Letters to the editor

Disconnected logic

Tyler Hahn’s “The Parisian Intifada” op-ed (Nov. 10, pg 4) was a breath of stale air.

I am appalled that the situation in Paris has been written off so flippantly as a militant Islamic extremist movement. It is not surprising when the news media, such as Fox News, portrays it as such and makes connections between Paris and Amman, for example. It represents a lack of desire to understand what the true issues are, and to find a quick-fix justification that fits a known profile of violence among Muslim communities.

I would hope that Mr. Hahn, as a Middle Eastern studies major, realizes that there are nuances and complexities to the Middle East, as there are to Muslim communities globally. What is occurring in Paris cannot be explained through an explanation of what is happening in Iraq or in Jordan, however easy that may be to do.

As students at GW, we must display a level of sophistication and awareness in our analyses of global events. With op-eds such as that of Tyler Hahn, we are going in the opposite direction, and I am very disappointed.

-Amin Al-Sarraf, senior and president of the Islamic Alliance for Justice

Smoke-free in D.C.

Your article about the proposed smokefree workplace law is very misleading (“Smoking ban hits home,” Nov. 10, pg. 6).

The idea of smoke-free bars and restaurants is overwhelmingly popular, according to polls, not unpopular as your article implied. The latest poll, taken nearly a year ago, showed that nearly three-quarters of D.C. voters supported such a law.

The prediction of economic ruin if a smoke-free workplace law is passed is just wrong. Studies done in jurisdictions that have gone smoke-free show that bars and restaurants do just as well, if not better, after these laws are passed. These studies are based on employment and sales tax data. People don’t go to Georgetown and Adams Morgan to smoke; they go for the unique nightlife and to visit with friends.

The main reason for these laws is that secondhand smoke causes disease in non-smokers, including cancer and heart disease. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air – bartenders, waiters, and patrons.

Smoke-free workplace laws aren’t new and they aren’t radical. They are sensible and necessary public health measures.

-Angela Bradbery, co-founder, Smokefree DC

Defending special topics

While I agree with some of Mr. Duve’s basic points (“The special courses dessert menu,” Nov. 7, pg. 4), particularly in regards to the apparent overemphasis of topic rather than writing skills in the UW program, I believe that generalizing those experiences to special topics overall is a huge leap and ripe with assumptions.

Special topics courses cannot teach “traditional, canonical” (however one wishes to define that) lessons. It is often through the use of a specialization or case study that one truly understands a topic regardless of intellectual pedigree and foundation. For many people, intelligent and otherwise, the traditional abstract lessons of Plato’s philosophy are a distant memory (even ten minutes outside of class); however, it is the allegory of the cave which has the ability to stick in the mind of any reader at any age, and a quick reflection of that one specialized example brings back Plato’s entire worldview.

Duve assumes that special topics are always programmatic fluff, only useful on the base level and not intellectual, whereas “traditional, canonical offerings” are always superior, both in terms of content and within the natural intellectual hierarchy. The idea that certain knowledge is better than another, as assessed solely on face value, makes little sense in a postmodern world. Of course, that also begs the eternal question of what is truly essential for an educated person, and whether such essentials can possibly be found in the “less challenging, less substantive offerings.”

The idea of special topics being acceptable in certain departments whereas not others, is quite insulting. Besides a specific note that a fair number of woman’s studies courses are actually equivalent to upper-level, non-special topic history courses (according to the University Bulletin), Mr. Duve’s ability to discern the appropriate expectations of departments strikes me as hollow.

Ultimately, while bringing some issues to light, this editorial brought a very traditional and canonical phrase to my mind: do not judge a book by its cover.

-Sean Goodison, University Honors Program Academic Advisor

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