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…