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Reflections of an Activist Teacher

by Charles Derber - February 14, 2005

The place of values and objectivity in college teaching is a vital and increasingly polarized national issue. The “positivist” tradition suggests teachers must be objective and are morally obliged not to become preachers, ideologues, or political activists in the classroom. The “normative” tradition suggests teaching is inevitably value-laden, and that in an increasingly unjust and violent world, teachers have an obligation to help students connect knowledge with action. I have long been in the second camp, but I depart radically from the view that professors should preach or indoctrinate. The best way to practice normative teaching is to recognize that students are most likely to act with enduring commitment in the world when they decide for themselves whether and how to translate critical thought into activism.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 14, 2005
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11751, Date Accessed: 8/4/2021 2:36:57 PM

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About the Author
  • Charles Derber
    Boston College
    E-mail Author
    CHARLES DERBER thinks of himself as a writer who studies the "big picture" of American culture and global capitalism. His recent books focus on globalization, terrorism and the power of multinational corporations. He has also written extensively on the crisis of individualism that defines American life, showing how our problems of community are organically tied to economic and political forces. His latest book, People Before Profit, is a comprehensive analysis of the ways in which multinational corporations are shifting power from elected governments to unelected business executives, aided by the US political and military establishment but challenged by a growing peace and global justice movement.
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