Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Revolution in the Classroom

In fact one of the most pernicious phenomena in assigned reading is the force-feeding of serious work at an age when the reader will feel pushed away, not from the particular book being assigned, but from an entire class of books, or even books in general.

This is a quote from Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life. She goes on to write that making a class of high school freshmen read Silas Marner is unlikely to make them want them to enthusiastically read Middlemarch in later life.

It was while reading that paragraph that I developed a theory that education would be so much more enlightening and engaging if students learned by reading books. I do not mean textbooks. Has there every been an interesting textbook written? I don't think so.

Why not have students learn about the Civil War by reading Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. Why not study the mores of Victorian England through Galworthy's The Forsythe Saga. Or the horror of the Holocaust through Anne Frank's diary. Or study biology with Lewis Thomas's Lives of a Cell. Or become a poet by reading Dr. Suess.

One could learn to be an astute observer by reading the mysteries of Agatha Christie, an interior designer by reading Edith Wharton's The Decoration of Houses, or, want to become a scientist or mathematician by reading biographies of Marie Curie or Hypatia of Alexandria.

Not that books aren't read but they are read as a supplement to the textbooks. In fact there are already so many sources of knowledge on the library shelves now that we don't need another dull textbook. Let students wander and wonder and find their own way in the arts and sciences. How much more exciting my school days would have been if I could have followed my own interests instead of being led by the nose. How many minds have been lulled into lethargy by the droning on of a teacher.

The only time children are encouraged to read what they want is during the summer. And even then some students are told they will have to write a book report the first week of the new school year.

Oh yeah. That really encourages kids to read.

Well, so much for my theory of education. What say you?

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