On Democracy and Authoritarianism 

What does it mean when one of our finest can't tell you what it is they're spreading? 

Interesting incident at work a few days ago with a student I was helping. He came into the studio and asked for my help with, of all things, his vocabulary assignment. He's an advanced non-native English speaker who is in a remedial reading course and I'd helped him before while he was working on a podcast recording of an previous vocab list. This assignment consisted of a list of vocab words and next to each were four choices. From them he was to circle the word that was closest to being the vocab word's opposite. He did very well on the vast majority of the words (though the choices were sometimes really strange and only distantly related to the vocab words).

However, one word that tripped him up was "authoritarian." He had circled "fictional" as the word's opposite. I then asked him to tell me what authoritarian meant. He sort of stumbled and couldn't really. I then explained that authoritarian was basically about concentrating power in the hands of a few (or one) with no meaningful way for others to object, etc. I even mentioned Saddam Hussein as an example of an authoritarian leader -- whatever Saddam says, goes. At this point I expected him to see the correct answer -- "democratic" -- but he didn't. I then pointed out that democratic was the correct answer and he actually asked me what the word meant. In ensuing comments it became clear that he'd never actually heard the word "democracy" before and couldn't use it to identify the U.S. as a "democratic" nation.

After looking over his work, we got to talking and it comes out that he had spent several years in the U.S. Army and had even served in Iraq from 2003 to 2005 where he'd been on the front lines. That he wouldn't have been able to explain one of the main motives for the war is ironic to say the least. Of course soldiers being unable to explain why they're at war is not necessarily new, but seems odd in this day and age. More shocking I suppose is his presence at a university when he can't describe the concept of democracy. 

Posted: Sun - April 1, 2007 at 09:27 AM          

Comments powered by
Trek News
Total entries in this blog:
Total entries in this category:
Published On: Apr 01, 2007 10:19 AM
Powered by