Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Who Care About Libya?

I would love to structure my class into a way that made students care about the things that I care about like the presidential election, Middle East foreign policy, cosmopolitanism, poetry, but I have reservations about making Rhetoric 105 into Sara teaches what she wants and makes kids write papers.

These guys are shaking hands. Should I care? Who are they?
If you didn't watch the debate, you won't understand this meme!
But I think my inexperience in teaching has led me to miss this golden opportunity to force students to care about the presidential election, and I can only hope that in 4 years, I'll have a room of eager 18-19 year old students willing to think about registering to vote and I will have the tools to teach them all the important things about being an American citizen. The only thing is that I'm not teaching a Political Science class and I'll confess, I didn't take a single American Government class in my undergraduate years even though I majored in Political Science. International Relations was my main focus, and even though I talked with my students about the attack U.S. Consulate in Libya and my students wrote their newspaper analysis on articles about the attack, my students didn't even remember where Libya was located.

I'm a country!
Clearly, I haven't structured my class to address current events or foreign policy or Libya and my asides in class are only asides. Reading J. Elizabeth Clark's "Versus Verse: Poets Against War" I kept thinking, wouldn't this be amazing? I could teach poetry, foreign policy, AND composition with low stakes writing assignments and papers and my students will be educated in everything wonderful in life and I will change the world. Could I throw in readings about Responsibility to Protect? Cosmopolitanism? Could my students be better citizens of the world? I could teach international poetry about important things like war, immigrants, and culture and make them understand what other people elsewhere and thinking and feeling? Thinking about Adam Barrows "Teaching the Literature of Revolution," should I force them to read literature that has emerged from the Arab Spring to drive home my personal views about the importance of paying attention to what's going on in the world?

But that's not my job, is it? Is it better that my students research something they're interested in like women's equality in sports and university nutrition and diversity at the college level? Are they only researching those things because I'm not forcing them to open up their minds and research foreign policy or exposing them to poetry about war? If I threw out the etext and provided a packet of readings on foreign policy to teach them about how to read scholarly articles and poems to teach them reading for meaning, am I helping the students or just standing on my graduate teaching assistant pedestal and proclaiming "You must care about the things I care about!"

I am on my ottoman pedestal with all that is important--Santa Hedgehog. This is what I care about! (not my dog.)
It's something for me to think about for next semester and what I would change and improve from this semester. Would I even want to veer so far from the common syllabus and the etext? Would it really benefit the student or just make me feel good about that class I'm teaching? Which is more important?

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