Critical English for Academic Purposes: Theory, Politics, and Practice

By Sarah Benesch | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Topic Choice in Critical EAP:
Revisiting Anorexia

The call for greater reflexivity in both EAP and critical pedagogy, discussed in chapter 4, is answered in this chapter, a re-examination of anorexia as a teacher-selected topic in an EAP curriculum I developed (Benesch, 1998). The EAP course was linked to a psychology lecture course whose curriculum, an introductory survey for undergraduates, focused solely on the contributions of male psychologists and overlooked issues of particular concern to women. I was the EAP teacher and chose to balance the psychology curriculum for gender by devoting 3 weeks of the EAP curriculum to anorexia. Since the publication of the original essay, “Anorexia: A Feminist EAP Curriculum, ” questions have been raised about that topic choice (Santos, 1998, in press). In this chapter, I examine those questions in the context of a broader concern in the L2 composition literature that teaching students to think critically is a form of social indoctrination that imposes the teacher's social agenda (Atkinson, 1997, 1999; Atkinson & Ramanathan, 1995; Ramanathan & Kaplan, 1996a, 1996b, Santos, 1998, in press). My aim is, in part, to respond to the arguments related to indoctrination. Yet, in the name of reflexivity, I also consider ways I might have dealt with the masculinist curriculum of the linked psychology class besides assigning anorexia as a topic of study, especially ways that might have promoted greater dialogue about the psychology and EAP syllabi.

To set the context, I begin by describing the linked psychology/EAP writing course and by reviewing the rationale for choosing the topic of anorexia. Next, I discuss Santos' (in press) critique of that choice as well as related literature opposing the teaching of critical thinking to non-native speaking students in U. S. universities. Then, I review the choice of anorexia in light of the relationship between teacher imposition and student

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