The challenge I face is one of introducing students to the critique of our capitalist culture, on which they have based their aspirations for success. I also, however, want to affirm their faith in the Ameri- can Dream and inspire them to create a vision of the United States that can sustain and enrich their lives as well as accommodate diversity and inclusivity. I recommend the approach I take be- cause it is a means not only of acknowledging the weaknesses of our American system but also of providing a vision and a series of goals that can affirm the hopes and dreams of these students.
Our students are almost universally first- generation college students, 132 - 102 - Liberal Arts in a Cultural Studies Composition Course typically working students in their english paraphrasing twenties or thirties, but often displaced middle-aged workers.
They are trying to find their way in an economy that no longer offers the kinds of jobs in manu- facturing that enabled their parents to move into the middle class by relocating to the city from small Kentucky towns or the mili- tary life of nearby Fort Knox. Furthermore, while many of these students are heavily invested in their part-time jobs, working long hours to be able to attend college, they need to be encouraged to make english paraphrasing a similarly serious investment in their college course work. My approach, using both cultural critique and the liberal arts, helps them see that their investment in higher education must include such things as critical thinking as well as more specific job skills. The text begs for a cultural studies approach to its material since its essays argue that the media have a heavy influence on commodity-hungry Americans. Miss- ing from the text is any challenge to the argument the text mounts against the inadequacies of our consumer culture and our bank- rupt capitalism. The problem we face is that students can simply dismiss the critique the text attempts to introduce to them. Alternatively, students may become disillusioned and despair about their prospects. This material was known in earlier eras of composition teaching as the liberal arts tradition.
For their second assignment, they must incorporate a quote from their text into their discussion of an issue raised in one of the essays from their text. In prepa- ration for this assignment, we -continue our discussion of read- ings from the text, focusing on ways our American system can respond to its challenges. As part of this pro- cess, we review the Declaration of Independence and analyze the activist role that arises out of involved citizenship and social re- sponsibility. They can aim to fulfill their own dreams, personal if not financial, and gain satisfaction from contributing to the improvement and en- richment of our American system.
Specifically, although I assert confidence in the American Dream, we discuss the dream as one of personal fulfillment rather than financial success only.
I emphasize the importance of stan- dard forms of english paraphrasing language as a means of communicating ideas, be- lieving that its value of clear communication makes up for its - 104 - 134 Liberal Arts in a Cultural Studies Composition Course supposed elitism. Finally, I concern myself with the moral devel- opment of my students as a legitimate pedagogical concern, an- other basic tenet of liberal humanism. As I empha- size liberal humanist ideals, I draw on the work of numerous humanist scholars, such as Booth (1998), Boyer (1987), Farnham and Yarmolinsky (1996), Gless and Smith (1992), Kernan (1997), Nussbaum (1997), Oakley (1992), and Orrill (1995). For their response to the argument assignment, I encourage students to write about an issue that affects their own lives, hop- ing to stimulate their motivation. I encourage students to do the kind of research that answers their questions and to write at a level of formality and in a genre appropriate for the issue they choose to discuss. According to liberal humanist theory, the goal of higher education should be as much to enable students to en- rich their lives as to give them a career. As part of their prepara- tion, I insist that the discussion of readings and issues students identify as important to them cover the range of positions society demonstrates. Thus, students have the chance to discuss their issue from all angles. To enhance their opportunity for growth and their confidence in presenting their ideas to a wider forum, over the semester I move the class discussions to one large circle in which students face the entire class and not just their peer review group.
In peer response sessions, students must address specific ques- tions their classmates pose to them about their position on the issue they have chosen.
Their comments are more thoughtful and english paraphrasing far- reaching when they can respond at their leisure rather than in the pressured atmosphere of the review session english paraphrasing itself. Discussion in - 105 - WRITING ASSIGNMENTS both venues moves beyond the immediate implications of issues to connections with priorities for life. A recent student response to this assignment demonstrates the cultural critique these teaching procedures foster, as well as the personal growth that is one of the most important goals of liberal humanism. At the same time, though, she appreciated unspoiled natural environments. Spending the day on top was such a great experience. Climbing the trees, fishing in the ponds, wading in the creeks, and trying to catch a rabbit or butterfly to keep for the day. Yet she also becomes aware of the larger issue of environmental damage caused by the mining and experiences a shift in her think- ing. Nei- ther the coal companies nor the environmentalists would find Amy an easy ally as she evaluates the issue for herself.