For the past two years I have been pursuing an English/Communications degree at a liberal arts college in North Dakota. I’m not sure if my experiences are merely because it was an extremely liberal school or if this is a trend throughout the nation. My main goal in choosing an English degree is because I want to be a writer, mostly novels. I have no interest in becoming a teacher and only wanted to improve my writing.
Anyone deciding to pursue English would assume that you would have to do a lot of writing. However, that wasn’t the case at this University. The main goal they wanted to teach us was critical thinking. This is all well and good since it is an important skill, but our class time was wasted away talking about literature and what we think about it. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was basically paying 15,000 dollars a year to join a book club. Questions such as; “How did this make you feel? What was the author trying to accomplish?”
This annoyed me but even worse than this was when I would be asked, “How would you teach this to your class?” Of course I would tell them that I would never be a teacher. They didn’t seem to understand that some people take English classes for reasons other than teaching. Regardless of whether I was going to teach they told me that I had to figure out how I would teach this piece of literature to a class.
Despite my problems with this university so far I decided to continue. Most of my problems came when taking Intro to American Literature. The class started with having to hear about how horrible the United States has treated Indians, African Americans, Women, and basically every other minority. This English class was beginning to turn into a democratic convention with the teacher constantly speaking ill of this country.
The main troubles began when we were discussing “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving. She insisted through her teachings that we needed to immerse ourselves within the text and only what the author tells us. We are never supposed to show emotions in our writings. She taught us that instead of Rip Van Winkle falling asleep for twenty years he was in fact a man that disappeared into the mountains to binge drink for twenty years. I didn’t agree with her and followed the text and what the author tells us. That was one of many response papers I failed.
I dissected Rip Van Winkle and stated how in the text the author goes out of his way to say that Rip slept for twenty years. Even in the end the author tells us that this actually happened. When I got my paper back I was told that what I did was not a response, that I used too much emotion, and that I need to think by not just focusing on the text. She didn’t come out and say it but I basically got a failing grade because I didn’t agree with her.
We were taught that when we read something to remove all emotions we feel and never go beyond the text. The latter was only to be broken when looking at the author’s life. So whenever we read a story by Poe we need to first focus on the fact that he was a drunk. I didn’t necessarily agree with this. The teacher told me I was wrong, and to stop constantly bringing my emotions into everything. I have trouble not bringing emotions into things, especially since all writings revolve around emotions.
So I went to College in an effort to improve my writing skills and instead was told I lack critical thinking, and that I would eventually be a teacher since it’s mostly impossible to be a successful writer. The reasons they told me that I lacked critical thinking was because I would follow every word the teacher said and become another over-analytical English Major. I am no longer pursuing an English degree and don’t think I ever will for this very reason.