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Weird Mental Block

December 5, 2009

My students have a real difficulty with complex thinking. A couple of the big assignments in my intro class ask students to write an essay about how an author (through his or her text) advances a social agenda. About 3/4 of the essays are about how the characters in the text advance a social agenda within the plot of the text itself. This usually happens despite the fact that I tell them when I pass out the instructions that they must think in terms of the relationship between the author and the author’s audience, not merely in terms of what happens within the text itself.

They seem to have some sort of mental block that prevents them from understanding both the meaning of the text and the possible relationship between a text and an audience.

But it seems to me that the second part is just as—if not more—important than the first part!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Vidya permalink
    December 5, 2009 4:53 pm

    Interesting, but not surprising. Maybe not so much a ‘block’, though, as not having been asked to think in this nuanced way in the past. Or, perhaps more precisely, a consequence of the disciplinary divisions of grade-school education — in which one is taught to think ‘internally’ about literature in English class, and ‘externally’ about social life in Social Studies class. Also, the pervasive extra-academic view of cultural products as “merely entertainment,” often coupled with a defense of art, literature, music, video games, etc. as reflecting but not shaping people’s behaviour (i.e., issues around violence, sexism, and drug use).

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