It's OK to think about feelings 1

November 11, 2005

I share Dennis Hayes's commitment to critique and robust intellectual debate ("The touchy-feely brigade: coming your way soon", November 4). How curious then that instead of a critical analysis of trends that might make such engagement more difficult, he offers us a caricatured version of the university.

His argument appears to be that any attempt to analyse the role of emotion in learning involves a collapse into pure subjectivity. Such simplistic dualisms do not stand up to scrutiny.

The notion that academics do not criticise one another for fear of hurting feelings is absurd. I have disagreed with Hayes on previous occasions and do not recollect recoiling from argument for fear of hurting his feelings.

The development of critical faculties in students is fundamental to university education. But we do ourselves and our students no favours by refusing to recognise the role of emotion on the mistaken grounds that to do so would entail wallowing in "relativism, subjectivity and feelings".

Sue Clegg
Chair of educational research
Sheffield Hallam University

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