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Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind
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Graff is an English professor, formerly of the University of Chicago and now at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He gained some fame in the early 1990s for arguing against his then-U. Chicago colleague Allan Bloom's understanding of Western culture. In this book, Graff looks into the great chasm between students and teachers and finds on one side Arguespeak, the language of teachers, and, on the other side, Studentspeak, the language of everyone else. Arguespeak consists of looking at particular aspects of a subject matter critically, in light of what one knows about the whole field. Studentspeak makes itself heard whenever people talk about everyday things: friends, food, movies, work, video games, t.v. shows, and so on. Problems arise when teachers want to hear Arguespeak from their students but only get Studentspeak. Graff's book offers concrete ways to help teachers teach their language to students.
The main obstacle to understanding Arguespeak is that every critical comment uttered by a teacher is made within a larger conversation about a topic or subject.Read more ›
Graff's focus is on how English departments should go about their business, and in doing so recommends making connections with popular culture -- since he assumes the subject of study is secondary to learning how to argue. Graff goes on to criticize how different disciplines send different messages about what kind of composition is expected, mentioning not just the humanities and social sciences, but also the sciences and mathematics. While using popular culture as a means of imparting analytical thinking skills is clearly inappropriate for these subjects, Graff does discuss an alternative means that I found interesting: a particular way of intertwining of natural language explanations along with the technical discourse. His use of templates for writing essays also has analogs in the analysis that goes on in other disciplines.
Other topics touched upon in the book include the value of analytical thinking and a discussion of progressive versus traditional models of education.
Overall, "Clueless in Academe" is useful reading for any teacher trying to get their students to think.
Graff describes what students need to know to flourish in current academia, and contrasts that with the content of typical high school and university classes. We who teach have a specialized academic vocabulary, which we expect students to gain through osmosis. Teachers are so immersed in our subjects that we forget which ideas we take for granted are obscure to our students, so we come across as opaque blowhards.
The problem, Graff says, is that the most significant education themes are those of debate and argument. Yet because we teachers don't state this in student language, students see our questions and criticisms as condemnations. We need to teach them how to argue in respectful, productive terms on issues that are not self-evidently true, if we want students to succeed.
This book is not meant exclusively for teachers. Students will find useful chapters on how to create admission essays, negotiate writing intensive classes, and craft class papers without tears. Graff's explication of rhetoric and controversy covers every major theme you should have gotten in ninth grade English, and does so in clear language.
Though Graff comes from a composition background, he stresses how his ideas apply to all disciplines and can be addressed across fields. He uses multiple sources, and diverse educational traditions, to create a synthesis that proposes new options in teaching and studying. This book offers ideas for teachers, students, administrators, and anyone who cares whether students have the skills they need in school and in life.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A must read for every teacher in the country. I have never read a tome that so succinctly and convincingly argues for the interplay between academia and popular culture- not as a... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Jeanne McVerry
This book is really good at explaining the function of academics in relation to the functionality of the student's mind.Published on September 9, 2013 by M. McKaba
I first encountered Graff's work in a textbook for a class, sandwiched between two required essays. Since I was there anyway, I started reading. Read morePublished on March 18, 2013 by CelticGoddess 1326
I love the operational suggestions for implementing
the "teach the controversy" pedagogy. Graff's essays
are a pure pleasure to read too...beautifully written!!
Thank you for the timely sending of the product. I am satisfied with the description of what I received. I believe they matched up with one another. Read morePublished on January 16, 2012 by ec
My child had this assigned for summer reading, and I can only say I'm glad I don't have to get through it. As a former college English prof. Read morePublished on August 18, 2010 by Killersax
In his early books, Literature Against Itself: Literary Ideas in Modern Society (1979) and Professing Literature: An Institutional History, Twentieth Anniversary Edition (1987),... Read morePublished on March 21, 2009 by Robert A. Sandberg
This book offers a critique of academic culture--in particular, a critique of the role of argumentation within academic culture. Read more