Introduction: Teaching about Violence
James M. Hester, HFG President
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Our next step followed another suggestion from our board, that we conduct a competition for the design of a comprehensive undergraduate course on violence. This proved to be an extremely useful undertaking. In response to a call for proposals, seventeen of the submissions seemed promising enough to warrant a grant for further development. The winner of this final round was Professor Robert Jackall of Williams College, whose outstandingly comprehensive syllabus is presented in this issue. We do not suggest that anyone simply copy Jackall's course but rather that it can serve as a guide to course development or provide study modules that might be used in a variety of ways.

The many excellent syllabi that were submitted raised issues for fruitful discussion about the process and problems of teaching about violence. Once you have the list of books, are you ready for the classroom? To address this question, we convened a conference in June 1999 and invited a group of scholars whose entries in the competition were varied in approach and had impressed us with their quality. The result of that conference is this set of essays. As you will see, the contributors do not agree about the scope of violence studies or the approach to teaching about potentially disturbing issues.

An introduction by Susan Cunningham concerns what we teach when we teach about violence: definitions, delimitation, and what those choices mean. The central presentation is Robert Jackall's curriculum, designed to support his argument that the study of violence is a window into the body of cultural and intellectual understanding of the human experience. This contrasts interestingly with Barsh and Marlor's argument for embedding the subject matter of a course on violence within the students' personal experiences.

As mentioned above, one of the stumbling blocks in the development of truly interdisciplinary courses on violence is the inability of professors to incorporate information and views from outside their fields. Three of our essays are designed as advice to scholars from outside (as well as inside) the disciplines of social psychology, history, and political science about how these disciplines can contribute to a comprehensive treatment of issues of violence. Finally, an anthropologist reflects on violence in his own culture and on ethical quandaries in studying violence and teaching about it.

We hope that readers of this issue of the HFG Review who are teachers will find this material useful, will incorporate aspects of these lesson plans in their own courses, or be inspired to develop their own curricula loosely based on the models provided here. We hope educators will be moved to consider the problems our contributors bring up and to anticipate and address them in the process of teaching. We hope deans and department heads will consider incorporating violence as a focal topic in university courses. And, as a result of all this, we hope that students will learn to cut through the commonsensical myths about violence and achieve firmly grounded understandings of this major human phenomenon to take into their subsequent professional and personal lives and thereby be better equipped to make a difference in the real world.

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