Dr. Stephen Whited wants students to argue more.
“It’s all about respect,” says Dr. Stephen Whited, professor of English at Piedmont College, “It’s not only about who is right or wrong, it’s about the quality of the debate and hopefully one learns something.”
Proper use of commas and parentheses remains a daily refresher for writing game arguments. Students are reminded how punctuation may save a life, in this case, the life of a Piedmont Lion. “Let’s eat Lions” doesn’t mean the same as, “Let’s eat, Lions.” Whited uses his platform in the ENGL 2225 Nature Writers course to teach students how to think rather than what to think and opens the debate on science, religion and human nature. Teaching the class in seminar fashion, Whited offers food for thought by asking the students questions and offering challenging rebuttals.
“This is not merely about good guys versus bad guys, correct answers versus false answers,” he said. “The media needs it to be that way, like in a TV debate format, but that is not the way an academic investigation works. That’s what I want students to see.”
Being productive involves making connections. Whited said, “Cause and effect is the secret to life, and a genius reveals the connection between the two.”
Whited’s words set the tone for students participating in the Nature Writers course which is taught using research and logic games designed by the Reacting to the Past Consortium, published by W.W. Norton. One of these games puts Darwin’s ideas on trial. Students research Darwin’s theories and then must determine the best strategies for defending or refuting him. Does Darwin survive the trial? It is up to the students in the class to decide.
“I want people to see how hard this is,” he said. “It’s not a good guy, bad guy thing. It’s a policy thing, and it is not easy.”
Whited prides himself on respecting differences and being opened to learn even more from smart people and credible sources. But all assertions must be tested.
“If a mere mortal –yes, that’s you or me- claims to know the absolute truth, run away,” he said. “Our job is to get as close to the truth as we can.”
Husband. Father. Educator. Writer. A philosopher to some, Whited is also versed in poetry and he plays classical guitar. But teaching is at the core. “An education is all about what you do.”