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Pedagogy 3.2 (2003) 149-150
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Letter to the Editors
Editors' Note: The Pedagogy editorial office received the following letter in response to the introduction "Teaching in a Time of War," which appeared in the spring 2002 issue. Production schedules have prevented us from running the letter before this issue. We encourage responses to any part of the journal and ask that all correspondence be sent to the editorial office.
18 August 2002
Dear Professors Holberg and Taylor:
In response to your introduction, "Teaching in a Time of War," I grant the seriousness of the questions you raise about the role of English teachers, but I want to register a strong protest against your use of the current government's formulation that we are at war.
Borough of Manhattan Community College is just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. We were shut down for three weeks while the college was used as a headquarters for police, firefighters, and other personnel working on the WTC site, and our satellite building closer to the site was so seriously damaged that it is unusable. Our seventeen thousand students are crammed into a structure originally intended for twelve thousand and now supplemented, inadequately, by metal trailers on the river side of our campus. Until recently, the rubble from the site was being lifted onto barges by a crane that, from our western windows, could be seen swinging surrealistically back and forth like the arm of a giant insect. Many of our students were traumatized by what they had experienced on the day of the attacks, including the sight of people jumping from WTC windows. When our school reopened, and for months afterward, the smell of destruction was in our nostrils, and the [End Page 149] smoke of the undoused underground fire was visible to us as we walked to and from campus.
I mention all this to make it clear that I am fully aware of what happened to the WTC and how it affected people. However, the notion that we are at war, which the Bush administration is reiterating along with mindless claims about "evil" men who have no motive except their hatred for our way of life, is being used in civically and politically dangerous ways: to transgress the Constitution, to divert attention from serious questions of foreign policy and economic development, and to prepare us for a real war with real deaths, an overseas police role for years to come, and expenditures that will prevent us from dealing with real social needs at home, like housing, health, and education.
In an editorial that celebrates the power of reflectiveness and the need for critical thinking, I am distressed to see the Bush rhetoric taken as a given.
Department of English
Borough of Manhattan Community College