As we all know, more and more adults are reading less and less in their free time. That’s not a judgment, just a fact. Budding bookworms might even be considered an endangered species, so a few years ago, I started looking for a different approach to teaching literature to students of all majors and backgrounds. While looking for inspiration, I came across the literature circle, an approach that might just engage even the most skeptical university student who’d rather be writing code for an app or starting his or her own business. While it has become an integral part of the English classroom from elementary school upwards in the United States, this student-centered activity is relatively unknown in Germany. At least it was to me. During my research, I found out that literature circles come in all shapes and sizes and can be structured in many different ways, so there’s no one “right” way of doing it. That very fact appealed to me and led me to explore unchartered territory.
In a nutshell, a literature circle is made up of a small group of individuals who read the same text. Together they explore the text’s content and style while reflecting, asking questions, and sharing feelings, just as any literature circle would do. Sounds simple, right? It is and that’s exactly the point. When I first started adapting the literature circle to fit my university’s curriculum, I didn’t realize how this method would revolutionize my classroom – at least for a day.
By all rights, I should be a national holiday in the United States.
I am not as politically incorrect as Columbus Day which Native Americans are not really crazy about (who can blame them?);
I’m not as solemn as Veterans Day, which is more a day of remembrance for those who served in the wars than a day of celebration;
I’m not as general as Presidents’ Day that was originally supposed to only commemorate George Washington’s birthday but now has become the generic holiday for all U.S. presidents;
and I’m certainly not as cruel to the unsuspecting turkey as Thanksgiving Day is (although the tons of food that are consumed on my special day are certainly not vegetarian either).
Despite all of these discouraging facts, I feel hopeful since the people who like and endorse me will soon be in the majority – at least in California. And we all know what happens once it has happened in California, right?
It’s 1955. David Greene (Brendan Fraser), a Jewish boy from a working class family, leaves his home, the industrial city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to go to a prestigious New England prep boarding school for his senior year. His ticket in? A football scholarship since David is an outstanding quarterback! “Don’t tell people any more than they need to know,” the school team’s football coach advises David upon arrival, hinting at the social gap between David’s future schoolmates and blue-collar people like David and himself.
However, David is neither able nor willing to hide his social background from his school and teammates, boys from rich families across the board. Despite the differences, he is able to bond with them and even become popular quickly. However, just as quickly he is confronted with the sad truth that there’s yet another difference the boys won’t be willing to overlook that easily – that he’s Jewish. Read more »
Storytelling is as old as human civilization itself and fulfills a human need. In societies, in which education is becoming more commodified, students do not only want to be relegated to the position of consumers and regurgitate memorized facts. They have often told me that they want some control over their studies and the chance to produce meaningful, creative work. In one of my project-oriented seminar on life writing, students – including Ines van Rahden – got the chance to do just that. You can listen to her story, “24 Hours behind Bars,” at the end of this blog.
Tom Rice is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of St Andrews and the author of White Robes, Silver Screens: Movies and the Making of the Ku Klux Klan (2015). In this book, he examines the integral role of cinema in the formation, development, and demise of the Ku Klux Klan between 1915 and 1944. Through a range of sources – including Klan newspapers, censorship files, and personal papers – the book explores the ways in which the Klan used, produced, and protested against the film industry in order to recruit members, generate publicity, and define itself as a traditional Protestant American organization.
The following interview took place in December 2016 (note the Advent wreath).