I am concerned about the amount of opinion-stated-as-fact that this course contained. Examples include:
1. Transcendental meditation as a cure for drug addiction, including reference to the Maharishi Yogi as being responsible for a significant drop in drug use in the United States in the early 1970s. Neither the claim for a drop in drug use or the Maharishi's involvement are supported by evidence.
2. The suggestion that the "Islamic Agenda" is a driver for the drug trade in the Middle East. The concept of 'the Islamic Agenda' was unfamiliar to me, and googling it led to sites claiming that the Western lifestyle is endangered by a religious edict within Islam to convert the world to the Muslim faith. These sites were somewhat disturbing in a xenophobic way, which led me to have concerns about the use of this term by the lecturer. Does he support this view? How does this fit with the University's policies on use of discriminatory language and inclusion?
3. The 'manicure method of peace negotiation' - which suggested that the surrender of the Khmer Rouge was due to pressure on its leader from his wife, who had been gifted a manicure by the wife of the government leader, and decided she needed more luxury than the rebellious regime could give her. This seems like sexist conjecture and is not supported by any reading I've done on the topic.
Additionally, the lecturer provided a number of 'facts' - particularly related to drugs and drug policy - which, on checking, turned out to be unsupported. Examples include:
1. Afghanistan produces over 95% of the world's opium - when in fact the UNODC global drug report puts the figure at 65%.
2. Long term drug use causes damage to the frontal cortex - when in fact there is no evidence to support this claim for any drug.
3. Heroin users in Western China inject themselves with tattoo needles - when in fact it's impossible to inject oneself with a tattoo needle.
Unfortunately, once the level of conjecture had been exposed, it brought everything else he had to tell us into question. I have no way of distinguishing between what was fact, what was opinion, and what was a guess in this course, without checking every detail. The presentation slides were often not referenced and the supplied bibliography seemed not to contain all of the references the lecturer used.
This is concerning because degrees at Victoria require a high standard of academic rigour, therefore this level of unsubstantiated information (I would go so far as to say misinformation) from a lecturer devalues my degree and brings the reputation of the University into question.
Overall, I found the course interesting but I feel somewhat misinformed, and am considering asking for a refund as I don' t consider what I have learned to be sufficiently well-supported by evidence that I can confidently use the information. Additionally, I have grave concerns over the use of such terms as 'Islamic Agenda' by the lecturer, and the implications should the audience go away with the idea that Islam is trying to take over the world - or if one of the students were Muslim. Finally, the lecturer's claims regarding the efficacy of transcendental meditation seem to indicate a desire on his part to 'push' this practice - which in my opinion has no place in an academic envrionment, and certainly is not what I signed up for when I paid to learn about the politics of heroin.
I think that covers it.