Phi Beta Cons

A Teach-the-Conflicts Statement by Graff

Over at Inside Higher Ed, MLA president Gerald Graff has a statement about “courseocentrism.” Here’s an interesting paragraph:

I have elsewhere described coming up against this problem myself in a course in which I had juxtaposed assigned readings by the arch-traditionalist Allan Bloom and the radical African American feminist bell hooks. To any academic insider, Bloom and hooks are so far apart ideologically as to be on different planets, but I realized that for some of my students they were virtually indistinguishable, both using an obscure academic language to discuss problems the students had a hard time seeing as problems. In a succinct formulation of the point that Michael Bérubé offered me after hearing a talk in which I struggled to articulate it, any two eggheads, no matter how far apart ideologically, will always be far closer to each other than to non-eggheads. Again, the reason is that eggheads — intellectuals — whether they are on the Left or the Right, are defined and differentiated from outsiders by their membership in a common culture of ideas and arguments, a common culture that our curricular mixed messages hide from our students and our non-communicating courses hide from us.


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