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Teaching Hearts and Minds: Colege Students Reflect on the Vietnam War

de Barry M. Kroll

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In this book, Barry M. Kroll tells how college students in the late 1980s responded to his course on the Vietnam War in literature. Kroll designed the course to engage students hearts and minds in the processes of connected and critical inquiry. He argues that students should be personally absorbed in a topicemotionally connected to key issues and textsif inquiry is to be more than a perfunctory exercise.Kroll raises a number of important critical questions about texts and meaning, particularly concerning the nature of authority and the reader s role in creating meaning. He focuses on students efforts to think reflectively about literary representation, historical truth, and moral justification. Drawing on John Dewey s concept of reflective inquiry, Kroll asserts that his course did not challenge his students to "acquire" information, but rather to "inquire"to explore, probe, and query."… (mais)
  1. 00
    Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam de Lynda Van Devanter (villemezbrown)
    villemezbrown: One of the books discussed in the text.
  2. 00
    Dispatches de Michael Herr (villemezbrown)
    villemezbrown: One of the books discussed in the text.
  3. 00
    A Rumor of War de Philip Caputo (villemezbrown)
    villemezbrown: One of the books discussed in the text.
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A professor recounts a college English course where he taught his students to think critically and reflectively using historical and fictional accounts of the Vietnam war. Texts for the course included Brothers in Arms: A Journey from War to Peace, A Rumor of War, Dispatches, Dien Cai Dau, Born on the Fourth of July, Going After Cacciato, Everything We Had: An Oral History of the Vietnam War, Home Before Morning, and Fields of Fire.

Mostly I'm jealous of his students, as I read many of the same books for a history class on Vietnam around the same time Kroll was teaching his in the 1980s, but it was much less challenging and interesting than the course of study Kroll lays out here. Kroll expertly includes personal biases, historiography, and ethical dilemmas in a literature class.

He does admit though that his course was focused on the American viewpoint, leaving little input from Vietnamese voices and allowing students to sometimes dehumanize the enemy as the people in their text sometimes did. I wonder if Kroll still teaches this course and how it may have changed over the years to incorporate a more balanced perspective.

Another concern: In a book where the author presents frequent and copious quotes from the students’ class journals describing their progress and insights from the course, there is some irony in the fact that while he taught his students to look for writers’ biases and agendas, going so far as to offer up conflicting accounts of the same events to promote skepticism, he doesn't seem to question the veracity of the students’ writing. I have to wonder much how some of the journal entries may have been burnished or exaggerated for the purpose of flattering the professor and achieving a higher grade. He also did follow-up interviews with some of the students toward the end of the book, but he seems to have done it in person and with the intent of including more quotes in his soon-to-be-published book, which might have led students to contribute rosier statements than if they were approached by a third party. (Sorry, Kroll, you brought this on yourself by challenging me to think more critically throughout your book.)

The work was more academic than anything I've read in years, but I couldn't resist learning more about this course once David Schaafsma mentioned it here on Goodreads. Thanks, David! ( )
  villemezbrown | Jan 23, 2019 |
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Fifteen years after I returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam, I found myself preparing to teach a course on the literature of the Vietnam War - a task I could not have imagined in July 1970, when the wheels of my "freedom bird" left the runway at Tan Son Nhut air base, taking me back to "the world."
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In this book, Barry M. Kroll tells how college students in the late 1980s responded to his course on the Vietnam War in literature. Kroll designed the course to engage students hearts and minds in the processes of connected and critical inquiry. He argues that students should be personally absorbed in a topicemotionally connected to key issues and textsif inquiry is to be more than a perfunctory exercise.Kroll raises a number of important critical questions about texts and meaning, particularly concerning the nature of authority and the reader s role in creating meaning. He focuses on students efforts to think reflectively about literary representation, historical truth, and moral justification. Drawing on John Dewey s concept of reflective inquiry, Kroll asserts that his course did not challenge his students to "acquire" information, but rather to "inquire"to explore, probe, and query."

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