We started oral book reviews this week in my Honors Critical Thinking class. I'm having only two students present each class period. That way, the class has time to respond, discuss, and ask questions. I try not to micromanage the discussions, to sit back and let the critical thinking take its course, stepping in only when I deem necessary. And, yes, that's terribly hard to do.
This week, one of the students reviewed Sue Monk Kidd's The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, and she did an excellent job. She summarized briefly but adequately, discussed points of agreement and disagreement, ended with a recommendation--all the things a book review is supposed to do.
The problem came in the discussion after her review. At first, all discussion centered around Kidd's book. Some students asked for background or further information, and I provided it. Some made insightful comments about the main points of the review, sparking further discussion. Then, out of the blue, one student started in on Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening. Worst book I've ever read, he said. It didn't make sense, he said. I mean, we have to be careful what we wake up to, and just because women don't like something doesn't give them the right to do whatever they want.
I tried to explain the historical context, the nuances of the book, and of Edna's character in particular. His response? Edna should have realized that God set up a patriarchal culture to protect women and just "get over it."
He was saved by the bell.