Reading & Literacy

Writing Instructor Downplays Critical Thinking

By Anthony Rebora — April 23, 2012 1 min read

Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University, proclaims that, starting next year, he’s going to stop requiring students in his freshman composition class to write analytical papers exhibiting critical-thinking or higher-order thinking skills. Instead, he’s going to have them just write two-page summaries of the works they’re reading for class. He explains his thinking:

Why scale the tasks downward? Because in my experience, students have a hard time with [summarizing], and if they can't summarize well, they can't interpret, analyze, or just plain describe well, either. Added to that, in most workplaces (as far as I am aware), summary will be the most common writing task they will be obligated to complete.

Interesting points. It could be added, I think, that good summarizing actually requires a certain level of critical thinking—or at least heightens analytical engagement. That’s been my experience, anyway.

Bauerlein, incidentally, is the author of the much-talked-about 2008 book The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future; Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.