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Class Lesson in Campus

Livia Cadei

The proposal to put a large trove of information at the fingertips of university classrooms through the use of daily newspapers is an interesting opportunity, which merits pedagogical and educational reflections.

This proposal finds its genesis in the desire to help younger generations develop a critical and informed view of world events, having at their disposal a variety of ways to interrogate and dissect news stories, thus allowing them to come to their own decisions and viewpoints.

Additionally, introducing daily newspapers into academic courses means a broadening of the cultural teaching tools available. But it’s not just a matter of simply introducing the reading of newspapers into classes, either through teacher or text. The real significance lies in the innovative role this object, not normally culturally associated with university teaching, could have in a university environment. The cultural challenge is therefore to find what role this instrument of questionable legitimacy could find in the orthodoxy of university teaching, without running the risk of trivialising its use. In an ideal world this would mean that universities would not just serve to transmit knowledge, but would serve more as a melting pot for it, and as places that could support reflective and inquisitive pursuits.

Secondly, the markedly different style and lexicon of the daily newspapers which would be introduced into university classrooms challenges the habits and expectations of many university students. These students are aware of the news, indeed they possess devices that are able to update them in real time of all the goings on of the world, however they’re not used to finding this information within the pages of a newspaper, not used to pausing and pondering the contents of a page, and not used to engaging with the diversity of opinions found within these papers. Considering the cultural changes amongst students heralded by the advent of the internet, it’s interesting to see what news stories challenge and impress them, and then build on that to work on their curiosity and motivations.

Therefore, the introduction of newspapers into university classrooms represents the introduction of a wealth of information that could open doors to new theories and academic routes. The printed press offers a vast wealth of information on many topics and issues which this academic initiative would be able to introduce to the language, theoretical structures and specific methodologies of multiple academic disciplines. Moreover, the availability of news that is at the same time both unpredictable and structured in a familiar journalistic lexicon lends itself to the re-assessment and interrogation of disciplinary knowledge, logic and arguments.

The critical understanding of various topics demonstrated within the press, the techniques they employ to convey their messages in an understandable way, and their specific and precise language foster a style of learning that truly resembles a development of consciousness. Additionally, within the framework of this project, in which differing points of view can be articulated, both teachers and students work towards dialogue and a closer inspection of their realities. Debate and disagreement are valid and useful ways to engender the emergence of different and independent viewpoints, and are key to developing individual consciousness and argumentative capacity. Each participant is thus encouraged to recognize the viewpoints of others as legitimate interpretations worthy of closer inspection. Ultimately, the educational benefit of this project are twofold- it both helps hone problem-solving skills and encourage self-reflection.

A thorough reading of newspapers fits into the role university teaching plays when it comes to generating problematic hypotheses as a way of critically identifying their underlying issues. This capacity to problematize reaffirms knowledge’s raison d’etre, to both operate at the level of solutions and at the more complex level of problems and their constituent parts. The teacher’s role in all this is the support they can offer to the process of working through problematic questions. However, the process of problematization is a demanding and difficult one, and cannot be reduced to simply asking questions or debating.

In light of this, the teacher’s attention should be focused towards devising a research framework, which elucidates the interaction between theory and practice, between analysis of the theoretical solidity of the arguments proposed within the group and detailed study.

Furthermore, introducing the critical reading of newspapers into university classrooms opens avenues for the development of student introspection and self-reflection. In aid of this, the “Quality Information on Campus” initiative sees itself as a practical way to put students in direct contact with sources of information. This seeks to fulfil the educational requirement to put students in a position where they can inspect and develop their conscience. On the teacher’s part, it is a question of accompanying them in the delicate and fascinating path of questioning knowledge, both in terms of its status and disciplinary validity. Introspection and self-reflection thus come from a two-sided process, one practical, with new educational schemes, and the other theoretical, which manifests itself as the possibility to think up concrete imaginative tools to interrogate disciplinary knowledge.

As was well highlighted by Professor Cesare Scurati, it seems to us that the introduction of daily newspaper reading into university classrooms “takes on the problem of incorporating the ‘scholastic form’ with a form of learning that does not purely restrict itself to the sphere of knowledge, but also embroils values, attitudes and choices (…) and we can operate in a cultural context that no longer hangs onto principles of homogeneity but seems to explode in a series of increasingly disjointed directions.”. In particular, we believe that processes of reflection and elaboration lead to knowledge, a knowledge that makes us ever more demanding!