Critical Literacy vs. GP

Thursday, March 10, 2016

"Many young people come to university able to summarize the events in a news story or write a personal response to a play... But they have considerable trouble with what has come to be called critical literacy: framing an argument or taking someone else's argument apart (and) synthesizing different points of view... " Mike Rose, Lives on the Boundary, p.188

 

The Importance of Reading and Writing Critically
 

For many JC students, GP is a killer subject. They view it with distaste and expend their efforts on "beating" the subject. Exhausted teachers concerned with pass rates devise templates to help their students "think" and package their essays. Vocabulary and phrases are memorised in the hope of impressing examiners with the candidate's clever expressions. Unfortunately, most of these "learning" methods have few benefits for higher order learning. Having worked with university students, I have witnessed the effects of such "teaching" and "learning" first hand. Many undergraduates I have worked with are unable to read or write critically. Instead of thinking about the ideas behind what they read, and synthesising these ideas to support their original viewpoints, these students eagerly look only for information they can insert into their essays. For good measure, many will throw in obscure or even obsolete vocabulary to "enhance" their writing. Unfortunately, such an approach to writing usually results in low grades at university level because students have not processed the knowledge they have gleaned from various research. Such a lack of critical literacy skills reflects the serious lack of originality in thought in our "elites"and certainly can have undesirable repercussions in the progress of our society. Students should be taught to read and write critically. This means, learners should be

 

  • examining texts for their meanings;

  • considering the purpose of the text and the writer’s perspectives or motives;

  • understanding that texts are not neutral and often try to influence their readers;

  • analysing the use of language and the effects of the way language is used;

  • interacting with the texts by reading multiple times;

  • writing multiple times to refine ideas;

  • developing their ideas to take a stance on issues;

  • given opportunities to consider their own values and attitudes;

Developing Critical Literacy
 

Fortunately, it is never too late to develop critical literacy. From my experience teaching academic writing to university students, I have seen many blossom when given the right help and guidance. Instead of pulling ideas out of the air for a generic essay, students are able to engage with their readings and think critically about their argument, thus taking a balanced view when they put forth their own stance in their papers. The aim of education is not just to achieve a paper to work in a MNC. To succeed in life, one has to be an excellent thinker who is able to communicate one’s ideas and to move others to act. GP, if taught with passion, can consolidate valuable lifelong skills that will enable learners to use in many areas of their lives. 

 

 

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