At the beginning of March, while winter was assailing us with the last snowstorms of the season, York Professors Michael Gilbert and Alina Marquez were enjoying the sunny skies of Mexico. It was all in the name of higher education, of course.
Gilbert and Marquez were in Mexico to present a number of lectures and workshops on March 1-2 to the faculty and staff at the Benemérita y Centenaria Escuela Normal del Estado de San Luis Potosí, a degree-granting teachers’ college. In addition, they attended the 158th anniversary celebration of this college, which is located about five hours north of Mexico City.
“Our task was to help find ways for future teachers to encourage classroom discussion and intellectual challenges,” says Gilbert, who teaches in York’s Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts. In his presentations to the Mexican faculty and students, he spoke on the topic of teaching critical reasoning, drawing on his expertise in informal logic and argumentation theory.
Right: Prof. Alina Marquez (left), State Governor Marcelo de los Santos (centre), and Prof. Michael Gilbert in Mexico
“In Mexico, it is quite difficult to encourage disagreement and argument in the classroom as the role of the teacher is considered one that demands respect. As a result, disagreeing with the teacher, even when invited, does not happen,” says Gilbert.
Marquez, from York’s Division of Social Science, Faculty of Arts, who also teaches in York’s Centre for Academic Writing, spoke on teaching critical writing.
Their visit coincided not only with the annual anniversary celebration of the college, but also the official opening of the institution’s new library and information-technology building. The Canadian professors attended this ceremony, where the director general of the college, Francisco Hernandez Ortiz, introduced them to the governor of the state, Marcelo de los Santos, who carried out the ribbon-cutting function at the event.
“There was talk of us returning,” said Gilbert. “In addition, numerous students came up and spoke to us following our presentations, seeking more information and contact.”