Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another Email to Global Issues Class on "Ishmael"

I had a few angry students attend class on Wednesday to review for a test. Most of the anger is focused on the book "Ishmael" again. Here is the email I sent them enititled: Some Hints.

I didn't have time to give you some helpful advice on taking the test on Friday. (Sorry about this) This is especially important for those of you who haven't taken these tests from me before. So keep the following in mind:

1. Whether you want to believe it or not, I really don't care what position you take on a given reading. What I do care about is:

2. That you understand the argument of the author fully and treat it fairly whether the author is Day, Westheimer, Kahne or Quinn.

For example, many of the "high-five" criticisms made of "Ishmael" this morning only showed me you hadn't read the book adequately since Quinn anticipates and answers those criticisms in Ishmael. Any critique you make of "Ishmael" must also take into account Quinn's answers as well. As a critical thinker, you cannot just dismiss "Ishmael" with knee-jerk responses that either distort his argument or selectively ignore pieces that don't fit into your pre-conceived ideas.

I think many of you have forgotten that I said I think "Ishmael" is a scary book. Why? Because I can't easily dismiss it and would like to at many points, just like some of you.

3. Try to avoid anecdotal evidence to support your argument. If you can't, admit that your evidence is anecdotal and leave it at that. So, for example, if you don't have systematic evidence that rich people have, lets' say, a good work ethic, and argue that they do, simply because one time you saw Donald Trump working in his garden, admit it! This is just an anecdote, a one time event, and you are building a case on that.

For those of you who want to read someone who criticizes other thinkers and does it by treating their ideas fully and fairly, read Aquinas' Summa Theologica. But remember, even Aquinas recognized he was finite.

Anyway, have fun studying,

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