No Fancy Name
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
today the freshmen will be reading ...
... "What's the Point of a College Education."

You see, they've been eased into this whole "critical thinking and reading" thing. We discussed the concept and strategies for performing such types of thinking and reading, and then they promptly biffed the in-class exercise, en masse.

The in-class assignment was to read the following (I took it from the Handbook for Writers chapter on thinking/reading/writing critically):
It is the first of February, and everyone is talking about starlings. Starlings came to this country on a passenger liner from Europe. One hundred of them were deliberately released in Central Park, and from those hundred descended all of our countless millions of starlings today. According to Edwin Way Teale, "Their coming was the result of one man's fancy. That man was Eugene Schiffelin, a wealthy New York drug manufacturer. His curious hobby was the introduction into America of all the birds mentioned in William Shakespeare." The birds adapted to their new country splendidly. – Annie Dillard, "Terror at Tinker Creek"
After reading it, they were to list all the literal information, all the implied information, and all the opinions. Let's say there are 18-20 different things that could be listed (total). The most anyone came up with was 6. Not a good ratio.

After hearing me try to beat "you can't comprehend something if you don't know the meaning of words and thus you should have your dictionary handy" for weeks, a fair number of the students turned in their papers clearly not knowing that a starling is a bird. So I said to them, "the first thing you should have done was raise your hand and say 'hey, what's a starling' but instead you chose to wallow in ignorance." Ok, I didn't say the last part. But really, we had just discussed how you need to take control of your own brain and ask questions.

So today we will be reading Janet's essay and their instructions are to: underline any words or phrases whose meanings are ambiguous or otherwise unknown to them, note in the margins any questions you might have about a particular statement or example used, identify the thesis of the essay, and finally write a substantial paragraph about what it means to think and read critically (talk about how you have or have not practiced critical thinking/reading in the past, and how you plan to implement critical thinking/reading in the future).

I thank Janet for her very timely teaching tool!



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