Monday, August 2, 2010
School Chat - Required Reading
So as you've all noticed I have slacked in updating my blog. Not to worry, I've been busy with all sorts of important things. Church stuff, family stuff, band camp, and of course....the ever enjoyable summer reading project.
I find myself asking all the time: how on earth do such horrible books end up becoming required reading?
I'm sure the majority of the reading population would disagree with me but writers such as Charles Dickens, Tim O'Brien, Alcott, Gail Giles, etc aren't very good . Dickens was good for his time, but let's face it...it's no longer the 18th century. O'Brien wrote the most ridiculous piece of garbage I've ever read, shamming all kinds of moral standards. And Gail Giles, while succeeding in writing a good story, is nowhere near the heights of what I would consider "good writing".
So here we go, I'm going to rant.
Why does the educational system require its students of the English language to read books that are counter productive to much of the modern world? Weird phrasing, I know, but let me simplify it.
What is the purpose of a Language Arts class? (Not a literature class)
Is it to teach students how to write? Is it to help them understand writing? Is it to help them understand the uses of language?
Classic works, such as Dickens and Alcott, are written in a way that would be puked up by nearly every publisher in today's world. The writing is boring, the description is unneeded, POVs are insanely out of whack, and the writing breaks nearly every rule a young writer needs to understand. If the purpose of Language Arts classes is to learn to write....why are we forced to read books with horrible writing?
Or maybe we don't want our students to learn to write, we just want them to understand how they wrote hundreds of years ago. Fine. But why do we read more classics than modern good writing?
Semi-Modern works, such as O'Brien, are written in better ways (though O'Brien is FAR from the best. His style is just as bad as Dickens in my view) but at times teach such drastically immoral things that I get sick. Not only that, but again we have the example of the horrid writing. Are we teaching our students to write or to read? And if it's to read...why are we reading books written as if from a thousand years ago? Are we inspiring our students? Because the message I get from O'Brien is that we might as well all die in a hole. Sure, he explores some good topics. But there are other books that do just the same and use better writing.
And the selection of modern works, Giles and Myers for example, couldn't be any worse. Why do we read books with: Horrible writing and awful messages?
It doesn't make sense to me.
If you want your students to write, first you need to teach them, then you need to show them good examples. In language arts classes, I see very little of any of this.
If you want your students to understand all forms of language use, introduce them to ALL forms. Instead of feeding them classic garbage nonstop, balance it out. And when you select modern works....find something good.
The projects that go along with these readings are always well thought out. They accomplish the goals of reading and writing. But I personally believe much more could be accomplished if better writing was chosen to analyze.
What are your thoughts? Have I missed the point? Am I totally wrong? Let's chat.
One day, I'm going to write a book that will be required reading. If terrible books end up on the list....why can't my books? :-) lol
EDIT Aug. 3rd 2010:
As this has come up in the comments, let it be known that I do very much enjoy many classics. I am arguing against their writing, not the stories.