History, Experience, and Argument

Donald Lazere began his work by first introducing the 1975 NCTE objectives designed to produce student writers who are fluent in their ability to understand and speak (back) to the social and political messages surrounding them. Throughout his introductory chapters (1-2), he recounted his own experiences as a composition instructor in predominantly white, middle/upper-class, conservative universities (specifically California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville). He noted that, at both universities, the members of the majority demographic showed an inability (and even perhaps an unwillingness) to go beyond their local understandings of national and international civic issues.

In his following chapter (3), he argued that opportunities to demonstrate critical thinking have all but disappeared in the contemporary pluralist composition classroom. In fact, he outlined several considerations for successful critical thinking and suggests that instructors (who understand students may very well be enrolled in several courses and have timely obligations outside of the classroom) remain vigilant about referring to these considerations often as a means of necessary repetition. Furthermore, he suggested that while doing so, instructors further challenge students by requiring them to engage critically with dense academic works that require multiple readings for a clear and more precise understanding.