But at what cost? What happens when
the students are only allowed to learn from the perspective
of one mind, from the subjectivity of one voice? The consequences
of such conventions are the hindrance of questions and curiosity
and the inevitability of intellectual stagnation.
Enter Dr. Gregory Gaydos and Dr. Phillip King. To many, the
idea of team teaching seems like something best suited for
school instructors who need twice the normal energy to corral
supercharged youth. However, in the case of HPU’s PSCI
1400, American Political Systems, Gaydos and King use it to balance
opposing political ideologies, thus opening the floodgates of
intellectual curiosity and enabling expression of opinions. All
of this generates civil discourse, as opposed to petty argument,
both increasing the excitement of student participation and proving
that two heads are indeed better than one.
The original idea for their team teaching stems from their
past discussions. Gaydos explained: “We would sit around the
table [at the East-West Center] during the Vietnam War. There
was a fascist, an Asian, a guy from Pakistan, and a Canadian
conservative, and we would argue day after day....”
And there were days when we’d be there from 8 a.m. for
breakfast and argue, missing our classes and staying past dinner.” King
And this is the nature of the class. Each session begins with
skimming the newspaper for a current event followed by each professor
stating his opinion on the topic. Gaydos, conservative even in
his dress, effervescently rallies the right wing, dancing around
the room and mockingly imitating left wing gurus. In contrast,
King, mild mannered in his approach, rarely moves and focuses
on facts of the left wing. This is the classic Hegelian process
of thesis and antithesis leading to a new synthesis in student’s
minds as an idea is explained, challenged, and eventually renewed.
In the early stages of the class, few students participate
in the discussions, but as civic debate becomes more comfortable,
individuals begin to interject their feelings and positions.
Both professors believe that students will learn more from
opposing viewpoints than just one perspective. In a diverse
such as HPU, the Hegelian model allows for an even broader range
of opinion, as most classes include the potential perspectives
of European and Asian students.
However, as is the case with all groundbreaking ideas, practical
problems arise in the formation of such courses. “It’s
not cost effective,” said King. “We’re supposed
to have 40 to 50 students in the class,” but often, he
explained, they have around 30.
The ongoing cycle of debate also increases the chance of
student discord. Gaydos doesn’t see this as an issue; he said: “We’re
modeling civic debate. We’re showing that it’s okay
to disagree without resorting to fisticuffs or anger. You can
disagree and still be friends who think differently.”
Sadly, few professors seem willing to adapt this model
of teaching. When the two professors held a faculty meeting
to discuss their
ideas of team teaching, fewer than 20 of their colleagues came
to show support.