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  1. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Even if it's problematic, does it still have a place.

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Lemex, Mar 22, 2015.

    I feel the need to set this up a bit. On Friday I went for a drink with some of the guys from my teacher training course, and we got talking about John Green. Now, I really like the guy - his novels, well, I only really know Fault in Our Stars, but I really like his YouTube channel - CrashCourse. I use it when I can when I teach, and recommend it to people who want to learn more about history or literature. They are, to be honest, impressively detailed, and taught me a thing or two I didn't know before.

    But. When it talks about literature I know well, like Homer and Oedipus, Green's comments always seem to me a bit weird - incomplete actually. And always geared in one direction. He's very much a fan of Feminist theory it seems. I first noticed this with his video on The Odyssey, not once in his entire video (about 13 minutes or so) did he ever mention the concept of 'Arate' or, basically, Nobility - excellent qualities. This strikes me as really odd, because in my opinion that's the entire point of both The Iliad and The Odyssey.

    But then again - his CrashCourse videos often have high production values, and are very entertaining to watch too.

    I said basically all this in much fewer words: basically I said that he's fun, wrong in places, but still worth using because he puts things succinctly and is interesting while doing it. One of my mates then said he disagreed with me, saying that people who watch Green's videos are unlikely to read other criticism around the texts Green talks about, and that he's doing more harm than good by caging people inside interpretations that could be easily argued against.

    This has been on my mind all weekend. What does everyone else think?
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    What level are you teaching?

    From other posts of yours, I'd got the impression that you're a university lecturer. At that level, I'd expect the students to put a bit more into their studies than just watching one YouTube video, no matter how good. I'd also expect the lecturer to use the video as a teaching aid - rather than a teaching substitute - and then lead discussions based on the points that came up in the video.
     
  3. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Sadly, I only wish this was the case. I'm currently working on my masters degree with is the bare minimum you need to become a university lecturer - currently I teach GCSE and A-level, basically high school. 14 to 19 year olds mostly, but I also teach privately for beer money and that could be any age and any level of ability.
     
  4. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    OK, that defaults to the second part of my answer. It's probably good as a teaching aid...no doubt, lazy teachers will see it as a way to keep the class quiet for a quarter hour, and then set a homework around the points Green makes. Good teachers will see it as a way to get the class to think.

    Are you a good teacher? Hint: the answer is included above!
     
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  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Well, then I'll take that as a compliment. :)
     
  6. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here's an admission, I've never read Mansfield Park despite doing a GCSE on it. York Notes got me an A.

    The internet wasn't such a big thing back then. The problem with the internet is that anyone can have an understanding of anything while putting in very little leg work. Unfortunately they take with them the bias and the inaccuracies of the particular synopsis/summary/bullet point rendition they choose to use. As an aid to critical thinking the internet has probably done more harm than good.

    I've never seen this Youtube channel though and will check it out.
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, John Green could stand to explore a bit more into his videos than he does. When I watched his Odyssey episode, I noticed he forgot to mention the other themes going on within the text including, as you said, Arate. That said, I vaguely remember a video of his where he said to not take everything at face value and 100% truth. Take what he said and incorporate it in your own research. The point of CrashCourse from what I've gathered is for you to start thinking, start reading, start asking questions. He'll give you the starting points, but you should read into it yourself and come up with your own ideas.
     
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  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I remember reading an interview with John Gardner, and they were discussing his novel Grendel. The interviewer asked why he wrote it (it's the Beowulf story told from the monster's point of view), and Gardner answered that he'd been teaching the poem Beowulf for years in his university classes, and that "if you've been teaching a work for a long time, you begin to think that everyone else has gotten it wrong." (I'm paraphrasing the quote.)

    This might be what's happening to you. You're so familiar with these works and have studied them so thoroughly that you kind of reject anyone else's interpretation. Maybe you just think they've "gotten it wrong" when all that's happened is that they have another interpretation. :eek:
     
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  9. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    That's how I use Green's videos. It seems to make sense to me to do that anyway.

    I don't remember any video like you are referring to. You could be right though, and I just haven't seen it - if you happen across it again, send it to me. :)

    It could be. I mostly find Green's videos useful, but incomplete - problematic. I do take issue with his feminist readings of some works. It's the same problem I have with ThugNotes - another literature-based video series I both enjoy personally and will use in the classroom - I've not had the chance to use ThugNotes yet though.

    I've actually also recommended students check out 3 Minute Philosophy and another philosophy-based series that is related to ThugNotes.
     
  10. Lilith_Duat
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    A few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast and they were discussing Drug and Stoner movies. Nobody mentioned Requiem for a Dream. I'm sitting here thinking "Guys...guys...Requiem, guys. Guys. Guys?" but nothing.

    Someone can't be right all the time. Perhaps Green touches upon things people hadn't realized and using his videos could be certainly used as a spring board. Just try and fill in the gaps the best you can. There will always be blind spots.
     
  11. Trev_Star
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    One of my most enlightening English courses was my "Intro to the Major"course where we studied, in excruciating detail, the major critical theories. I had always known that there were different ways to analyze a text, but that was the first time I realized the depth and breadth it could reach. Depending on how he approaches his analysis, it could either be an opportunity to introduce a different perspective on a text, or could really limit people's understanding of it. So, I guess my question is: Does he preach his analysis as gospel, or simply one lens through which to evaluate a text? When favoring one critical theory over the other, I've always felt that is the most important question to consider when assessing if it is more helpful or harmful.

    ThugNotes is freaking awesome! Of course any time you have a guy summarizing Julius Caesar like its a Boyz in the Hood sequel, things will get a little reductive, but the analyses he offers are often fairly comprehensive. I usually have to use a little iMovie magic to make it classroom appropriate, but the kids find it hilarious; can be a great lesson hook.
     
  12. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    To add another thing: depending on the time constraints they place on their videos, there's only so much they can talk about. You could literally start an entire video series on Homer's work, but Green wanted to touch bases on other works as well. Granted, he probably could've given The Odyssey two episodes, but like I said, there's only so much he could've talked about in one or two videos.
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I honestly can't see how it's John Green's fault if students and viewers are too lazy to read around the topics, or choose to take Green's word as holy, if you get me. If Green presents his ideas as if they're the only correct interpretation - and given that he's a bestselling author, his words do hold a lot of weight - then i get it. But to blame the author for the students' laziness seems to be missing the point for me. your colleague doesn't seem to be critiquing the videos per se as much as he seems genuinely frustrated by the inactivity of his students, or how unthinking his students might be.

    However, there might also be issues for your colleague to simply assume that his students - teenagers I assume - are lazy and uncritical generally. He doesn't trust his students - but that's bound to have an effect on how much your colleague himself "cages" his students into interpretations that he deems to be correct.

    Having said all this, I've never watched Green's videos lol.

    In fact, if anything, Green's videos could be a great example of "reliability of your sources" - just because he's obviously a successful author and a good writer in many people's eyes, does it mean his interpretations are more valid? Somehow more correct? How does it sway your opinion when the same thing comes out of Green's mouth as opposed to your teacher's, as opposed to some unknown person, etc? This could be a rather excellent example of the need to think critically, even when it comes from someone you might trust.

    Anyway, I don't see the harm in hearing different interpretations of the piece. If you as the teacher think it's wrong, then start a discussion and see what comes out. If you're "right", it will become obvious. If it turns out it's far more ambiguous than that, well, hey, you the teacher will have learnt something new - your students will have taught you! - and that's something pretty special too :)
     
  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Now I wish John Green was a part of this forum. :p I've a feeling he would find this topic a very interesting one indeed.

    But yeah, 'reliability of your sources' and 'asking questions' seems to be the key of his lecture videos. Whether it's coming from him, your teacher, or a person on the writing forum, don't take everything as holy gospel. Ask questions, conduct your own study. He just shows you a path, but it's up to you to explore it. And if you disagree, that's fine. He would probably prefer that people disagree with him rather than blindly obey and agree with everything that comes out of his mouth.
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That would be totally awesome! Wish there was actually a chance of getting him on here though...
     
  16. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, I'm sure one of us could get his email and extend a cordial invitation to this forum. Of course, we'd have to explain to him how we came to know him so he doesn't think we're spammers.
     
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