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August 14, 2008

Post-Modern Problems: How Do You Include the Inarguably "Diverse" Solzhenitsyn in Intro to Lit Classes While Making Sure Students Resist His "Non-Diverse" Message?

He's from a foreign country, writing in a foreign language, and he lived in a Communist regime to boot.

All good so far. But, alas, he expresses "non-diverse" sorts of ideas.

How to make sure students don't get the wrong ideas?

Like so:

In fact, under “classroom strategies” in the Norton instructor’s manual, teachers are told that they are likely to encounter the problem of students accepting the “truth” of what Solzhenitsyn has to say: “Because the story answers to most of the myths and preconceptions Westerners already have about Soviet life, the problem will be to make sure that students read it with the same degree of resistance with which they would normally confront any other piece of fiction.” Here we have the apologists for communism directing teachers: All that you’ve heard about the brutality of communism is merely part of our “myths and preconceptions.” Students must be reeducated to “resist” the testimony of Solzhenitsyn as dramatized in his fictional account.

No such “resistance,” however, is asked for the selections from Marxist authors, native American tribes, or the “colonized” writers like Wole Soyinka who extol the African tribal custom of having the king’s horseman commit suicide after the king’s death (a practice to which Christian “colonizers” insensitively object). Instructors are told to “Discuss the meaning of ritual suicide among the Yoruba as it is explained in Soyinka’s play,” and then ask students, “Under what circumstances may suicide be the right choice?”

It is this kind of sophistry that Solzhenitsyn had in mind when he said in his commencement speech at Harvard in 1978, “Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges.”

"I never let my schooling interfere with my education." -- Mark Twain

"The Impulse to Tyranny is endemic in Mankind; be vigilant against petty Tyrants in all their various Guises; and always see if you can skip out Intro to Literature in favor of a higher-level course where they teach actual books, if you wish to avoid Tyrants of the Mind, and all Assortment of Ass-Clowns, Rectum-Jesters, Sphincter-Dolts, and other sundry Buffoons of the Anus." -- Thomas Jefferson, from Stuff Jefferson Said, 6th Edition, with special introduction and annotations by Bill Parcells; Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Thanks to CJ.

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posted by Ace at 07:30 PM

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