Wednesday, June 27, 2007

In the last ten years, I have become more interested in helping my students build up their critical capacities than in helping them become more creative. My changing beliefs are well-expressed in Edith Hamilton’s The Greek Way, where she says that many of the ancient Greeks (especially Euripedes) believed that criticism – the rigorous evaluation of what is right and wrong, good and bad, beautiful and ugly – was far more important than creativity. Euripedes was a critic in the sense of the American Heritage dictionary definition: One who forms and expresses judgments of the merits, faults, value, or truth of a matter – and this is precisely what I want my students to be able to do. Whether they’re examining a chapter of a novel or assessing their own thoughts about a particular essay topic, I want them, most of all, to be able to discriminate – to be able, as the dictionary puts it, to make a clear distinction, distinguish, make sensible decisions, and judge wisely . In that sense, I want them to become critical young people. Creativity is important, yes, but the ability to intelligently criticize – to demonstrate the art of critical thinking – is at the heart of what I’m trying to do as an English teacher.

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