Tavish McDonell

Critical Thinking and Its Discontents

They told me students need to take four English classes to graduate. The first three were easy to grasp: intro, genres, themes. Then there was this other class, the one with the acronym like a high-tech tennis racquet. It rhymed with sexy yet seemed anything but: rhetoric, composition, critical this, critical that. These must have been leftovers from real courses, repackaged and warmed over for busy students on their way onwards and upwards. I didn’t see the point of this course. I never requested it. I kept on teaching sonnets and the magic of Ibsen.

But hey, I was a newbie! Untenured! Low man on the pole! I had to take the courses I was assigned. And before long I saw those three letters on next term’s schedule: B, X and E. I asked colleagues what I should do but none of them had even heard what those letters were supposed to stand for. One thing I knew I wanted to have was a course about less-boring things than literature: movies, yes, but even they can get pretty blah blah blah, especially the talky ones they make you watch in school, so I also wanted ads, products, memes, superheroes, mash-ups, internet clips. You know, relatable stuff. This class was going to be far out. I was going to be that hip teacher, opening students’ eyes to the gender stereotyping in shampoo commercials…  Continue reading

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