More on teaching controversial topics

20 Jun


A few weeks ago I wrote about teaching ‘the psychology of religion’, and why universities might avoid it in undergraduate programmes. A newspaper story in the British press this weekend has made me think about another ‘controversial topic’, domestic violence.

Newspapers over the weekend were full of what appeared to be an incident of domestic violence between he leading British modern art collector Charles Saatchi and his celebrity cook wife Nigella Lawson. Fortunately my personal experience of domestic violence is second-hand. Many years ago I worked closely with a woman who was a victim, and to my shame it took me nearly three months to realise it. However, even this passing experience made me contemplate my initial reaction to the pictures. I should confess that Nigella Lawson is close to the heart of the British middle classes (I bake her Christmas Cake recipe every year !!!!), but I was still surprised at how shocking I found the pictures. My initial reaction was along the lines of ‘why would she stay with him ?’. This shock was compounded by reading that Charles Saatchi has referred to the incident today as ‘a playful tiff’. I’ll leave you to make a judgement for yourselves on whether the photos look ‘playful’. So, the person who spends his life banging on about ‘rational thinking’ had an entirely intuitive response to a major news story !

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that domestic violence seems like a topic that ought to be addressed by every psychology degree programme, and indeed I’d like to think that all graduates ought to have some exposure to the topic. We cover domestic violence in an optional Forensic Psychology module, but I’m going to try to convince the same lecturer to cover it with our 1st year undergraduates.

I know that some of my colleagues worry about teaching topics that might raise issues for some students, but the more I think about it the more I’m convinced these topics engage new students, and are thus exactly what is needed for last 1st year classes

(A brief web search produces this interesting piece on reasons victims stay with their abusers)

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