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A&S Course on the Iraq War Features Professors Who Were There

Posted by on Friday, July 23, 2010 in News.

The Spring 2010 College of Arts & Science magazine features a story titled “War in the Classroom” about a fall 2009 humanities course exploring the Iraq War.  The course was team-taught by Katherine Carroll, assistant professor of political science, and Michael Newton, professor of the practice of law at the Law School.  Carroll served in Iraq from 2008 to 2009 as an embedded civilian political scientist, and Newtown helped establish the legal tribunal that handled the trial of Saddam Hussein, an experience he described in his book Enemy of the State.  In addition to the first-hand experiences shared by their instructors, students benefited from hearing from a variety of guest speakers from military and legal areas.

The A&S article includes some great quotes from the instructors and students about the learning value of this kind of course.  Here’s one from instructor Michael Newton:

“In my opinion, this course is education in its highest form precisely because it allows students to bring their assumptions and their inferences and challenge them in light of experiential and empirical data that we have exposed them to,” Newton says. “This course tremendously broadens their understanding and experience.”

And here’s one from student Medora Brown, a senior French major:

“And the most important thing we’ve learned in this class is that nothing can be understood without knowledge of the context—an observer can’t comprehend the workings of the current Iraqi government without understanding the Iraqi Constitution; the constitution can’t be fully understood without knowing the societal divides, which, in turn, require at least a cursory knowledge of the history of Islam.”

Also, one from student Wyatt Sassman, a senior political science major:

“Before this class, I had literally no insight on the military’s experience in Iraq,” says Wyatt Sassman, a senior political science major. “All I had was the hearsay of friends and stories from the media, which can be rather misleading. While my political stance on the war has not changed, this newer, concrete source of information helped clarify any preconceptions I previously had and challenge any misplaced opinions.”

These student comments indicate that the course had a significant impact on their intellectual development.  Read more about this course (including a list of the course’s guest speakers) and Katherine Carroll’s experiences in Iraq on the A&S magazine site.

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