Clueless in Academe
“Clueless in Academe” by Gerald Graff
Graff’s extensive discourse talks about how many undergraduate students, and most especially high school students, feel “clueless” when they come up against the academic world. He emphasizes the fact that many schools and colleges reinforce and “perpetuate the misconception that the life of the mind is a secret society for which only an elite few qualify” and that this cluelessness felt by students, and often the general public, is perpetuated by academia itself “by making its ideas, problems and ways of thinking look more opaque, narrowly specialized, and beyond normal learning capacities than they are or need to be.” Graff states that to overcome this, students must become literate – they must learn to listen closely to others, summarize others in a recognizable way, and make their own relevant argument. “This argument literacy, the ability to listen, summarize, and respond…” is what he considers to be educated.
Some statements/questions worthy of class discussion/argument which present themselves from Graff’s article are:
1) For the most part, today’s high school students, and college freshmen, can not listen/read, summarize and analyze that reading and then present an argument – either pro or con. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
2) For the most part, today’s high school students, and college freshmen, can not grasp the meanings and subtleties of either the cannon or minority writer's work. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? What has been your experience?
3) How do you feel about the five-paragraph essay? Is it a good template or a crutch to pass the Regents? Can we eventually get passed the five-paragraph essay? If yes, when and how? If no, why not?
4) How can we teach high school students to present a logical, well thought-out and well-presented argument, either oral or written, on ANY subject?