History lessons 1

July 11, 2003

Andrew Wilkie reportedly rejected a student because he had done national service in the Israeli army (In the News, THES, July 4).

A few years ago, I mentored an Israeli colleague in writing and presenting his first paper at an international conference. Like almost every young Israeli, he had done national service and felt that he had had little choice in the matter.

He was an intensely humane person with friends on all sides of the conflict. His paper was a fascinating portrayal of how the experience of war had shaped the design culture and artefacts of Israeli and Palestinian communities.

He demonstrated how inventiveness finds an outlet whatever the circumstances and reminded those of us in safe, unmilitarised communities that ordinary people in troubled parts of the world do not have the option of turning their backs on the problems that their political masters create.

If I had followed the Wilkie doctrine, my colleague would not have had the chance to tell his story and I would be even more ignorant of the reality of life in Israel and Palestine. And where does such a doctrine end? If I agree with George W. Bush, should I refuse to teach students from Iran and North Korea? If I am worried about Christian fundamentalism, do I avoid people from the American Bible Belt?

Chris Rust
Professor of design
Sheffield Hallam University

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