Layers of Paradox

Layers of Paradox

Not long ago I was part of a “focus group.” The idea of these things is that a publisher assembles some academics and asks them to assess the need for new materials in a given subject . . . to do market research, in other words. This group’s focus was introductory American literature, and the session quickly became a group grappling with the question of whether any textbook or anthology could reconcile historical significance, literary importance, and aesthetic quality with contemporary demands for sociological sensitivity— for multiculturalism, in other words. Part of the problem, all agreed, was the inadequate preparation of most of today’s incoming students. Another part, some admitted, was the inadequate preparation of some of today’s teachers—ourselves included. One woman, who taught in one of those states where “diversity” means mixing brunettes with blondes, was especially frank. She was not only a WASP but an immigrant; for

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Lima