… some of them DO get it.
Observe samples from two students who responded to my letter:
As for myself in today’s class, I had not had breakfast and I had just woken up so I was kind of a zombie and I apologize, but as for everyone else, they are just bitching. I’ve seen this in all of my gen ed courses. It is a required course so it’s probably not on the top of anyone’s priority list for classes. It seems as though the people who do not like these speeches are not going to like any speeches. These are very good speeches with great points and just overall great pieces of work. This may seem like I’m rambling on but I just can’t stand when people do not try and work with what they have for the material in the classes they have to take, instead they don’t get it and just decide to complain. These are the kind of people you can try and please, but 9 times out of 10, you cannot find anything they are going to like. I think it’s a great class, but these seem like the kind of kids that don’t want to work with what they have and since they don’t like the class, they are going to pretend like they have reasons to back it up when the underlying factor is simply that the course is not something they wanted to take in the first place. Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know but this seems to be the same thing that happens in all of my general education classes.
I have to say that I found both speeches to be moving and thought provoking. I feel that I walked away from class, not only with a better idea about speaking well, but with a better knowledge of history. I even went home and discussed the Reagan speech with my father (who was very impressed by your choice, by the way). Don’t question yourself. I think all of the speeches we have read or listened to have been helpful and more so, eye opening. Don’t dumb it down for the people who don’t even try to understand the messages.
I do worry that opening up the speech choices will amount to “dumbing down” the curriculum. I also find it interesting that the students who tend to complain about the curriculum are the same students who don’t seem willing to take chances and really participate in class discussions about the material. I’m not sure if that’s a chicken-and-egg kind of thing (do they not participate because they don’t understand, or do they not understand because they don’t participate?) but the point remains that I really believe that exposure to these kinds of materials is important and academically necessary.
I worry that many students don’t have a very broad base of experiences upon which to build their education – they don’t have the kind of scope and breadth of knowledge that helps them to make meaningful connections between the things they know and the things they’re learning – and I feel that part of my responsibility as a teacher is to try to work those kinds of experiences into my classroom. I’ll look into including more “accessible” work, but I’m not going to take out the things that I think are fruitful and important and challenging; I’m going to keep making my choices based on what I think best serves the lessons I’m trying to convey in class, and hope that, every once in a while, I may open up doors that students may not have peeked behind yet.