Attached is the URL for my website. My main idea is to persuade professors, primarily composition professors, to stop discussing their personal political affiliations and opinions during class. I also wish to persuade composition teachers to abandon the idea of assigning political writing assignments. I spent a great deal of time and energy creating this website, so I hope you enjoy it!
One of my greatest pet peeves is politics in the classroom. If you ask me, it has absolutely no business being there. It wasn’t a problem in my high school because teachers were forbidden from discussing their beliefs. It was a complete culture shock when I came to college and about 70% of my teachers outwardly expressed their political views. In fact, during the election one of my teachers endorsed President Obama nearly every class. Last year I had a professor express that President Obama was a god and President Bush was the devil. I almost walked out of class that day because I was so disgusted! Hairston’s reminded me of this professor because she used her educational power to push her own agenda –including racism, sexism, feminism, and liberalism- onto her students. If you ask me, any teacher who outwardly shows or teaches about his or her political views deserves to be fired.
That being said, I do not have a problem if teacher want to discuss politics as long as all viewpoints are looked at and analyzed equally. Although, I think a freshmen writing, or English Comp, class should be focused on writing. As Hairston states, “Writing courses, especially required freshman courses, should not be for anything or about anything other than writing itself, and how one uses it to learn and think and communicate.” These basic English classes should not focus on literature or analytical practice, it should be focused on teaching the basics of writing. Later Hairston states, “They do not need to be assigned essays to read so they will have something to write about-they bring their subjects with them: the writing of others, except for that of their fellow students, should be supplementary, used to illustrate or reinforce.” I had a wonderful teacher for my English comp 1 classes who practiced this, and I appreciated it greatly. I learned so much about my writing from her because we focused on writing and critical thinking without using politics.
Politics in freshmen writing courses, as Hairston explains, is detrimental because freshmen minds are so easily molded. They are typically fresh out of high school and possibly living on their own for the first time. And, if done correctly, they are easily persuaded or manipulated. These teachers are basically requiting students to their own political agenda, and it needs to end immediately. I think one way to do this is to center a writing course around its primary objective, writing. I think readings are important, but in a freshmen course they need to exclude politics. If politics for some reason needs to be discussed, then teachers should to examine all sides of the argument without bias. Let the students make their own decisions. College should be about learning, not a professor’s political agenda.
I think Gerald Graff’s article is, by far, my favorite article we have read so far. While reading this article I kept thinking, “wow, this guy really gets it!” I love literature, but I hate taking lit classes because the professor is typically very one-sided in beliefs and interpretations. I had a fantastic teacher in high school who told us that there is no one true meaning to most literature; everyone has their own interpretations, and the majority of them could be right.
I had to read Heart of Darkness for a class last semester, and my professor was very one-sided about the novella. We also read Achebe’s essay, but we were still only allowed to believe in our professor’s interpretation about both works. If we had a different interpretation of them and professed it on our test, then we would be downgraded. Unfortunately, I have learned to put aside my own interpretation of texts and write about my professor’s interpretations so I can receive a good grade. This is pathetic considering there is no one Truth to a text. No one person can know the exact meaning on these pieces of work considering its authors are dead. Its not like we can communicate through the grave, that is, unless you are psychic. Graff quotes Mr. Crews in saying, “Literature is a site of struggle whose primary conflicts, both intrapsychic and social, deserve to be brought to light rather than homogenized into notions of fixed authorial ‘values.’ ” This is exactly right. We cannot continue to only listen to our professor’s interpretations, we, as students, need to have our own meanings. I think the best way to teach a literature class is to examine several other interpretations of the text and let students decide which one they think is most valuable. We need to stop believing everything our teachers tell us, and learn to be our own person.
Graff primarily focused on racism when examining Heart of Darkness and how Conrad was racist towards the natives, but I think it goes beyond that. Conrad lived in a time of absolute racism. Teachers should not teach students that Conrad was a horrible person because, typically, most people though Blacks were disgusting creatures who were only meant only to be slaves. Teachers need to explain that this was how most people of that period thought, and it was accepted to do so. Educators need to let students think of how we have developed and changed our ways of thinking since that period, and make Heart of Darkness into a historical lesson as well as an interpretative exercise.
There is nothing that can compare to opening a brand new book and holding it in your hands while reading. All you fellow book readers know what I am talking about when I say that I love the smell of books. For me, the smell is comforting and something to look forward to. I’m not trying to diss digital books such as the Nook, Kindle, or iPad because I think they are wonderful; that is, if you like reading off a screen. I have always been the kind of person who needs a printed source right in front of me. For example, I have had several teachers require digital textbooks, but I cannot even look at them because I HATE reading off a screen.
Quite honestly, I had a horrible time reading the Kairos article simply because it was online. I normally print online sources, but you simply could not do that with this article because there were so many links. I could only comprehend about half of what I was reading because of my intense hatred for reading online. Maybe I have such qualms about online reading that I mentally could not allow myself to comprehend the words, but I finally pushed through after a lot of internal struggle.
I think online articles or readings are wonderful for people who don’t mind looking at a screen. There are so many advantages to reading online articles, but I just cant do it. These online sources usually have links that send you to another source for more information, or they allow you to click on words to find their meaning, but that just annoys me for some reason. I will gladly stick to printing my sources or reading a book. I love technology and all of its wonderful tools, but it deeply saddens me that books are becoming obsolete. This is the way of the new century, so I better get over my qualms and join it.
Throughout reading Murray’s article, I had to keep reminding myself that this was written in 1972. For the most part, I thought, “This is how I learned to write.” It surprised me how strongly against examining literature as a means for teaching writing Murray is. I have to agree with him on this. Although literature is a good tool for teaching, I don’t think it should be teacher’s only way of teaching writing. It is basically telling students that they have to write like these authors, or they are stupid. These pieces of literature are perfectly finished products, and they do not teach a student how to achieve this perfection. A lot of students think their first draft needs to be perfect because it is their finished draft, and this simply is not the case. This is one part of Murray’s process of writing.
By saying writing is a process, Murray means that there are several steps one must go through before they can create a paper to be proud of. It is essential to teach our students how to form a good paper, but we must also teach them how to critically think about the paper before he or she starts it. The first step in this process, prewriting, is the most important part, I think. It helps writers get their ideas out and narrowed down. Writers cannot begin the second step, writing, without first critically thinking about the content of their papers. Many people would say writing is the most important part because that is when the writer is actually putting words to paper – or computer-. I find this part to be the most challenging because this is where I realize if I did or did not spend enough time prewriting. This step challenges student’s writing and language skills, as well as their ability to push past frustration and create a masterpiece. I also think the third process of rewriting is essential, yet it is the step student avoid the most. Students need to practice this step so they can properly edit and add to their papers to improve their writing.
When the papers are being graded, teachers need to find ways to give corrective and positive criticism in a way that is not demeaning. I think Murray was right on target when he said, “Year after year the student shudders under the barrage of criticism, much of it brilliant, some of it stupid, and all of it irrelevant.” If a sentence does not flow, a student needs to be informed and taught how to make it flow; not just told, “This sentence is wrong.” By saying this, students do not understand what they did wrong, and thus, will not learn from their mistake. Students need to be given useful feedback so they can learn. I also think it is a great idea to allow for rewrites; this way a student can fix their mistakes, learn, and be rewarded with a better grade for their hard work.
I found Yancey’s article to be very interesting. It gave a great insight to the history of writing, and how it has come as far as it has. I greatly value and appreciate the writing of previous centuries because it was not an easy thing to do. I couldn’t even imagine writing a simple three-page paper without a computer, yet that is what people had to do before the typewriter was invented. Even with the invention of the typewriter, writing was difficult. One could not simply press a delete button as we do now. My parents have an old typewriter in the basement that I used to play on as a little kid. I remember the frustration I felt when I made a mistake or spelled a word wrong. Not only that, but it hurt my little fingers to press down on the keys so hard. I think we definitely take modern technology such as computers, iPads –or tablets-, and cell phones for granted. As the article suggests, computers allow for more expression and creativity.
This technology, as Yancey states, is also extremely beneficial in the classroom. I am a PowerPoint freak, and that will greatly benefit me in being a future teacher. Personally, I cannot concentrate on a lecture if there is not some sort of visual aid, mostly because I have a HORRIBLE attention span! Oh look, SQUIRL! I will spend hours working on a PowerPoint just to make sure everything is perfect! I think students are much more accepting of learning when they have visual aids to interact with, especially because they have so much technological distractions around them. When teaching students to write, they usually need a screen in front of them because this is the way the new generation is being raised. I think we need to teach students to embrace new means of writing that go beyond pencil and paper, such as social media sites, blogs, and presentation aids.
When Giroux refers to film as a “form of public pedagogy,” I believe he means several things. I think the most obvious is that film is a great form of public education, but I think it goes far beyond that. Film can have great influence over our culture and politics. Almost every movie has affected our culture in some way or another. I think a great example of this is the Twilight craze. Millions of people, mostly teenage girls, swoon over these movies and books. They begin to dress and act as the characters; some of them completely changing themselves in the process. I know several victims of the Twilight fantasy, and it is fascinating to see how these movies and books have altered them. I think we will soon see the same thing happening when 50 Shades of Grey comes to theaters. I can also think of several movies that have affected several people politically; one that comes to mind is Lincoln. Stephen Spielberg waited to release this movie because he did not want it to reflect his own political affliction, or to affect other people’s political standing during the election. I’m sure several people watched this film and became so enraptured with its politics that they started to question their own political beliefs. I, like everyone else in the world, have fallen prey to movies and their powers. All we can do it become more educated about the power film possesses and do our best to stray away from some of its controlling abilities.