Why Literature Might Disappear From Our Schools
If you skip today’s post because the title sounds boring or you just don’t care about today’s subject, then I want you to take away one thing before you go: School administrators are stupid.
Well, not all of them of course. That would be a generalization. But the administrators who make decisions on literature? Yes, stupid.
This, recently reported by The Telegraph, is the basis for my opinion:
A new school curriculum which will affect 46 out of 50 states will make it compulsory for at least 70 per cent of books studied to be non-fiction, in an effort to ready pupils for the workplace.
Books such as JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird will be replaced by “informational texts” approved by the Common Core State Standards.
Suggested non-fiction texts include Recommended Levels of Insulation by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Invasive Plant Inventory, by California’s Invasive Plant Council.
Good Lord. If teachers thought their eighth graders get sleepy from Shakespeare, wait until they get around to “Invasive Plant Inventory.”
The new educational standards have the backing of the influential National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, and are being partially funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Jamie Highfill, a teacher at Woodland Junior High School in Arkansas, told the Times that the directive was bad for a well-rounded education.
“I’m afraid we are taking out all imaginative reading and creativity in our English classes….”
Supporters of the directive argue that it will help pupils to develop the ability to write concisely and factually, which will be more useful in the workplace than a knowledge of Shakespeare.
Come on, man.
I think the teacher in the quote above has it exactly right. Where is the creativity and the imagination here? Are we raising a bunch of cyborgs who, 20 years from now, have memorized the periodic table of elements but can’t tell you who wrote The Great Gatsby? Or why Animal Farm is so important?
That’s just sad. To me, there’s a practical side of education—after all, probably the most useful class I ever took in high school was typewriting—but there’s also an imaginative side of education. And this is where school administrators have dropped the ball.
This appears to be the classic battle between science and art. And, judging by the fact that The Recommended Levels of Insulation By the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is on the new recommended reading list, it appears that science is winning.
All of us who love to read—millions of us—probably realized that love of reading thanks to experiences we had in childhood. If the school administrators here in the U.S. have their way, our kids won’t get that chance.
As a parent, I’ll be sure my son gets introduced to the literature classics, even if his teachers aren’t allowed to teach them.
Any thoughts on this?
[Update: Please read the retraction on this post here.]