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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon February 23, 2004
"Clueless in Academe" is a discussion on how to make the academic intellectual life more accessible and desirable for incoming college students. The underlying premise of the book is that "becoming educated has more to do with thinking and talking about subjects or texts in analytical ways than with the subjects or texts you study." While this premise breaks down rapidly as students progress in their major course of study, it is a useful assumption for teaching beginning college students.
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.
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