Sunday, Oct. 7, the United States began a bombing campaign against Afghanistan. Thousands of miles away in Portland, Ore., PSU students are bursting with questions.
On Tuesday, Professor Gary Scott, a Political Science professor at Portland State, fielded an endless stream of questions from his World Politics class. He spent years in foreign intelligence, and his students spent the better part of class on Tuesday plying him for information. Questions varied from “How long will the bombings last,” to “Why did it take so long for the bombings to begin?”
Professors such as Scott have become a valuable source of information for PSU students, not only for their abilities to teach the course materials, but also to help explain and interpret current events.
With constant conflicting or confusing reports being leaked by the media, many students are turning to the PSU faculty to clarify the issues facing our world today. Portland State offers many classes that deal directly or indirectly with our current conflict with Afghanistan, and the Professors have been a positive source of information for students.
Michael Manca is a senior majoring in International Business, and often uses his teachers to clarify current events questions he may have. “We have talked about the conflict in Afghanistan in most of my classes,” Manca said. “It’s great because I have had very solid teachers, each with a different area of expertise, so I can ask specific questions to teachers as it might relate to their background or field of study.” Manca went on to single out two professors that he most often seeks out when he has specific questions on current events.
“Professor Fuller is teaching a class on Nietzsche; he talks about how Nietzsche valued the idea of everybody having different opinions. But his general knowledge of history and political theory is an extremely valuable resource for me. Professor Damis is a political science teacher who has explained the economic cause and effect that is taking place in regards to Afghanistan.”
Back in Professor Scott’s class, the questions keep coming: “Has there been a declaration of war? Why are we bombing if there is no declaration of war?”
Scott continues to field question after question, putting his lesson plan on hold for the day until all concerns have been answered: “Is Saddam Hussein involved?” another woman wants to know.
Interestingly enough, the best answer and advice given by Professor Scott throughout the class may have been an honest “I don’t know.”
Scott goes on to explain that there is too much information that we, the public, don’t have, too much information that’s classified, too much information we may never see, to make an informed opinion about the conflict with Afghanistan. He refers to his years in foreign intelligence as his source for understanding the amount of information that never reaches the American public.
“Foreign policy is very complex for most democracies,” Scott explained to his class. “For a country such as the United States, it is virtually impossible for the average person to be on top of everything. Even Congress is often in the dark, because they are getting the information that the Executive Branch wants them to have.”
“War and democracy are not very compatible,” Scott continued. He explained that democracy is government by the people, but our international policy is so complex, ultimately the people in charge need to make decisions based on how they perceive events, and we need to hope they are making the right decisions. This can result in a situation in which if you believe the government, you are gullible, and if you don’t you are a cynic.
The faculty at Portland State has become a resource for students, especially now when the questions seem greater than ever. After 45 minutes of questions, Professor Scott finally gets back to his lesson plan. He is just beginning his lecture for the day, but his job as a teacher has been going on all period.