could write something like … salinger H u m a n i t i e s
“His eyes, which were pale brown in color, and not at all large, were slightly crossed—the left eye more than the right” (Salinger 113).
(Note: In some cultures, being cross-eyed is not regarded as a bad thing: it is thought to encourage a person to look within.)
Part 1: Essay
1. On the Internet, research a definition of “critical thinking” that you can understand easily–and make notes about the source (an organization or person who authored the definition–or both) so that you can practice proper attribution when you quote the source in this week’s essay. An adequate definition will point out to you that critical thinkers …
- Distinguish between fact and opinion.
- Research all available information about an issue.
- Ponder all perspectives about an issue.
- Do consider their own experience, thoughts, ideas, and feelings regarding an issue, but keep their biases and emotions in check so that they can think clearly and come to a REASONED JUDGMENT about an issue.
- Understand that they may change their minds about very important issues as they gain knowledge and life experience.
2. Read J.D. Salinger’s November 22, 1952, short story “Teddy” HERE, pages 112-131. To find page 112 quickly, view the brief YouTube video below.
3. In a 1,000-word (four-page) essay, argue for or against these contentions:
- In the parameters of this work of fiction, Occam’s Razor applies; the best and simplest explanation for Teddy’s astounding erudition is Teddy’s explanation of who he was in his last incarnation.
- In the story, critical thinking features prominently because of the ironic role reversal that takes place: Teddy, a 10-year-old child, plays the role of teacher/adult because he is a critical thinker, and Prof. Bob Nicholson, an adult and university professor, plays the role of student/child because Prof. Nicholson is not a critical thinker. (Hm. Do college/university degrees automatically mean that their possessor is a critical thinker; can they make a person both complacent and arrogant, liable not to think but to function in life according to traditional preconceptions?)
4. Do NOT rely on literary critics to interpret the story for you, referring to them as authorities that provide a correct interpretation. We need to see YOUR OWN ORIGINAL THOUGHT in this essay, not someone else’s. Please do NOT quote or paraphrase even one critic’s ideas about this short story. If you use your own mind and work hard, reading and pondering this story and the essay prompt carefully, then don’t be afraid to make a mistake. The Discussion Rubric (see above) allows for such mistakes.
Optional (Helpful!) Annotated Outline:
- Introduce the short story in correct MLA format: J.D. Salinger’s November 22, 1952, short story “Teddy” from Nine Stories, Salinger’s 1953 short story collection.
- Summarize the story briefly.
- At the end of your summary, introduce your map/transition to the body of the essay. For example, you could write something like … Salinger’s story is a good critical thinking tool. It requires readers to be critical thinkers in order to engage in an accurate close reading of the story, as the plotline encourages them to make these two determinations: first, if and how Occam’s Razor features in the story, and second, if an ironic role reversal takes place between the protagonist Teddy, a 10-year-old child, and Prof. Bob Nicholson, an adult and university professor.
- Follow your map by introducing and defining the concept of Occam’s Razor. Then, explain whether in the parameters of the story Occam’s Razor applies; is the best and simplest explanation for Teddy’s astounding erudition Teddy’s own explanation of who he was in his last incarnation? Make sure to quote from the story to support your contention. (Hm. Would most 10-year-olds question whether the orange peels exist if no one is watching them? Is the passage about the orange peels a good passage to quote?)
- Follow your map by introducing and then discussing the conversation that takes place between Teddy and Prof. Nicholson, which is the story’s main focus, about why leading university professors arranged for Teddy to travel to Europe to engage in discussion with them. Determine if in this conversation an ironic role reversal takes place: 10-year-old Teddy is the critical thinker and adult–a teacher–and Prof. Nicholson is the child and student, someone who is struggling to become a critical thinker…? To answer this question…
- Enumerate the key characteristics of a critical thinker (quoting a critical thinking definition), and explain how Teddy and Prof. Nicholson do or do not meet these characteristics.
- Make sure to quote from the story to support your contention. In the process, consider explaining Teddy’s idea about how children should be educated and what his “apple” metaphor may mean; how do both pertain or not pertain to critical thinking? Is Prof. Nicholson given to this kind of thought about how to educate children or the apple–or does he just seem to accept traditional interpretations of how people and things should be or are, and become discomfited when these traditional interpretations are questioned? (Hm. Is that why Teddy seems to call him and professors like him “kittenish”? They are still in an early stage in their growth: playful and silly, not knowing much about life?)
- Conclude your essay with a teaching point of some kind about critical thinking. (Hm. Did the story challenge your beliefs and convictions, encourage you to think outside the box? For example, if I am an atheist or was reared to be a devout Christian, did the story encourage me to question my convictions? Did the story take me out of my comfort zone? Is that the result of thinking critically: it encourages us to question everything? Hm. Is this process painful and confusing? If so, why?)
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