Monthly Archives: February 2014

Pondering Politics

Politics in the classroom is a completely natural element in my educational life. This is because I’m a history major and politics makes up 85% of what we learn (please note that number is not factual in basis, but politics do come up all the time in our studies). However when it comes to politics in a English classroom where writing is the dominant factor, as our authors proved it can be treacherous waters.
The first author believes that he teaches in a political style because it “puts ideological conflicts at the center of literary works” (Graff 67). He explains using the example of race, that not everyone reads something and interprets it the same way. He claims his caucasian students would skim over the problems with race in the novel he assigned when his African American students would pick up on the race issue. I enjoyed how he ended his piece talking about how students who take different sides on topics should debate them within class discussion. This is something that happens regularly in my classes and even though you may disagree with the other students, it sometimes opens up to a new view on the subject you hadn’t thought of before.

The second author, Maxine Hairston, makes a case for the trouble with politics influencing freshman writing courses in English departments nationwide. She seems worried that students will focus too much on political issues in their writing and not enough on improving the actual craft of writing itself. While I have not experienced this problem myself in my two freshman writings courses in college, I can imagine how this could be a problem. She unlike Graff believes politics have no place in a writing focused class.

Jarratt, the third author agrees more along the lines of Graff. She believes politics in the classroom can end up helping students more than hurting them. She gives many different examples (even citing suggestions Gaff made in his writing) to help foster politics in the classroom. The most important one she proposes is making class discussion the focal point of the course. I completely agree with this idea as being of vital importance when learning in a classroom setting. You are not only going to learn more information but also other views on the subjects you are studying if you have a class discussion versus a basic one professor lecture. Discussions foster an environment for debate and questions which leads to an overall better understanding of the material.

While I think all three authors make very good points about politics and their place in a writing based classroom, Jarratt and Graff are the two I agree with most. I am comfortable with politics in a historical sense thanks to my many years of history classes but I am also comfortable with politics in a English setting because I know it is beneficial to my learning experience.
The three authors may not agree on everything (especially Hairston) but that can be the beauty of politics.

 Now for some disagreement humor…

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Peer Review/ Workshop Review

I used to be one of those students who absolutely detested peer review time in English classes. I just didn’t think they were helpful because the only comments I would ever get back were ones like, “It’s really good” or “great job.” Those types of comments in no way helped me when it came to revision time on my paper.

It wasn’t until about a year ago when I took English Comp II with Dr. Mindrup where I came to love peer reviews. I had never had an English teacher be so strict on how she wanted the review sessions to go. I like the rules she set because they meant people had to actually tell me what parts of my paper needed help or correction. She was also the first English teacher who taught me the trick of reading your paper out loud to catch mistakes you normally would not catch reading silently. I kid you not, this was revolutionary to me! I couldn’t believe I had never thought to try this trick! I now read every single paper I write out loud whether it is in a group or to myself, and always catch mistakes.

I was extremely pleased to come to English 2420 the other day and find that Dr. Christensen had a very similar peer review set up to the one Dr. Mindrup uses. My peer group was extremely helpful in catching mistakes I didn’t see on my own and it was nice to get a different perspective on the way my paper was written. I am sad it took me so long to experience a conscience and helpful peer review session. However I am glad I am able to enjoy them now and get helpful feedback on my work in order to make it better.

This still from The Dead Poet’s Society reminded me of how we should always consider what the author is trying to say in their work and what we are receiving from the work as well.

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Giroux’s Film Tool

Last week when I was reading Giroux’s piece on how important of a teaching tool film can be I was quite struck by what he was saying. I had a history teacher who used film as a teaching tool quite often much to my delight. At first I thought it was just an “easy day” where I didn’t have to take notes. Then after watching the movie The Last of the Mohicans in class, I realized film about history can not only be extremely interesting but helpful when learning about certain time periods.

Even now in my upper level history classes if I am having trouble understanding or am a bit bored with the information we are covering I will wonder over to YouTube and Netflix. Here I can find documentaries and dramas about almost every time period in history. They almost always lead me to a more clear and entertaining explanation of the information I need to know.

The fact that we can use other uses of media such as movies, music, and plays to learn more in depth about certain subjects is refreshing. To have other options than books and oral lectures can be especially useful for people who are more of visual learners (like myself). I love having these resources which can often lead me to learn things I may not have gotten in class or in a book.

I’ve started to enjoy ending my ideas and thoughts with a still or gif from a film so here is one I found works with my thoughts today:

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Amazing Apasia

When I started to read our works on Aspasia I found myself quite excited. Being a history major and a woman, I am all about women from different time periods showing up the men. Apasia is a great example of this type of woman. She seems to have been extremely intelligent and highly regarded amongst some of the most notable academic men in history. Socrates himself sought her out for help when it came to understanding the concept of rhetoric.

This is quite remarkable because women in Athens, while having somewhat more freedom than other women during this time, were still seen as simply mothers and wives. The fact that a woman (one with a scandalous history at that,) became known for her mind is groundbreaking. It is a shame we do not have any of her surviving works and texts to truly know how wonderful of a mind she was. However since she was written about by such notable men, it is safe to say Apasia was indeed a revered scholar in her day. She helped pave the way for women to be proud of their minds and not just proud of their production abilities.

Rosie sums this up nicely.

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Philosophy’s Problems with Writing

I was very confused in our previous reading with the fact that Socrates found trouble with the art of writing. Socrates one of the greatest minds of all time did not believe writing was a crucial form of knowledge. He believed mainly that it weakened ones memory. This strikes me as peculiar because not only myself but many scientists find that memory is actually improved thanks to writing. For example, one who takes proper notes on a subject is more likely to remember the contents of the notes. I take this idea very seriously in my studies, so much that I refuse to take notes on a computer and can only handwrite them. When I handwrite them I am later able to recall in my mind what page they were on and what color(if used) I highlighted them with. This would not be the case if I just tried to memorize a oral lecture without notes or if I took mundane ones on a computer that all looked the same. While there are many other cases that Socrates gives for his dispel of writing (which I also do not agree with) the idea that writing ruins a person’s memory is completely false.

 

 I will end my rant/ thoughts with this collection of quoted photos I found from the movie “The Book Thief.” I think it sums up the beauty and importance of writing quite well.

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