Simon Tans
Simon Tans

Column Simon Tans: Pax Europaea, left right and teaching

During my classes on European law, I usually deliberately hold myself back, I explain the operation of European law, but it is up to students to decide whether they appreciate the EU, or not. In my previous lecture series this did not help, I was still told that I was 'teaching nice, but very left-wing'.

Of course, I do have an opinion. A clear one, too. Teaching requires interest, otherwise it becomes boring. I am definitely a strong supporter of the EU. Strange too, that packing together of the left and the EU. As if there is a connection there. In my opinion, a positive view of the EU is more to be typified as a right-wing view, since the core of European integration is free trade, and neoliberalism is quite prevalent. But yes, Europe also interferes in migration, letting migrants in is left-wing, and therefore a supporter of the EU is left-wing. By the way, this is true, my migration position is indeed pretty leftist, but that is not the point. However, most leftists approach this the exact opposite way, the left says no, no, no to trade treaties and no, no, no and a tomato towards workers and service providers from other EU member states. So, a Europhile is the bitten dog from both directions. 

Left and right are terms I have little use for. Slightly unsubtle, they are terms used in a polarized discussion to push the 'opponent' into a certain corner, after which all the prejudices attached to people in that corner now also attach to the opponent. From tea-drinking huggers to neck-shot loving 'less, less, less' callers, you will fall into one of these categories. I am not left, and I am not right, because I and the world are not black and white, rather blue and yellow with stars. The simple left-right bluster is similar in its content to that bruiser hit. You understand, I have little with discussions in which the other is seen as an opponent, and the question of whether Pieter Omtzigt's new party is left or right. 

Enfin, love, then, from me for the EU. I expressed my love for the EU only cautiously in college until very recently. Why actually. Because I agree with Biesta (the risk of education) that it is necessary to give space, where it is appropriate, to socialization, the ways in which we become part of existing traditions and practices through education, and personality formation, or emancipation and freedom. 'Without this risk of education, you get social reproduction of tame objects. But if we are willing to take and embrace the risk of education, there will be room for the 'coming into the world' of free and unique individuals.' 

In my own words, I want to get learning better going by exploring the discussion and position that I and students hold. Hence my lukewarm attitude toward the chewed-out left or right. That too easily leads to lazy discussion without substance. You do have to know when it is appropriate as a teacher; a specific lecture must lend itself to it. But it can have enormous added value to put yourself down as a person with an opinion, and only then, as in my case, a lawyer specializing in international and European law.  

But I especially want students to start forming their own opinions and become better able to form those opinions in this haphazard 280-character era. Not my opinion or the loudest fellow student, but a richly colored (and anyway with blue-yellow asterisks) nuanced opinion, taking into account the full complexity of our society. 

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