Tuesday, December 18, 2012

And we wonder why people don't read. . .

For years I told my children that they did not read as much fiction as I had to read in school and that this was a bad thing -- not a good thing.  I have noticed that literary references that are obvious to me (movies, TV shows, comedy, even classic cartoons) are missed by those educated within the last twenty years.  Now it seems that the push is to rid the curriculum even more of the great treasures of literature and to put in place the bland and mundane of social policy.  Well, I could not have said it better than Alexandra Petri in a Washington Post piece.  Read her whole article -- it a good one!

Forget “The Great Gatsby.” 

New Common Core standards (which impact 46 out of 50 states) will require that, by graduation in 2014, 70 percent of books studied be nonfiction. Some suggested texts include “FedViews” by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the EPA’s “Recommended Levels of Insulation,” and “Invasive Plant Inventory” by California’s Invasive Plant Council. 

Forget “Catcher in the Rye” (seems to encourage assassins), “The Great Gatsby” (too 1 percenty), “Huckleberry Finn” (anything written before 1970 must be racist) and “To Kill A Mockingbird” (probably a Suzanne Collins rip-off). Bring out the woodchipping manuals!

I like reading. I love reading. I always have. I read recreationally still. I read on buses, in planes, while crossing streets. My entire apartment is covered in books. And now, through some strange concatenation of circumstances, I write for a living.

And it’s all because, as a child, my parents took the time to read me “Recommended Levels of Insulation.”
Oh, “Recommended Levels of Insulation.” That was always my favorite, although “Invasive Plant Inventory” was a close second. (What phrases in literature or life will ever top the rich resonance of that opening line? “The Inventory categorizes plants as High, Moderate, or Limited, reflecting the level of each species’ negative ecological impact in California. Other factors, such as economic impact or difficulty of management, are not included in this assessment.” And we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past has nothing on it!)

We don't even need to extend this discussion to Biblical illiteracy -- Lord knows that if they grow up reading  "Recommended Levels of Insulation" they will never be satisfied reading such dull words as God's words.


Janis Williams said...

Maybe if we could get the powers-that-be to switch the Scripture from fiction (their category, not mine, of course) to non-fiction? Then we could insert it into the curricula of the public schools?

They have taken Dorothy Sayers' argument that the Bible is the highest form or drama and just tossed it. She was worried the priests in the Church of England were making the story boring. Now we face the jettisoning of story altogether.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that my local LCMS grade school can ignore Dept. of Education curriculum "standards."

If K-12 LCMS education were free or nearly free, crowds of people would be stampeding over each other to enroll their kids.