Two Ways- My way or the Highway…

Soooooo. I asked a question about whether it might not be a bad thing for teachers to embrace the role of gatekeeper if it helps students to better articulate and achieve their own personal goals.  I kinda screwed myself a little bit here in setting up this, my 3rd, blog post.  After all, I went a little far afield with that initial question and thus it is making it a bit difficult for me to bring the various readings back to that point.  I mean, discussing how reading is taught within the context of a writing class does not directly relate in an obvious manner.  

However, the more I thought about class discussions we’ve had- especially about technology and its use in the classroom, has me thinking that maybe there is a direct correlation in how we choose what it is that we teach and the extent to which we go to choose texts that are “engaging” to students.  Creative lesson plans that incorporate Twitter or Facebook or Smart Boards may do a better job of keeping students interested in our class- but then again so could watching movies or playing sports or anything that students like to do beyond reading a book.  If our goal is to make students happy to be in our class and eager participants, why should we ever impose anything on them that they don’t want to learn?

Now I am talking about college level here, where students are not forced by the state into compulsory attendance.  If a student would prefer to read Tattoo Quarterly and analyze that instead of Hamlet, maybe the University is not where they should be.  This is not an endorsement of the banking system, I’m not suggesting that students sit there passively and take whatever educational punishment I give them.  However, if students are not finding themselves sufficiently engaged by a text as to produce the desired critical thought necessary for acceptable work, after we have examined our curriculum to eliminate needlessly difficult or esoteric works, maybe then we need to start asking ourselves if our clientele our too broad- many of their desires too incompatible with the aims of a University education.

(This is not a value judgement of a University education verses any other kind.  All educations are what the participants make of them whether they occur @ Stanford, in a technical school, or on a prison yard).



2 responses to “Two Ways- My way or the Highway…

  1. Is the purpose of a university to create a group of students who can debate the merits of Hamlet? Or is it to create a group of individuals who can be critical thinkers and who are able to find the tools necessary to be successful in whatever they choose to do in life? If we are talking about literature majors here, I think the answer might change. But we are talking about teaching reading to all college students. In my opinion, that should involve whatever type of reading can engage the students and allow them to think critically with the text. To have a teacher place a value judgement on what type of reading warrants good critical thinking does not seem right to me.

  2. But don’t we make a value judgment every time we create our curriculum? And does this mean that when it comes to developing critical thinking skills all texts are created equal? I’m not so sure…

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