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It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it

And I have to be the one? I'm teaching an American Literature course for the University of St. Francis this fall. Not quite half the students in this class were in my composition course two summers ago--it's always fun to have repeat students that I like.

But this course is proving to be a little bit more of a challenge. For some reason, it was easier to teach composition at a college level than it is for me to teach literature. I'm trying to give these students a historical context, but it seems harder for them than for traditional undergraduates to see the relevance of what we're studying.

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This is about how some of my classes seem to go. Last week we discussed Nathanial Hawthorne's short story "Young Goodman Brown." The entire story is an allegory (which I didn't even dare to bring up), and one of the characters is named Faith. Faith is Goodman Brown's wife, and she is mentioned several times through the story, mostly in ways that preclude the double meaning of the word. Now I don't fault my students for reading stories literally, but to miss the nuance behind a statement like, "My Faith held me back awhile" in reference to why he was tardy meeting his companion, the devil????

This week we're going to try doing a little more close reading--but we've got a few fairly obvious texts, and Uncle Tom's Cabin to work with, so I'm afraid I'm mostly going to get the likes of this:

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....to be continued....



This occurs in my literature class as well, except I am a student... I have to watch the prof. drop hint after obvious hint, hoping to hook a deeper understanding, but usually coming up with nothing. I provide enough input to move the discussion along, but treading much farther than that is avoided.

A literature class, at the college level, requires more knowledge than the average High school graduate has to offer. Sadly, education is now just a system of robotic conditioned responses; no understanding or active thought needed, just sensory cues for retrieval of memorized data.