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Students' Resistance to Thinking for Themselves

The following WMST-L discussion about students' resistance to thinking for 
themselves took place in April/May 1993.  For additional WMST-L files now
available on the Web, see the WMST-L File List.
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 14:53:28 EDT
From: Sherry Linkon <FR122601 @ YSUB.YSU.EDU>
Subject: Resistance in the classroom
[text deleted]
Second, I usually try to use students' resistance to my ideas and to my
teaching methods (students often dislike feminist pedagogy, since it asks so
much of them and they feel that it's harder to do well in a class without
clear answers and centralized authority).  Students who question ideas and
methods provide terrific opportunities for class discussions on issues such as
silencing, power, "truth," hegemony, cultural change, backlash, etc.  I will
almost always turn such questions back to students--why would someone feel
uncomfortable in this kind of course?  why do people see inclusion of women's
texts and perspectives as evidence of bias, but don't question courses that
look exclusively at men's texts and perspectives?
Finally, I rarely encounter students who protest and openly resist the
feminism in my courses.  That doesn't always please me.  I often suspect that
my students are telling me what they think I want to hear.  In my current
American lit course, the guys are being very agressive about recognizing and
commenting approvingly on the resistance to patriarchy in women's texts.  I'm
glad to hear it, but I don't always believe it.  I don't want students to
parrot the ideas they think I want them to have.  I want them to examine texts
and ideas critically, thoroughly, and with an awareness of their own
perspectivity as Amy Ling calls it.
Anyway, this is valuable discussion.  Gets me thinking about how my courses
work and why.
Sherry Linkon, Youngstown State University
fr122601  @  YSUB.YSU.EDU
Date: Tue, 27 Apr 1993 22:27:40 PDT
From: Kimberly Ann Crabtree <crabtree @ SCF.USC.EDU>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
Sherry Linkon said she didn't want students to parrot ideas, but to examine
ideas and texts critically.  I just finished my first year of graduate
studies, and have found that this is basically what my professors are
expecting.  They want me to read (usually tons <wink> ) and then analyze or
critique or basically examine and come to my own conclusions about the
material.  The primary problem I am having is that I was raised in the United
States and went to school here, and got my undergrad degree in an American
liberal arts college.  NO ONE TAUGHT ME HOW TO THINK!  I have mastered the
art of information regurgitation, but I am finding this thinking (examining,
analyzing, critiqueing) thing absolutely agonizing!  In High School I had
college prep to get me used to heavy work loads.  Why didn't I have thinking
prep as an undergrad to get me used to this new way of learning?  I guess the
information I am trying to convey to the women and men on this board, for
whom I am developing the deepest respect and admiration, is that I feel lost
and frustrated and know that most of my classmates feel the same way.
Please, teach us how to do it (think for ourselves) before demanding that we
do anything other than parrot ideas we think you want us to have.  Because
that latter is all we have ever know (in most cases).
By the way, it is agonizing, but exciting and rewarding to actually be
discovering my own ideas about stuff.  Please don't give up on us.  We
appreciate you and we need you!
Kimberly (wanna-be-a-professor) Crabtree
*    Kimberly Crabtree          University of Southern Cal   *
*    3002 Military Avenue       crabtree  @  scf.usc.edu         *
*    Los Angeles, CA  90034     Public Administration        *
*    (310) 478-3086             Women's Studies              *
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 00:49:39 EST
From: la femme armee <LBURKETT @ UCS.INDIANA.EDU>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
        I'm a grad student, too (just finishing my eighth year of
grad school), and I really agree with what Kimberly said.  I jad the
(oops) had the same problem when I started grad school.  It wasn't
just that I wasn't taught how to think, but sometimes I think I was
actually punished for thinking, in high school and in undergrad (and, with
some professors, even in grad school).  It *is* hard to learn how to
think, but oh-so-much-fun when you can do it for yourself!
Lyn Ellen Thornblad Burkett
music theory, Indiana University
lburkett  @  ucs.indiana.edu
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 07:05:32 LCL
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
Hmmmm.  How does one teach students to think for themselves?
I can imagine how one might DISCOURAGE it (or avoid discouraging it), but
how actively to teach it?    ????
I teach philosophy, in which thinking for oneself is a MUST.  Often I present
a number of philosophical perspectives in a semester (each with pros & cons),
and I wind up with a room full of angry students who feel that I "didn't
teach them anything" because they don't know any more ANSWERS than when they
started the class, just more questions.  That is what *I* *HOPE* to accomplish,
but pretty clearly (from teaching evals) students don't like it.  I'd get
much better teaching evals if I just gave answers, not questions...
I, too, believe that critical thinking needs to be taught MUCH earlier than
college (like grade school).  By the time students show up in my classes,
they are SOOOoooo focused on "getting" the "right" answer that they merely
become suspicious of me when I tell them I'm not going to provide that.
They think I am playing games with them;  holding the "real" "right answers"
in my head & not telling them, & making them "guess" what I want them to say.
Ruth Ginzberg <rginzberg  @  eagle.wesleyan.edu>
Philosophy Department;Wesleyan University;USA
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 09:23:35 EST
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
Boy would I second what Ruth Ginzberg has said about teaching.  I can't even
begin to say how many students have written to me this year (in class writing
assignments) that they were discouraged because I had not given them the
answer, told them what to do. I stress in my classes lots of activities
designed to get the students thinking and talking about the material, but they
complain that the results are discussions that are "unfocussed."  This of
course  is my fault, because I should be telling them whether their answer is
correct or not. I know that this happens because they have been socialized to
think this way and that I also had todiscover for myself what it meant to
think.  I keep plugging away hoping for the occasional little lightbulb to go
off and sometimes it does.
A few months ago I was asked to evaluate a textbook on "critical thinking" and
I must say I was underwhelmed by it. If this is how "critical thinking" is
getting taught it seems to me little wonder that students are stumped.  Every
essay in the collection seemed to repeat *that* critical thinking was not just
the identification of logical fallacies, but also creative, intuitive, and
passionate, but not one essay offered any practical help for how to foster such
thinking in the classroom.  This was my first run in with the critical thinking
movement and I hope that it isnot representative of the ways in which such
thinking gets taught.
Laurie Finke
finkel  @  kenyon.edu
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 08:44:00 CDT
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
     If you make people think they're thinking,
     they'll love you;
     but if you really make them think,
     they'll hate you.
                        Don Marquis
The matter of thinking has created no end of problems for me as
I try to teach qualitative research methods and grounded theory.
Doing qualitative research is a highly conceptual process and
requires, understandably, thinking.  All through the term, I am
constantly asked for the right answers.  This is especially the
case when students are asked to code documents and even more so
when they are to conceptually gather the codes.
  Similarly, I face the same problem in a family theory course
where the orientation is phenomenological.
I am convinced that the problem stems from our university 'climate'
in which students are incidental to the other activities which really
matter.  As a consequence of this ordering, students are herded into
large classes and 'lectured at'.  Testing, and here is the heart of
the issue, is done via the 'multiple guess' tests which are readily
machine scored.  The consequence of 'multiple guess' testing is the
clear message that there are ALWAYS RIGHT ANSWERS.  The matter is
further compounded when these tests are perceived as being
OBJECTIVE versus essay tests which are SUBJECTIVE (and therefore
subject to the marker's whims).  Given the nature of undergraduate
education, lectures and multiple choice testing, why would anyone
be surprised that thought is stiffled.  The system, as it exists in
too many universities, encourages memorization of textbooks and
punishes anyone who thinks.  Indeed, my experience has been that
my thinking students do very poorly on multiple guess questions!
This too is hardly surprising.
Just some added thoughts to the discussion.
     Dale Berg
     Dept. of Family Studies
     Univ. of Manitoba
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 10:10:26 EDT
From: Allan Hunter <AHUNTER @ CCVM.SUNYSB.EDU>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
The problem of students arriving in college with a determined resistance
to thinking for themselves, and the expectation of being taught "the
right answers" does indeed start in grade school--I agree wholeheartedly
with Ruth Ginzberg.
The brilliant John Holt specifies the process in extremely accessible
descriptive narrative in his 1964 book WHY CHILDREN FAIL.
- Allan Hunter
 <ahunter  @  sbccvm>
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 10:03:18 CDT
From: Dennis Longmire Sam Houston State University <ICC_DRL @ SHSU.BITNE
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
Just to add my two cents, I teach both graduate and undergraduate level classes
in criminology and it is especially difficult to get students at both levels
to feel comfortable THINKING.  This is even more distressing when I learn that
several of my colleagues teaching at the graduate level discourage our students
from expressing their own thoughts about material.  When will we ever learn?
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 09:07:10 -0600
From: Harriet Linkin <hlinkin @ NMSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
I don't mean to be negative, but the flip side of this issue is that the
student who does come to think for herself and express her own thoughts
can be mis-evaluated.  I have been working with a brilliant and
original thinker whose writing requires real energy from her readers;
and she has been, at times, penalized because her readers have not
always mustered the energy her writing requires.  It's much easier to
respond to work that offers up ideas we recognize than work that
challenges us (or perhaps it's just the time of the semester for me to be
thinking these thoughts, given all the grading that awaits).  But I do
think the existence of women's studies is a response to the problem of
critical thinking outside the "norm."  How far can we push the envelope?
Harriet Linkin
New Mexico State University
hlinkin  @  nmsu.edu
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 09:36:22 PDT
From: Theresa <60840883 @ WSUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
Kimberley Crabtree writes that <NO ONE TAUGHT ME HOW TO THINK>.  As a high scho
ol drop out who is in the dissertation phase of the ph.d., I have only one thou
ght:  Can you be taught how to think?  What I had trouble with as an undergradu
ate was regurgitation--so I didn't do  it!  I suggest you reevaluate exactly wh
at it is you thought you were doing in college all those years; you might be su
rprised to learn you weren't actually regurgitating at all.  My other suggestio
n is that you get out of school for awhile and find out what life is like on th
e outside of this national institution.  You will be amazed at what thinking ca
n do for you, once you recognize that you are already doing it.  I personally o
bject to my students parroting information at any stage, and so, I think, do mo
st professors.  This complaint is pretty standard among first year grad. studen
ts I know, especially since the GRE's have become so central to the picking of
grad. students.  It doesn't take thinking to pass a GRE; it takes thought to wr
ite insightful entrance essays that can refute the evidence of a standardized t
est.  Which type of candidate are you, Kim?  Don't get too upset with me; I rea
lly do know what that first year feels like.  Just don't blame it all on the ed
ucational systems.
I would be interested, however, in discovering if my university is one
e of the few or one of the many in its recent over-reliance on GRE scores? We u
sed to rely more on the essays and the letters of recommendation, but the recen
t increase in applications, coupled with the decrease in TA funding, has caused
a shift in the emphasis at early "WEEDING" stages toward the GRE as a guide.  T
he result is that many of our new grad. students this past year were a) much yo
unger than in past years, and b) afraid or incapable of original thoughts.  The
y are overcoming both of these problems of course, but still, the emphasis seem
s wrong.  They sit in seminars like lumps of unmolded clay waiting to take the
impression of the teacher--not a standard form for our seminars at all.  Moreov
er, they bitch and complain if they are made to actually prepare to talk about
what they've been asked to read.  Certainly, that is not the norm?  TT
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 12:58:41 -0400
From: Rien sans joie <sryan @ WORLD.STD.COM>
Subject: Re: Teaching children thinking
I certainly appreciate all the comments about resistance to an
unfamiliarity with, original thouhgt. Someone asked how we might remedy
I worked on a project called the National Geographic Kid's Network,
aimed at kids in grades 4-6 that tried to teach this, among other things.
In brief, the general plan was that kids would learn background info on
something (like weather and acids) then they would collect samples (ie rain)
from their area and test them. Then this data would be pooled with other
classes that were doing the same thing in other geographical areas.
Everyone would receive the all the data and learn to do the analysis. They
also learned to critique and suggest improvements to the actual methods.
This hands-on approach really engaged the kids. They loved it. And
consequently, they learned a lot. And they started learning to think.
I also agree with the poster (sorry I deleted the post) who said that we
have to start early.
    Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.
        Rene Magritte.
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 15:56:50 EDT
Subject: In the Classroom....
I agree wholeheartedly with what Harriet Linkin has said.  There are
real problems on the part of students who are free thinkers,
particularly if they take a stand that is unpopular.  There have been
times when I have taken an intentionally unpopular stance on an issue
simply because I do not like parroting information, and because it
is, quite frankly, more challenging.  In my discipline of English
Languages and Literature, it is largely the writing style and
synthesis of information which are important, so taking an unpopular
stance is "forgiven" - however, in women's studies another area of
mine, taking a stand which is not the popular or obvious one is not
as highly evaluated.  This does not mean advocating anti-abortion when
pro-choice is the obviously feminist stand (and personal one) - but
it does mean diverging from the patriarchy as excuse theory or the
culture of victimization theory.  In many cases, this is unpopular,
and I personally believe that it is time both feminism and women's
studies steered away from this line of thought.  So, when one writes
against the pen as a phallic symbol for example, one is taking a
personal stand which may not compliment that of the instructor - this
does not make one right or wrong, it simply makes one's views
different.  That is what we want is it not?  There is validity in
either point of view, and one should be evaluated based on the
persuasiveness of the argument, not how closely a viewpoint jibes
with the majority in the classroom or the instructor's mentality.
T.L. Curtis
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 13:18:10 PDT
From: Theresa <60840883 @ WSUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: Re: In the Classroom....
Tara's point is well-taken, but not all Women's studies people and programs are
 restrictive to freedom of thought in these areas.  Consider, for example, the
wonderful work of Patricia Yaeger, _Honeymad Women_ which not only disagrees wi
th the notion that the pen is phallic, it tosses out the notion that language c
an only restrict women.  Yaeger favors the reality that women do write and they
can control language and use it powerfully.  She is not the only feminist to di
scuss this either.  Just because Gilbert and Gubar have made the claim for pen
as phallus doesn't mean it is.  Moreover, to reject notions of victimization fo
r women need not lead one into agreement with the Paglia's of the world who wou
ld claim that no women are victims either.  I find that all this insistence on
polar positions is just a return to the same old crap feminism initially (and s
till) rejects.  Theresa T.
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 17:24:25 CDT
From: Joan Wessel <wesselj @ UWWVAX.UWW.EDU>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
In regard to students' discomfort with critical thinking in the classroom,
I have another issue.  As long as I combine lecturing, pleasant activities,
VERY HIGH levels of out-of-class support and advising, and timely crisis
intervention, I have been able to do a lot of dialoging with the students
in the classroom.  This year, because of the nature of my assignment, I
am on campus only about five hours a week: 3 teaching hours and 2 advising
hours.  My direct student contact and support is hence severly curtailed.
I believe that is the reason why my graduate classes this year, unlike
past years, have been confused, distressed, resistive, and cranky.  My
evalutions this year have stressed the students' dislike for being "put on
the spot" and have repeated said "Just tell us the answer, don't keep
asking us more questions" and "if I ask you a question in class, I don't
want another question in return, I just want the answer".  My chair this
year asked me what had happened that my grad student ratings dropped.  I
agree that prior education has contributed mightily to the problem, but
now my additional problems is whether to return to a traditional lecture
format to get my ratings back up, or get out of teaching because I no
longer have the time to build the personal relationships with the grad
students that  provide the cushion for dialog in class.  Any similar
experiences?  I am teaching grad students in applied psychology.
Joan Wessel
Psychology Department
University of Wisconsi-Whitewater
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 20:38:00 EDT
From: mh90 <Marcia_A_HERNDON @ UMAIL.UMD.EDU>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
>Hmmmm.  How does one teach students to think for themselves?
>I can imagine how one might DISCOURAGE it (or avoid discouraging it), but
>how actively to teach it?    ????
OPEN-ENDED PROBLEMS (e.g., giving my undergraduates some questionnaires about
people's views of music and their past histories and then asking them to
analyze the results in groups; or having them do writing projects in groupsps)
>I teach philosophy, in which thinking for oneself is a MUST.  Often I present
>a number of philosophical perspectives in a semester (each with pros & cons),
>and I wind up with a room full of angry students who feel that I "didn't
>teach them anything" because they don't know any more ANSWERS than when they
>started the class, just more questions.  That is what *I* *HOPE* to
>but pretty clearly (from teaching evals) students don't like it.  I'd get
>much better teaching evals if I just gave answers, not questions...
>I, too, believe that critical thinking needs to be taught MUCH earlier than
>college (like grade school).  By the time students show up in my classes,
>they are SOOOoooo focused on "getting" the "right" answer that they merely
>become suspicious of me when I tell them I'm not going to provide that. >They
think I am playing games with them;  holding the "real" "right answers"
>in my head & not telling them, & making them "guess" what I want them to say.
Marcia Herndon
Email:Marcia_A_HERNDON  @  umail.umd.edu (mh90)
Snail: MRI, Box 362, Pt. Richmond, CA 94807
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 08:44:11 WST
From: Lynne Bennett <Lynne=Bennett%IS=Staff%CURTIN @ BA1.CURTIN.EDU.AU>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
    this situation sounds awfuly frustratiing for you and most of the
other women on the list. Perhaps you could remind your students that the word
EDUCATION stems from the Latin  word "educare", which means to DRAW OUT.
Thus education is a PROCESS in which the EDUCATOR draws out original ideas from
 the students, instead of the more commomn model of a TEACHER putting "facts"
 into the heads of the students.
The first approach of course is active and a demanding (but oh so rewarding)
process for the students, and staff alike. The second is a passive one
for the students and yes, it does allow staff to treat students like so many
items on the academic conveyor belt. Do students REALLY want to be treated
this way? I suspect not. All (smile) that is needed is a change in perspective
in the way students accept responsibility for their own education/life skills.
best of luck,
    Lynne Bennett    bennettl  @  ba1.curtin.edu.au     INTERNET
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 23:34:38 EDT
From: "Victoria W. Wolcott" <USER6474 @ UMICHUM.BITNET>
Subject: Resistance in the classroom
Clearly this is a subject that underlies the work of both students and
teachers in the academy--and an especially important one for Women's Studies
folk who are challenging some of the central paradigms that have been
accepted as "truth" (the right answer) in the past.  When I teach history
I often deal with the critical thinking question by focusing on evidence
and interpretations of evidence.  This can feel more "concrete" to those
students who are uncomfortable with the process of interpretation.  I ask
them to evaluate historical work by looking at the evidence used and how that
evidence is interpreted (which can show bias etc.), and when writing papers
I tell them that they must back up their thesis with clear evidence.  Although
some students still find it disturbing that they can write papers with
diametrically opposed views and get the same grades it does give them a
concrete methodology and a way to get at more abstract critical thinking.
Clearly this would not work in all disciplines.  I find this discussion
particularly interesting because it is one of the common underlying
difficulties in Women's Studies generally.
Victoria Wolcott, Department of History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Victoria_Wolcott  @  um.cc.umich.edu
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1993 20:49:00 PST
From: Marilyn Edelstein <MEDELSTEIN @ SCU.BITNET>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
        It's interesting how this "thread" has moved from male students'
resistance, through dogmatic feminist students' resistance--both to
raising issues about/using work by women and people of color--to general
student resistance to ambiguity, independent thought, aporia, or
what Keats calls "negative capability": "when a man [sic] is capable of being
in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, withouth any irritable reaching
after fact and reason" (which quality Keats believes distinguishes the
great writer from others).  Many students' "negative incapability" does
seem to "irritate" faculty, since most of us are academics in part
because we are intrigued by mystery and relatively comfortable with
doubt.  So perhaps we need to understand that many of our students aren't
like us, in terms of temperament, capabilities, background.  Which isn't
to say that we shouldn't try to "teach" students to approach material
critically, analytically, and sympathetically and try to share some skills
for doing so.  One way to deal with this is to address the issue explicitly,
not only by saying our classes will pose rather than answer questions, but
perhaps by including readings about the issues of knowledge, doubt,
the processes of education themselves, etc.  For instance, in my freshman
composition classes, we often read essays/book excerpts that problematize
their sense of what education/learning/thinking are or should be.  We've
read work by Paolo Freire (from _Pedagogy of the Oppressed_) that
contrasts the "banking" model of education with process-oriented education
(a model Clinchy et al. also discuss in _Women's Ways of Knowing_).  Some-
times making the heretofore invisible (or taken for granted) visible goes
a long way toward enabling paradigm shifts about what students have been
doing in classrooms, want to do, should do, etc.
    One form the resistance some others have discussed takes is illuminated
in  a comment I've had fairly often from students when we are in conference
discussing their rough drafts:   "But no other teacher wanted me to put
in my own opinion!" (this in response to my suggesting I want to know what
the student thinks, that writing needs a point of view and an argument and
vision of the writer's, etc.).  I'm surprised how many college faculty
(and far more in high school) still forbid students from even saying "I"
in an essay.  This isn't only a matter of style or convention--the net
effect seems to reinforce the sense that students neither need to nor
should express their own views in writing (and that sense probably extends
to speaking in class).
  So I give students "permission" to say "I," which helps at least a little.
I also require students in my various theory classes to "build a theory"
in their final exam (drawing on some of what we've read and their own
views).  Many of them do show great originality (a somewhat problematic
concept, but . . .), insight, serious thought, etc.  I'm sure we`ve all
developed techniques for enabling and encouraging independent thought,
and ways to discourage "regurgitation" and to problematize the very
possibility of "correct" answers to complex questions.  At any rate,
I hope this e-mail discussion of these important issues continues.
Sorry this has turned out to be so long.
Marilyn Edelstein, English, Santa Clara U
medelstein  @  scuacc.scu.edu        medelstein  @  scu.bitnet
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 07:43:27 EDT
From: "John C. Berg" <J.BERG @ ACAD.SUFFOLK.EDU>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
  I certainly do not claim to have been _successful_ at teaching students
to think independently, but occasionally I do notice encouraging develop-
ments.  In particular, I have found a couple of methods to be helpful:
   1) I like to ask small groups of students to solve problems.  I stay
out of the ensuing discussions as much as possible.  The theory of this
is that no one in the group will be seen as authoritative, so that they
will have to think for themselves in trying to convince and/or help each
other find an answer.  Sometimes, eavesdropping, I notice that they are
arguing about what I "want" for an answer--but not always, at least.
   2)  At the early undergraduate level, at least, I find that students may
not distinguish between basic data and interpretations of that data--they
are equally willing to accept either on the basis that "it says so in the
book".  (A related phenomenon is that they may not accept this as having
any application to real life--it may just be something to be regurgitated
on an exam.)  So I think that teaching the basics of scholarship--i.e.,
learning to evaluate sources--can also be one step toward critical thinking.
As students learn to question the basis on which a source presents an
interpretation or a fact, they are encouraged to begin to think their
own thoughts.
   As I say, I have not been entirely successful with these methods.  I
also fear that I sometimes fall into the trap mentioned elsewhere of
failing to evaluate some students independent thinking as positively as
I should because it is harder for me to recognize it.
John Berg
j.berg  @  acad.suffolk.edu
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 08:22:31 EDT
From: Jo Ellen Green Kaiser <JGKAIS00 @ UKCC.UKY.EDU>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
I think that students ask us to just give them the answers because they
know that we must have our own opinions on the material we present.  In
fact, I'm sure that students become extremely able readers of our intent
and our interests.  To get students to think critically, then, I feel that
I must be fairly up front about the kind of views I have, how I form my
own opinions, and how I regard opinions other than my own.  For example,
I might tell them what I think, and then tell them what kinds of positions
could be set against mine, validly.  I especially try to tell students when
I am unsure of an interpretation, and why.  This all works better with upper-
level/graduate students, and you must, of course, establish your authority
in the classroom before trying any of this.  But in my evaluations students
often say I push them too hard, but never complain that I haven't given them
sufficient information to do the work I ask for.
Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, U. Kentucky  jgkais00  @  ukcc.uky.edu
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 09:07:25 LCL
Subject: resistance, etc.
I think the reason many students resist thinking critically is because it
is harder for them to "know" what they have to "do" to get an 'A'.  Undergrads
are all terrified of getting less than a 3.75 GPA (or whatever), so they
are too terrified to take risks.  They feel that their life and their future
is at stake, & they want SAFETY (e.g., regurgitating facts).  Wouldn't you?
Ruth Ginzberg <rginzberg  @  eagle.wesleyan.edu>
Philosophy Department;Wesleyan University;USA
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 07:57:28 CDT
From: gary carson <ECO_GXC @ SHSU.BITNET>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
I think that students ask us to just give them the answers because they
know that we must have our own opinions on the material we present.  In
- I think there is some truth to this but a general resistance to
hard thinking is also a large component to student resistance.
I teach statistics in a business school. And, I'm also a doctoral
student in a school of criminal justice.  So, I've got my foot in
both a "hard science" discipline and a "soft science".  Introductory
stat methods courses are typically taught with a cookbook approach.
The students are typically given a list of rules or conditions and
they are told what to do under a particular condition.  The first
couple of stat courses I took as an undergraduate where taught that
way and I didn't learn a damn thing.  I made A's because I learned how
to work the end of chapter problems.  But, thats got nothing to do with
the practice of statistics.
Since I've been teaching I get a little less cookbookish every semester.
I think I've been improving as a teacher and I think the students I've got
this semester know more about statistics than the ones I taught say 2 years
ago.  But, every semester my evaulations get a little worse.  I attribute
this to the fact that every semester I give the students fewer problems
that have unique right answers.  I don't see how this problem could be
caused by my opinions or political bias - at least not within the realm
of statistics.
However, in my soft science activities (as a graduate student) I see my
fellow students spend more time worrying about the political bias of
the teacher than they do about the material.  In a field that doesn't really
have any right answers, the students are excessively concerned with what
answer the teacher wants.  In criminal justice we've got a blend of
right wing types (the "cop" teachers) and left wing types (socioligists).
Depending on the teacher, most students will give a different answer.
I  think student resistance comes both from a fear of offending the
political bias of the teacher and a fear of hard thinking.
By the way, I'll be taking a criminlogy course from Dennis Longmire next
semester - he made a comment about his experiences with student desire
for the "answer" in that course a few days ago.  He's one that has a reputation
as a flaming, knee-jerk liberal.  I've heard many students comment that
"I would have said so-and-so on the exam but that was Longmire's question
and he doesn't want to hear it".  I suspect that he's a better teacher than
that but you'd have a hard time convincing most students of it.
-- gary carson
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 07:55:20 CDT
From: Beth Cohen <C508371 @ MIZZOU1.BITNET>
Subject: Resistance in the classroom/Teaching critical thinking
Yesterday, someone on the list expressed frustration with a book that
purported to be about how to teach critical thinking, but provided no good
ideas how to actually do that.  I would like to recommend a book which not
only gives some good ideas and examples of how to teach critical thinking
at levels from elementary to college, but also discusses the philosophical
basis for societal barriers to teaching critical thinking.  The book was
written by a dear, long-time friend of mine, S. Samuel Shermis, who is a
professor of education at Purdue University.  Here is the citation and a
brief Table of Contents:
     Shermis, S. Samuel (1992).  Critical thinking:  Helping students learn
        reflectively.  Bloomington, Indiana:  ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading
        and Communication Skills and EDINFO Press.
    /Barriers to reflective inquiry  /What philosophical assumptions prevent
reflective thought?  /Teaching as transmission  /Philosophical absolutes
/A semantic analysis  /Eclecticism  /Cultural forces
    /We begin with Dewey  /What must one know before the process of inquiry
begins?  /Thought and emotion  /Knowledge as a function of a theory of reality
/The subjective/objective dualism  /Knowledge as pluralistic  /Values
/Transmission as the result of a philosophical position  /Discussion as the
heart of inquiry
     /Problem-solving and reflective inquiry  /A model of reflective teaching
in action /implications of applied critical inquiry for schools
Despite the long table of contents, this is not a long book; it is a slim
volume of 87 pages.  Because the book was published by ERIC, who brings us the
educational database, rather than a major publisher, I don't know how easily
it is available through bookstores.  But it can surely be ordered directly
from ERIC, which can be reached at BITNET%WWLEWIS  @  IUBACS or via snail mail
at ERIC/RCS, Indiana University, 2805 E. 10th St., Suite 150E, Bloomington,
IN 47408-2698, FAX:  (812) 855-7901.
Beth Cohen, Ph.D Candidate in Counseling Psychology
Department of Psychology, University of Missouri-Columbia
email address:  C508371  @  MIZZOU1 (bitnet)
                C508371  @  MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU (internet)
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 08:30:00 CDT
From: Chris Africa 335-5017 <CADCALTS @ UIAMVS.BITNET>
Subject: Resistance, thinking, and pedagogy
I failed miserably at the front of the classroom 18 years ago
and fresh from graduate school, which is partly why I am where I
am now.  I very much hope to have an opportunity to teach some
history again, in which gender will be one of the variables for
discussion, and I have been following the discussion of resistance,
alienation, and critical thinking skills with much interest since
I have been thinking about how I will prepare to deal with these
issues if I get back into a classroom.  I would like to thank the
list membership for their insights and advice.
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 09:58:54 EDT
Subject: Teaching thinking
Mmmmm..must be the end of the semester to produce such an interesting strand..
So I'll toss in my dos centavos.  First, generally speaking, our society does
not encourage *thinking*..it is not perceived as *work* {my own children are
just now beginning to understand that I don't keep bankers' hours and that
sometimes it is quite difficult to turn off that wheel in your head].
Second it would seem that we all agree that teaching critical thinking is part
of how we see ourselves as teachers...but that it is an exhausting and in some
cases not very rewarding situation.
Third, Kimberly, I agree with the other writer [sorry I have a new, not quite
mastered system that does not allow me to switch back and forth to check names]
that you probably do more critical thinking than you are aware of.  I also
agree that you should take a few weeks off from academia and become more involv
ed with the world..or community to re-ground yourself..all that reading and
thinking can make you dizzy!<grin>...seriously, I have several things I do to
reground and reorient myself when I've been at the cerebral post a bit too long
.  Hopefully one of the functions of a graduate program is to have students
develop the capacity for critical thinking...IMHO it cheapens the higher educa-
tional experience if this doesn't happen.
Fourth..I'd like to speak a moment to some of my experiences here at a regional
campus with this.  Fortunately in my department [political science] I am well
supported in my insistence on teaching thinking.  I teach comparative politics,
american national government, and international relations..all broadly written.
.I introduced feminist theory into the comparative class for the first time on
campus this year. I introduced it and taught it in much the same way as I
taught the other ideologies in this comparative class.  I also introduced the
women's movement in Latin America.  It was some of the hardest teaching I've
ever done.  First was the issue of developing critical thinking abilities on
the part of my students...those who were aware of their own value system and
were secure enough to examine it did better at critical evaluations than others
..others could not/would not push past their own value system despite my re-
assurances that my goal was not to replace their value systems..only have them
examine them critically; then the decision to keep them would be truly theirs.
Despite my exhaustion wanting to tell me it's not working, the research papers
and almost vehement class reaction to a classmate who took an unpopular stand
with regard to racism demonstrates that most will come out of this class with
an improved critical thinking ability.  It's hard work and there have been
casualties along the way.
But as a professor, I've also learned something about how I might not be hear-
ing some critical thinking that is going on, but is outside the realm of the
class being taught.  I just concluded a class on American national government
for a group of mature students at an outreach campus.  The average grade in the
class was a "D".  After satisfying myself that the exams were on target, the
lectures in line with the exams..etc., I began staying a bit later [everyone
usually dashes off since many live a distance away..including myself..a 40mile
trip once a week] and chatting with the students.  What I discovered was that
these students were doing critical thinking about government..their local
government! as they learned more in class.  I began to understand that the
history of the county was so corrupt and remains so [vote altering, police
harassment..etc. etc.] that for my students to think critically about what
was going on and apply that in class was so frightening they just "locked down"
on the exams.  Moreover the attempt to have a class project revealed such gross
illegalities that I had to abort the project since what the students had un
covered up to that point was so potentially threatening to them in a real and
psychological sense I could not continue.  So the grades stink!  What do I do?
They certainly were thinking critically...the price, for them, was enormous.
A paradox and conundrum eh?  Some of the women dropped out earlier in the class
...their price seemed more immediate..they frequently came to class with multip
le bruises..one quietly told me that attending was too "disruptive" to her
family...another persisted, but has consistently engaged in what in the South
is referred to as "dumming up"...staying in the class and behaving as if she
can't understand the simplest concept.
Sorry for the length....but then critical thinking doesn't lend itself to 60
second sound bites <smile>
Patricia McRae
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 10:20:07 PDT
From: Theresa <60840883 @ WSUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
One approach to helping students recognize their involvement in learning (i.e.
thinking) that I find helpful in my writing classes is to focus on education it
self for the first paper.  I find Belenky, et al's study of learning useful fro
m _Women's Ways of Knowing_, especially the comparison between the "banker" for
m of learning and the "midwife" form of learning.  After we spend four weeks co
mparing educational models and systems, most students realize they would prefer
 to think--then they want me to tell them how!  I don't, of course.  Still, I t
ry to cut the difference by giving them the "rules" of grammar--so they know wh
en and why to break them, and the "forms" of the essay so they know when to bre
ak those forms and why.  It works well.  I get great evaluations usually.
60840883  @  wsuvm1.csc.wsu.edu
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 14:03:20 EST
From: "Mary C. Ware" <WARECM%SNYCORBA.bitnet @ CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU>
I came on the network after the original message which prompted all this
discussion, but it has sparked some thinking just reading the responses.
I was very puzzled by the type of resistance I encountered teaching a course
Gender Issues in Education during the past two summers.  A paper I wrote for
from AERA (1991 AERA meeting) by Robin Heslip who was then at U. of Oregon
(but who has never answered my letters since then and may have left
the country) was very useful to me.  Someone else might have that paper
in old files from AERA. It was called "Transforming the Eurocentric
Curriculum: What has resistance got to do with it?" and referred to experiences
teaching a course called "Teachers as Mothers" which used Grumet's
Bitter Milk as a major text.  She talked a bit about resistance to
feminist methodology...people who wished to be silent rather than participate
in discussion, people who felt that the methodology was intrusive (e.g.,
journal writing).  I found it fascinating...I write in hope that she
mioght be out there, or that it eventually got published...or something.
In any case, keep on writing about this...I think when we feel we are
trying to be so liberated or liberating, it comes as a shock to be resisted
Mary C. Ware, SUNY Cortland, Cortland NY
warecm  @  snycorba.edu
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 16:28:41 BST
From: "S.T.Champion" <S.T.Champion @ SOUTHAMPTON.AC.UK>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
Re Victoria Wolcott's comments: you are probably right that critical use of
evidence and its interpretation is not as easy in some fields as is others, but
it is crucial to developing the ability of students to think, to realise that
in these subjects at least there is no right answer; and it must begin YOUNG.
On this side of the Atlantic, where the education system is obviously
different, the use of pieces of 'real' historical evidence and the discussion
of their origin (eg who was writing and FOR whom) is now standard for the study
of history at GCSE level (exam taken at 16+, continuous assessment work carried
out between ages 14 and 16).  This may well be the case also in the US -
forgive my ignorance if so.  Faced with diametrically opposed views of similar
events or processes, all *written down* and therefore to be believed (!), 14-
year olds now *have* to think about what they are reading, to discuss why
sources are different, and to (try) to understand why certain views have been
'accepted' (ie enshrined in some, though not all, history text books), and why
others might have been suppressed.  It really is quite exciting to see one's
14-year old son find his way thru, for example, the European and the Native
American views of 1492, or the many voices writing in Ireland from early this
century to now, even if the extracts from the sources are short.  He's been
doing work on women's rights and suffragettes recently, so in a small way he's
already being exposed to some of the ideas which this list is about.  And this
is part of the curriculum (and very different from the way I was taught history
at school), so with any luck a considerable number of those studying history
at this level now will be prepared to think for themselves in 7 years time when
they graduate - as long as the universities continue the good work.  Again,
over here this tends to depend on subject.  In our archaeology department,
first year undergraduates at 18 yrs are thrown, in the first term, into the
quagmire of competing theoretical frameworks for the analysis and
interpretation of the past, from culture-historical, thru processual, to
structural and post-structural, and indeed feminist.  The culture of believing
that everything that is *printed* in a *book* must be *true* (which is still
a prevalent view) simply has to go - they do realise (well, most of them) that
the books cannot *all* be right, so why should any of them be?  That leads
instantly to the question of are there any right answers, to which of course
the answer is no -then anything they write has to be presented in the form of
reasoned thoughtful evidence-based argument.  Now that's easier for us - the
different format of undergraduate degrees where specialisation comes much, much
earlier than in the US, the much smaller year-groups, particularly in subjects
like archaeology, which means no multiple choice-type tests and lots more
class/seminar teaching.  Even then there will be some who don't participate and
don't like the absence of a right/wrong framework to the subject.  It is
clearly unimaginably more difficult if the class numbers are enormous, and if
students are in a class to pick up a credit rather than because it's their
main, or only, specialist subject.  Which is why it has to start much younger,
in school, where perhaps within the framework of smaller class numbers, good
teachers can get the thought processes going.  There really isn't any reason
why it shouldn't begin at 10 or 11.  A final thought (sorry folks, it's been
a long read, I know) is that although assessment of lecturers is now upon us
over here, tenure in academic posts is not yet dependent on student assessment,
which to judge by earlier discussion on the list it can be in the US.  I
imagine that it is not the only performance indicator; but the intention by our
current government, if that's what you can call it, to change some universities
into teaching establishments only (ie little or no research), frequented by
student 'customers' who will 'buy' their education, is bound to lead to an
increasing emphasis on student assessment - so I've been following all your
discussions with great interest.  Indeed I have greatly enjoyed my first three
weeks on the list - thanks to all contributors.
Sara Champion (stc  @  uk.ac.soton) Dept of Archaeology, University of Southampton,
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 15:33:06 EST
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
Sarah Campion's discussison of how the delivery of knowledge differs between
the us and uk was instructive.  The situation described of students being
conceived of as consumers of a product (presumably to be kept happy and buying)
is, alas, all to prevalent in the us, in fact I suspect that's where the
british gov't may be picking the ideas up.  The idea that education should make
you happy or that the "customer is always right"is disturbing.  One colleague
at a conference I was asked suggested we need to stamp our syllabi "Batteries
not included."
I loved the discussion of the kinds of tasks 14 year old students are being
given. It sounds wonderful. But it reminds me that being given a whole welter
of conflicting information can be pretty intimidating.  It put me in mind of my
students' reaction here to my first feminist theory class.  I avoided
categorizing theories into "schools" which the students read as chaos.  I now
see that I can give them lots of conflicting information and theory, but I
can't leave them without any frameworks.  It's just too intimidating.
In fact, relevant tothis discussion, let me pass on this from a student "daily
log":  "We were discussing a liberal feminist's work in [another class].  I
argued against liberal feminism, as I always do.  But my pol. sci. professor
pointed out a conflict in radical feminism. . . .If radical feminists believe
in the Nietzschian model of society, that it is a series of battles--gaining
ground and losing of control--"wills to power,"-- or that everything is
socialized, how can they argue for any kind of change?  How can I argue that
all of the "negative" things we value/believe are purely social
constructions and then propose that certain moral, political, philosophical
positions are right?  It seems that there is some sort of philosophical
conflict in this model, although it is what I believe?  If nothing is inherent,
or natural, how can I argue that one position is better than another?"
I was impressed by this because I saw real evidence of some wrestling with
tough questions.
finkel  @  kenyon.edu
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 15:54:20 EDT
From: James Prather <IREJAP @ GSUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
 Is not students' responses to demands by teachers to "think" a product of
 their ethnic, social and gender background?  Thus some students from certain
 backgrounds appear to be more thoughtful and inquiring (more verbal and
 direct) while others seem to be more passive (less verbal and expecting
 more approval).  We attach various ethnic and gender labels to these styles
 of interaction and response.  The skillful and wise teacher trys to go past
 style and let each student find their own voice.  jprather irejap  @  gsuvm1
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 15:18:58 CDT
From: Bob Bender <ENGBOB @ MIZZOU1.BITNET>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
Jo Ellen makes an excellent point.  I've always assumed that one of the basic
tenets of feminist pedagogy is telling students what we as  instructors be-
lieve, how we form our ideas, and that we do not always have the "answers." At
the first sessions in all classes I teach I try my best to indicate my own
views, assure the students I do not require they share these views and that in
fact they are responsible for formulating their views and convincing others of
the validity of those views.  Many students are skeptical of course, but they
often comment in evaluations on their surprise that they did not ever feel they
were judged badly (or unfairly) for not sharing my views.  Still, some comment,
a little feminism goes along way.
Bob Bender, University of Missouri-Columbia
engbob  @  mizzou1
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 18:24:32 EST
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
I've been following--and saving--the discussion about resistance
in the classroom with great interest.  I am on leave this term, and
am spending considerable time reflecting upon the kinds of resistance
I meet with in my classroom, and thinking of ways to address taht
resistance.  You'll all be happy to know that the imaginary classes I
hold in my head are having great success in harnessing and channelling
student resistance in useful and dynamic ways!
But seriously, a book that has given my some insight, pause for reflection,
and real encouragement lately is A PEDAGOGY FOR LIBERATION, a book
"talked" by Paolo Friere and Ira Schor.  The book is both concrete and
theoretical in ways I've found very exciting and encouraging.
Lisa Heldke
Gustavus Adolphus College
St. Peter, MN
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 18:10:58 -800
From: Kathleen Margaret Lant <klant @ CYMBAL.CALPOLY.EDU>
Subject: Re: Resistance in the classroom
I was impressed by James Prather's comments on the effects of race, class,
ethnicity, and gender in determining how students respond to their
instructors' demands that they "think critically." His remarks were
sensitive and humane in that they allowed for different ways of responding,
they acknowledged that not every student is verbally aggressive. In our
conversation so far, I have been a little disturbed by the sense that
"we"--those of us privy to this conversation-- believe that we can think
well and clearly, but that our students just don't measure up. Where did
this fortunate "we" learn to think so clearly if not in the very
classrooms we seem to criticize? Obviously many of us value the women's
movement for teaching us to think for ourselves, but our students have
just as many "extra-curricular" influences, and they are just as sensitive
to the world as we were when we were in their positions.
I find that my students think quite well. Sure we argue. Sure they are
insecure at times--as well they should be. I am giving the grades, after
all. But I would never be so arrogant as to assert that my students cannot
think. If we failed to communicate, I would be inclined to wonder instead
how or why I had missed the points they had made in the ways available and
comfortable to them. In some ways this reminds me of the old canon
debate ("if you are not writing our way you are not really writing"). We
seem to be asserting that if you (the student) can't express yourself my
way (using the "official" vernacular), you are not really expressing
yourself. I seems to me that we need to mediate between these two
discourses. We need to help our students find what they are thinking
and to express it in such a way that it can be made part of the
"official version." But we must never arrogantly assume that they are
not thinking.
 peggy lant
klant  @  oboe.calpoly.edu
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 1993 10:33:30 EDT
From: Joe Cheng <joforgot @ AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: Teaching thinking
  [Cheng quotes Patricia McRae's April 29 message in its entirety.  I've
omitted it, since it appears earlier. JK]
   This brings us back to the underlying reality of the classroom experience,
that a class is an in-between space in which we feel detached from our "real
lives."  Once again, the experience of male violence pervades our very
self-awareness.  Critical thinking does not need to be taught, because what
prevents students from engaging classroom material critically is not the
inability to think critically but, plainly and simply, the palpable fear of
political repercussions.  And by political I mean first and foremost things
like: "How will my classmates perceive me if I say what I'm thinking?  Will
they stare at me?  Will I be attacked as a man-hating feminazi?  Will I be
ostracized for X, Y and Z?  Will I be disrupting the class?  Will I hurt
someone's feelings?  Is what I'm thinking relevant at all?  What will my
parents think?"  In any Women's Studies class a student will be challenging
the political/sexual context of her entire social reality.  Underneath
students' stony queitness and their occasional demands of more direction in
thinking is a deep memory of all of the unjust punishments they have received
in their lives, and all of the unjust punishment that awaits them still.
   We do not live in small tribes anymore, where we can make reasonable
assumptions about a person's life history.  Every classroomful of people,
teacher included, consists entirely of people whose very consciousness has
been and is now undergoing a dynamic of being hemmed in by the politics of
her personal relationships, with domino trails spiraling out from those
personal relationships to every oppressive power dynamic this society churns
with.  You have no idea who each student brings invisibly into the classroom
with her.  You yourself as teacher are never fully aware of what living
ghosts trail you into the classroom, looking over your shoulder and hemming
in your bevavior
   We must never forget that feminist movement is in large part the exorcism
of patriarchal ghosts from our very stream of consciousness and our
feeling-lives.  But these ghosts are not figments of our imagination, as
feminism-as-hysteria theorists would suggest.  The ghosts are our awarenesses
of the potential personal/sexual political repercussions of every act of
speech, eye contact, hearing, mental imaging, and emotional self-permission
we avail ourselves to.  To try to liberate ourselves from the threats of
violence by the specific real people implicit in these ghosts requires
personal political strategic planning
   Students reject critical thinking on class material at quite a visceral
level because they already realize, live the fact, that critical thinking is
already political action.  Since political actions can be life-endangering,
they are hesitant to proceed until they know more or less how doing that
thinking is going to affect the particular political constellation of their
own particular lives
   A person's streaming of consciousness is intricately etched out in dozens
of networking strands to irrigate her own unique patch of the social nexus,
and that etching is always an eclectic melange of mismatched patterns
constructed piecemeal over the course of her unique life history.  It is
always makeshift, because the local topography of her patch of society is
highly idiosyncratic (This is why one thought can seem "true" (politically/
irrigationally safe) to one person and frighteningly "false"
(politically/irrigationally perilous) to another, because the
personal/political lay of the land is so different at each person's
socio-personal location).   Critical thinking involves significant
alterations to that delicately balanced streaming of one's consciousness
   Like in any piecemeal-constructed system, we cannot make changes without
risking the whole thing falling apart, because we don't know all the
collaterally established interdependencies within the system.  Our relational
psyches are held together by spit and glue
   Being hesitant to think critically is thus a matter of looking before one
leaps, a necessary and wise moment in learning, not a malady in students to
be decried and feared.  It is respect for the power of thinking to change
one's life, radically, unpredictably.  We academics are so accustomed to
doing loop-de-loops in our thinking that we forget that we ourselves also
fear to tread most avenues of thought.  How many of us regularly cross
disciplines and cultures in our research?  It is very very hard to do.  It
takes planning, and it is downright dangerous
   Critical thinking, after all, does literally alter our personal/sexual
political relationships with people close to us.  If it doesn't, it is not
critical thinking.  Thus real critical thinking always, always precipitates a
crisis, large or small, in our personal lives, and in our
socio-cultural-sexual-economic-political positioning.  It is not something we
can ever do lightly or comfortably (which is not to say it cannot be done
joyously.  What, after all, does Irigaray mean by "jouissance?")
  Since we can hardly make it a requirement in class that a student undergo a
personal crisis in relation to the course material (although in Women's
studies this can hardly be entirely avoided either), I believe that critical
thinking on a large scale can only be offered as an option for students.
This may seem like backsliding, or giving up, but hold on, I am not finished
   Not all personal crises are disasters.  People don't have to be told that
it is movement through personal crisis that IS personal growth.  People may
not like that fact, but everyone knows it's true.  Students want to have
personal crises in relation to course material IF they can be reasonably sure
it is going to be:
a) a crisis they can deal with without having their lives fall apart,
b) a crisis that resolves certain tensions or unjust conditions in their
personal/sexual/political relationships -- results in a net improvement in
their irrigation of their patch of the social nexus with their streaming of
c) a crisis that can contribute to their getting what they may have already
decided they want to get from the class, be it a certain kind of knowledge, a
certain level of academic credibility (a good grade for the transcript), a
way of impressing somebody ("I'm taking such-and-such..."), a prerequisite
for a profession or academic field, or whatever.
Any student who comes up with a project of critical thinking that effects a
personal crisis meeting these three criteria will most undoubtedly choose to
do the project instead of taking the conservative regurgitation tactic, if
given a choice.  Thus I do not think that not requiring critical thinking in
class actually works against critical thinking in class.  It gives students
necessary space to contemplate and plan their critical thinking to meet their
own needs.
  Finally, because most students will not be foolish enough to think
themselves critically into random personal crises (I have always been one of
the fools), it is futile and even dangerous to compel students to think
critically without first providing them with the opportunity to plan their
critical thinking with a view toward how that thinking will alter their
personal lives forever.  This is already done to some extent in consultations
over paper topics.  But I feel it is crucial to make it clear to students
that critical thinking will indeed change their lives, and to offer the
critical thinking option as an open-ended project assignment which they are
to design themselves.
  It is absolutely crucial to make sure that students plan their critical
thinking ahead of time, with a thorough awareness of how much stress and
conflict it will create in their personal lives.  Otherwise, students will
never trust any teacher who encourages or compels them to think critically
again, because they will fear critical thinking as something one cannot do
without getting injured.  Critical thinking must be carefully planned and
designed by a student herself to fit the unique personal/sexual/political
context of her life, which is what is at stake in critical thinking, and no
less. I believe that student resistance to critical thinking is grounded in
students' political/personal savvy.  We can work with them to make critical
thinking work for them.
Date: Mon, 3 May 1993 12:08:55 -0400
From: "Dr. Roseanne L. Hoefel" <HOEFEL @ ALMA.EDU>
Subject: resistance in classroom and immediate gratification
I have found every facet of the "resistance in the classroom" and "critical
thinking" discussions immensely valuable.  I also want to thank Joe Cheng
for his extremely lucid and thought-provoking reminder about men alienating
women from women, etc.  I suspect my own input to this ongoing conversation
will pale by comparison, but I am compelled to offer yet another possibility
for student reluctance with regard to critical thinking.  I wonder if students,
like the rest of us, are so conditioned--by media, materialism, etc.--to
expect and even demand immediate gratification that anything which takes longer
than anticipated to grasp becomes a site of anger and frustration?  Like fast
food and fast service, many ways of being in today's culture have made us less
patient, less willing to wait and/or strive for quality?  Perhaps we need to
try to "deprogram" this ingrained perspective somehow, by gradually helping
students not to be uncomfortable with pauses in our classroom discussions as
we wait for a thoughtful, rather than regurgitated response; by enabling time
to write/reflect WITHIN the classroom, etc?  I agree that at the heart of the
matter is mutual empowerment, and while I am cognizant of the problematic
term "victim," I fear that when we fault students for variant versions of the
immediate satisfaction/product expectation without helping ourselves and them
to overcome the forces that have established it, this may be on a subtle level
a way of blaming the victim?  Before I babble to the point of distraction or
upset too many folks on this list for whom I have great respect and admiration,
 I better close, with the reminder that these are questions only, a way of
thinking aloud within community, which I am grateful to the list for providing
such a vehicle and network.  Thanks, Joan, and the rest who contribute.
Roseanne  "Hoefel  @  alma.edu"

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