Sunday, September 15, 2019

Teaching Criticial Thinking

In the spring, for the first time in a long time, I'm teaching Comp II, the second half of our year-long writing class which every student is required to take.

In the first half, Comp I, we teach students how to evaluate evidence, how to tell a good source from propaganda*, how to construct an argument, and how to support it with what they (now know) is reliable evidence.

In Comp II, we have them write longer papers, and we have them read a long work, and write a paper about that work. Usually it's a work of fiction, but it doesn't have to be. I'm thinking of using a nonfiction book, one that makes an argument, and having them write their longer paper in response to or in tangent to that argument.

One book I'm considering is one I reviewed here recently, On the Clock. Another is one I haven't read, but which I'm picking up from our library today, American Prison.  There's also Everybody Lies, but that might be a little too meta.

Anyone have any other suggestions?

*We give them the tools they can use to do that, I mean, and require them to use those tools in writing papers for our class. Whether it transfers to their outside life, yeah, well. I've had students come back after a semester or after six years to tell me that what they learned in that little first year class changed their lives; but I've also watched what I knew students could do slide off their backs like oil off waxed paper. I guess the lesson here is that you can give people all the tools you like, but you can't force them to use those tools.

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