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What Is Literature? Essay

1620 words - 6 pages

Literature as ProblemOf the set of problems facing literary instruction in foreign language depart-ments, the most recurring ones stem from the specific status and the role of literature, and its relationship to the teaching of language. In this country, as well as elsewhere, there has been an increasing concentration on pragmatic methods of communicative approach to foreign language teaching that sees literature as one of the mediums through which a language can be taught. In an almost canonical book, Literature in the Language Classroom, Collie and Sla-ter (1987) claim, as do most teacher trainers, that literary texts should be used in the language classroom because they offer:·valuable authentic material,·cultural enrichment,·language enrichment,·personal involvement.The shortcomings of such an approach are evident. The fact that the authors left out of their list two important, primary features of literature, namely, the formation of aesthetic sense, and the development of critical and creative thinking, and, on the other hand, emphasised secondary ones, means that they reduced literary instruction to the position of a facilitator of a more important process - the teaching of language. Recent debates in most social sciences, however, point to the growing importance of the excluded concept of critical thinking, especially because it becomes evident in many fields that traditional skills cannot satisfy the demands put on us by the increasing sophistication of our life any longer. According to Thomas and Smoot (1994, p. 34), "today's jobs demand higher-order thinking skills of workers", and, the educational sys-tem must reflect this situation by reconsidering its preferences. In their article, they summarise the reports of state task forces and curriculum frameworks on different educational levels, each of them stressing the need for the develop-ment of critical thinking teaching in all subjects.What is critical thinking? The fact that there have been many attempts to de-fine this concept from different perspectives (psychological, philosophical, etc.) shows that it is not simple. The complication is highlighted by its inter-disciplinary nature - it spans across all social and natural sciences, with par-ticular manifestations and specificities in each of them. When viewed from the perspective of Cognitive Psychology, for example, critical thinking is "the abil-ity to analyse facts, generate and organise ideas, defend opinions, make com-parisons, draw inferences, evaluate arguments and solve problems" (Chance, 1986, p. 6). For Philosophy, critical thinking is "the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skilfully conceptualising, applying, analysing, synthe-sising, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observa-tion, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action" (Scriven and Paul, 1992). There are also attempts at its definition from other...

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