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Teaching Literature at Ridgeview

Russell Weaver

This collection of essays demonstrates that using fiction, poetry, and drama in the classroom provides students with the best opportunity to learn about thinking, writing, and life at their deepest levels. Several of the contributors have worked or studied at Ridgeview Classical School in Fort Collins, Colorado. E. D. Hirsch, in The Making of Americans, has said of this school that its success «stands as a sharp rebuke to the anti-intellectual pedagogy of most American schools». Within this volume, readers will also encounter essays by teachers who have not worked at Ridgeview but utilize the same approach to teaching, illustrating that these methods can be used with students at all levels of education, from rural schools to major universities. Included in the appendices are course descriptions, syllabi, and study questions to provide examples of how these teaching concepts can be applied in the classroom. Ultimately, these authors provide readers with new insight, in this era of supposed practicality, by illuminating literature as a down-to-earth vehicle whereby students can learn to read, write, think, and feel in ways that empower them both as learners and as human beings.
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Florian Hild

Course Syllabus

I have attached the twelfth-grade Modern Literature syllabus. This class is the capstone of a Ridgeview education and culminates in the writing and defense of a senior thesis during the final quarter of the senior year. (Our students do the best work of their lives in the last weeks of high school.) This thesis is each student’s attempt to define “the good life.” Students are told to argue their thesis in communication with the education they have received over the years; e.g., they might argue on behalf of self-sacrifice with Sydney Carton from Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities or Sonya from Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Students are encouraged to draw on other subjects and might add Socrates or Giordano Bruno to their argument for selflessness and present counter-examples from across the disciplines as well. Each thesis runs between 20 and 25 pages and is presented and defended in 45 minutes to classmates, parents, teachers, and friends.

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