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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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I’m a pre-medical student about to enter my senior year of college. I spend most of my time taking science classes and fulfilling medical school requirements. However, whenever I have a course to spare, I try to take a course that allows me to read literature. Not all of my friends understand this desire. While I go to a liberal arts school that boasts students of varying and wide interests, I’ve often noticed a bit of a divide between those who focus on the sciences and those who focus on the humanities. To a few of my fellow science majors, literature classes are considered a useless waste of time. They see no point in reading old books and think there is no difficulty in faking an opinion about these books when necessary. Science, or something with more obvious practical applications, trumps literature. There is even a piece of graffiti on campus that I see every day comparing a literature analysis to a toilet, because (in the writer’s opinion) both contain similar things. I argued with some people, including my roommate, about why I thought reading and discussing literature was so important. When my roommate demanded that I explain and defend my position, I found myself going back to Ridgeview and everything I had learned there. She listened tolerantly and then just said, “Well, okay. But that doesn’t sound like what we do in classes here.”

I’ll admit that when I first arrived...

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