Faith in Globalization

God & Blair at Yale

Tony Blair’s students no longer laugh when he is introduced as “Professor Blair.” Even Blair seems significantly more comfortable with the title than he was in September 2008, when the former British prime minister began teaching his seminar “Faith and Globalization” at Yale University.

The final class meeting, which I am observing via a closed-circuit feed set up for the press, finds Blair sitting at the front of the classroom. He fidgets with his glasses as he considers questions from the class of twenty-five students (selected from an applicant pool of nearly three hundred). The scene is quite a departure from Blair’s first seminar, which was more politics than pedagogy.

Then, the confident politico stood at a podium—in his suit and tie and without his glasses—and fielded polite questions, press-conference-style. He answered with the level of generality we have come to expect from politicians. Now he has lost the tie, along with the deference of his students. He rests the earpiece of his glasses between his lips as students challenge him on everything from the philosophical concepts studied in the seminar to his position on the Iraq war. Like any good teacher, he does his best to answer with clarity and minimal equivocation. This change testifies not only to the power of the classroom, which every teacher knows can be a transformational space, but also to Blair’s genuine concern about...

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About the Author

Eric Bugyis teaches Religious Studies at the University of Washington Tacoma.