Critical thinking skills are valued across the university. Derek Bok writes that 90 percent of faculty identify critical thinking as the most important goal of a university education. In English and foreign language departments, critical thinking has often served as a default goal when faculty cannot agree on which texts or approaches to teach. Without disputing the importance of these skills, I argue that an exclusive focus on critical thinking compromises more modest but also very worthy aims, including appreciation. This article makes the case for renewed attention to appreciation as a goal of literary study. I argue that teaching appreciation helps to cultivate virtues of open-mindedness, responsiveness, and attunement, and that such teaching may be useful in addressing widespread declines in reading and reading skills. At the end of the essay I describe changes I have made in my own teaching practices to emphasize literary appreciation.

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