Monday, January 21, 2008

Coming attractions -- but first a question

A pile of printouts of fascinating issues from web articles sits on my desk begging to be blogged about -- I promise I will -- but first - a question for readers:

Why do students feel that they have to be interested in an editorial in order to carryout a homework assignment of summary and response? Several students have complained that they couldn't finish the assignment to find an op-ed or editorial, summarize and respond because they couldn't find one that they were interested in. This baffles me. Where did students get the idea that they have to like or be connected to the topic in order to do the job? Sure, it's great when people are interested - that makes the assignment more fun and more engaged. But, golly, in life and in our jobs how often do we get to postpone work just because we are not interested in the project. We hear this in terms of an assignment for researched argument - "gee, I couldn't find a topic I liked so I couldn't do the paper." Does anyone have any insights here?



Blogger Michael Faris said...

Oh god, what a question! I think there's a whole range of forces converging on this issue. A few stabs:

recent moves in education to stress buy-in: Teachers in secondary and post-secondary school have been stressing more and more that "find a topic that interests you" instead of "find out how you're interested in this topic." Not necessarily a bad thing. Not necessarily a good thing, either.

identification: How do we identify with a text? Or how do we dis-identify with a text? In a hyper-mediated society, we are forced less and less to interact with texts that we don't identify with, and thus interact mostly with ones we identify with or dis-identify with so strongly that we must (feel compelled to) respond.

and I have to get going, but that's my first two cents.

12:46 PM  
Blogger PaulaMc said...

Of course this post (and Michaels' comments) also just make me wonder where the liberal arts education is headed if students get to determine ahead of time what they learn about. I mean, isn't that part of why they go to college--to expand their horizons. Am I being naive to think that this is still a desirable goal in life. One of the things I always liked about going to the Horning lectures at OSU is that they made me think about things I hadn't thought about before. Or belonging to a book group does the same thing--pushes me into places I wouldn't have ventured alone. We are all too prone to get stuck in our ruts, regardless of age, unless we allow ourselves to be pushed/pulled out of them.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Michael Faris said...

Paula's comment makes me consider how education (and families and media) have coddled youth to not push themselves: Do what is safe and secure, rather than push your mind to be challenged. I agree with Paula's stress on "expanding horizons" in education (though that might not be the terms I'd use). What can we do in education to make the classroom a safe space to challenge oneself instead of (solely) a safe space to be oneself (and thus not push one's boundaries)?

4:19 PM  
Blogger Sara Jameson said...

Well, OSU's motto is "open minds, Open doors" but some students want to stay safe inside - as Michael says - a safe classroom where they do not have to confront any new ideas - or open the mind, which I maintain does in fact make college "liberal" in that it challenges students to confront preconceived notions and decide if they really do believe that and explore new worlds, which might sometimes loosen or shake one's faith in received knowledge, which might indeed seem like we have an agenda, when all I want them to do is think about things in a new way - look at things they never considered before, whether or not they like it or agree at first - maybe like trying new food?

8:56 PM  

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