become
part of future classes.
and Middle Eastern Language professor Mohammed Sawaie, a Jordanian
who teaches Arabic, said his fourth-year Arabic class discussed
the attack and linked it to issues in the Middle East. He offered
an opportunity for his students in beginning Arabic, many of them
of Arabic and Muslim backgrounds, to discuss the situation, but
he said they declined.
had his advanced students speak in Arabic. They learned
new words, he said, noting that students were stunned
by the events of the day. They had a sober, rational discussion
that helped them understand.
said he has talked with students who felt like they were being
accused, such as a first-year Palestinian student who thought
all the people on the bus were looking at her when she boarded.
Sawaie said he tried to allay their fears and advise them not
to be over-sensitive to peoples reactions.