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ERIC Number: ED359509
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1992-Mar
Pages: 14
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Politics and the English Instructor: Using Political Literature To Teach Composition.
Fergenson, Laraine
One of the most interesting controversies in the theory of teaching composition--and one that has profound consequences for classroom practice--is the debate over "ideological" or "radical" pedagogy. In the minds of most mainstream Americans, an ideological education is associated with dictatorship and state control of education. Every pedagogy, to quote James Berlin (1988) "is imbricated in ideology--a set of tacit assumptions about what is real, what is good, what is impossible, and how power ought to be distributed." Attempting to avoid all controversy and all political discussion can lead to textbooks and classroom atmospheres that are hostile to the values of critical inquiry. A composition instructor, noting the boredom his students showed with their standard collection of essays, created, along with his students, a series of essay topics drawn from the most important problems facing society. Students' essays written in this manner were better in form and content. Another composition instructor experienced a "teaching epiphany" during a discussion of an essay concerning what motivated people to risk their lives to help save Jews from Nazis. As the students discussed what they would do, they recalled Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail," which addressed that very issue. A passionate and heated discussion ensued, which lasted to the end of the class period and spilled out into the hallway after class. Political literature can play an essential role in motivating students to think deeply, in teaching them to write better, and in preparing them for the world beyond the classroom. (RS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A