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Teaching in an Era of Kos

As some of us mourn (complain) the state of the Internet, I wonder how we can teach students to write and think in ways that rise above the [choose your own description | rancor] they read on DailyKos, Free Republic, Town Hall, MoveOn... et al. Agree or disagree, the Web is home to a lot of angry tirades that would fail a basic debate course.

Though I consider myself “moderate” and want more fun and less politics in my life, I understand that many of my colleagues cannot resist being political in their courses. What they don’t admit is that they might be tolerating weaker logic from those students expressing views that are aligned with the instructor.

The students might be learning that weak, but passionate, arguments are acceptable if they support the dominant positions within their classroom communities. I worry that we might be little more than an echo chamber, suggesting to students that virtual shouting matches are acceptable.

A post on the DailyKos did summarize my feelings (paraphrasing): We could replace “Hillary” with “Huckabee” in most of these rants and readers would blindly cheer us on because it is so easy to hate when we all think alike.

Is that the “democratic participation” we envision when teaching composition? If so, that is very, very sad. The short angry burst has replaced reasoned debate.


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