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29 August 2009 @ 10:18 pm
Students Get New Assignment: Pick Book You Like.


I hear this all the time at the library. Every time a kid checks out a Walter the Farting Dog book, or a Captain Underpants book (note: I do love Captain Underpants), or Gossip Girl or whatever. Junk food. The kid's mom rolls her eyes and says, "As long as s/he's reading! I don't care what it is as long as s/he's reading." Really? Because it's just a form of consuming media. It's like saying "As long as s/he's watching television, I don't care what it is." "As long as s/he's playing video games, I don't care what it is." There really honestly is nothing inherently noble about reading. It's putting words in front of your eyes, and then passing your eyes over these words, and putting those words into your brain. That's it! That's all. It's not a wondrous thing, it's not the hardest thing ever, it's just eyes and words and brains. And when you're telling your own kids that it doesn't matter what they read as long as they read, you're telling them, "Hey guys, don't challenge yourselves if you don't feel like it. Doing the bare, stupid minimum is fine with me. It's your free time, after all! No sense using it to make yourself better."

And a teacher telling them that! During the time that is supposed to be for LEARNING! Okay, to be fair, the teacher said no Gossip Girl, no video game books, no "junk" as she defines it. Except that you end up with kids reading those execrable YA James Patterson books (there is no market immune from James Patterson; I expect James Patterson easy readers at any moment now oh wait THEY ALL ARE) and probably a lot of like Sarah Dessen and those mass-market paperbacks with cartoons of smiley girls and hunky dudes on the cover. You also get one girl who reads Toni Morrison but also thinks that you spell the word "never" with the number 3. So anyway, the teacher! Who is supposed to be educating them! Is telling them, "You are all special unique snowflakes who don't need to be pushed in any way! Your own special unique worldview is all you need to think about. Some teachers try to tell you about this stuffy old thing called the 'literary canon' and this silly concept of 'a class discussion of a challenging book you are enjoying but might not otherwise have read', what a bunch of squares! Ha ha ha this is what your parents' tax dollars are paying for! Me not doing my job! This is great!" I just--this drives me absolutely insane. What is the point here? Wow, you got a kid to read Captain Underpants! GOOOOOD FOR YOUUUUU. That's not what school is for! It's for LEARNING. You would never get away with this shit in math (oh they just learn the algebra they want to learn!) or science (the chemistry they want to learn!), so why is this okay for books?

Plus this article keeps using To Kill a Mockingbird as an example of a book people are forced to read and hate, which, no. People love that book. Try using Frankenstein next time. That book blows.
Current Mood: tired
Current Music: Interpol: Narc.
the baffled queen composing hallelujah: can't talk - readingsarrabellum on August 30th, 2009 03:41 am (UTC)
I love your rants.

Also, I read a Sarah Dessen book once. I forget why.
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)pixleyanthology on August 30th, 2009 03:57 am (UTC)
Oh god I did too! That lady can't write to save the life of her pregnant best friend who was abused as a child and whose boyfriend just drowned but who's really just the smartest person she's ever met. Sarah Dessen: when you just can't handle the emotional complexity of Jodi Picoult.
the baffled queen composing hallelujah: ughsarrabellum on August 30th, 2009 06:50 am (UTC)
Oh, god, JODI PICOULT. I read ONE of her books, and DUDE. What is all the fuss about? It REEKED!
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy): 4pixleyanthology on August 30th, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
I DON'T KNOW. People love being manipulated, I guess!
fiftygallondrum on August 30th, 2009 05:25 am (UTC)
This is a great post.
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)pixleyanthology on August 30th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
I am thrilled that you approve!
these are the dustbowl days__uptight on August 30th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC)
I agree with everything in this post, and I would have N3V3R thought of or about something like that on my own.
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy): 2pixleyanthology on August 30th, 2009 04:16 pm (UTC)
MY GOD. Didn't that make you die a little? Is this something teachers will accept? It's something this teacher will accept, apparently, because SH3 IS TOTES HIP.
these are the dustbowl days__uptight on August 30th, 2009 06:39 pm (UTC)
Teachers who crave acceptance? Sad. I plan on being an english teacher so this made me die a little.
these are the dustbowl days__uptight on August 30th, 2009 06:45 pm (UTC)
I realized we both used the phrase "die a little" and I apologize. I didn't do it on purpose. I'm just a little dead.

But yeah, I was definitely one of those kids that would pick up Moby Dick or something absurd and everyone would get pissed at me. But I also got excited when we put books away in the book room and I saw how much AWESOME STUFF we had. And then I was angry because we were not reading any of that awesome stuff, we were reading like, Chaucer. And I hate him so much.
Sarah: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!wishmeluck on August 30th, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC)
This offends me. I don't know anyone who hates To Kill A Mockingbird. I think Charlotte Temple is a book people are forced to read and hate...but I guess we're not talking about college here. If we were, I would put The Postmodern Condition on that list, too. WAAAAAAH THEORY CLASSESSSSSSS.
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy): stacks.pixleyanthology on August 30th, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC)
No, college is totally different and I don't think I have to explain why, although you're still assigned Frankenstein in college and seriously who hasn't already read and hated it by then? And I totally get that assigning books that your kids end up hating must be pretty demoralizing for a teacher, but the solution isn't STOP ASSIGNING BOOKS. The solution is ASSIGN DIFFERENT BOOKS, OR BE A BETTER TEACHER. Assuming everyone is going to hate Mockingbird or The Scarlet Letter or Things Fall Apart or whatever isn't helping anybody. You know?

OH ALSO the article quotes a skeptical educator who says, "What kid is going to pick up Moby-Dick?" Kyle. And Beau. Our friends are weird.
Sarah: No canaries this time!wishmeluck on August 30th, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC)
HAH! Those educators know nothing. I'm pretty sure I attempted to read A Tale Of Two Cities when I was entirely too young because I saw the Masterpiece Theater or something. Our friends ARE weird.

A big, giant part of this problem is that a lot of teachers assume their students are morons. The best teachers I had in high school assumed their students were intelligent, and things worked a lot better that way. I mean, yeah, a lot of kids ARE morons, but that doesn't mean you have to talk down to the entire class.

Oh man, I totally didn't get to read Things Fall Apart in high school! That would have been great. One of my English teachers, Mr. Myers, had us read Fahrenheit 451 AND The Martian Chronicles. I (obviously...) really enjoyed that.

ANYWAY, RAMBLING. I sure am glad I'm not in high school anymore!
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)pixleyanthology on August 31st, 2009 04:13 am (UTC)
A Tale of Two Cities!! I read that when I was eleven, and then we were assigned it in ninth grade, along with this stupid "reading journal" in which we were supposed to keep track of the plot and any words we had to look up and I kept getting in trouble because no really I didn't have to look up twenty words every chapter. It was easier on everyone when I just made it up. Also, we read Things Fall Apart in twelfth grade humanities class and we were all kind of obsessed with it. It was awesome.

But YES on the assuming kids are morons thing. People, especially kids don't like being talked down to! Teaching should be aspirational! Kids will catch up! Probably!
Liliann: Roald Dahlevilburrito on August 31st, 2009 12:05 am (UTC)
1. I completely agree with you. "Kids are getting dumber because of technology and texting and video games so let's lower our standards." HOW DOES THAT HELP ANYTHING? Also, of course not all kids are going to like TKAM or Lord of the Flies or whatever. I didn't like reading Nightwood, but you know what? I DID. I'm all for giving kids some choice, like letting them pick out an assigned book from, like, a set list of appropriately literary choices. Or challenging the canon by teaching things that are WELL-WRITTEN and challenging but maybe not part of the normal curriculum. I'm also all for encouraging kids to read by giving them a set amount of time once or twice a week in which they can read whatever they want, but they HAVE to read during that time. We did that in high school. It was kind of dumb, but that's because I read every spare second I get anyway.

2. I hate Frankenstein. And Beowulf. But I've had to read both of those things at least three times in my academic career and WHY ARE WE LETTING THIS SHIT HAPPEN. This shit so won't fly in my classroom this year. Although it said in Boston they have a set curriculum, so that is good. There is a difference between letting kids explore the world of literature with some freedom and just telling them that a Nora Roberts book is just as good The Witch of Blackbird Pond (it's not). KLFHALGKHASLGKHALKHGA

Oh, and I love you.
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)pixleyanthology on August 31st, 2009 04:36 am (UTC)
1. Yeah, I actually don't have a problem at all with setting a list and having kids pick out books from that. That way the books are good and the kids like them and everyone is happy! Especially me, because the BOOKS ARE GOOD. Also I remember free reading time and I kind of liked it because I was like, "Well I'm going to do this anyway, might as well do it before gym class."

2. I LOVE BEOWULF AND WILL NOT HEAR AN ILL WORD SPOKEN ABOUT IT IT IS SO AWESOME. So is The Witch of Blackbird Pond! I was actually thinking about that very book as I was writing this, and about how most of the kids in my class hated it. I bet they all read Nora Roberts now. ESPECIALLY THE DUDES. Ann. Don't let your kids read Nora Roberts or James Patterson or Twilight.

I love you too, dear.
iamfitz on September 1st, 2010 04:51 pm (UTC)
Do you realize that it's now been over a year since you last posted here? I like to think it's because you're all fancy and busy, but sometimes I think you just don't like us anymore. :-(
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