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Old 10-03-2012, 09:20 AM   #16
Catlady
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Unlike the author of the article, when I was in HS, we could certainly trash our assigned reading in class discussions and assignments. I can't recall any English teacher who ever made us treat the books like sacred cows, as long as we could back up our opinions.

I'm surprised--shocked--that the author despised Catcher in the Rye. That was one the few assigned books that was fun.

I do think that assigned reading can be overanalyzed and lessons can get bogged down in discussions of symbolism.
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Old 10-03-2012, 09:47 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by DrNefario View Post
Dickens, Shakespeare and Melville are all pretty wordy by modern standards, but what really kills them, to me, is the dissection.
Yes.

Shakespeare in particular. His plays were written to be performed, heard and seen, not read on a page with stops every few words to define an unfamiliar term. I think a good performance will make any antiquated words understood well enough by the audience to follow the plot and even get some of the jokes.

I think Moby Dick is a bit too different from everyday prose for the average high school student.

As for Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities has the virtue of being relatively short, but I wonder if Great Expectations or David Copperfield, even in excerpts, might not be easier and better received.
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Old 10-03-2012, 10:11 AM   #18
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Oh, The Scarlet Letter. Among the reasons that when my then 11th grade daughter said she wanted to leave high school and be home schooled/unschooled, I had to admit that I could see her point.

You can argue about whether high school kids should be obliged to read such a book. It didn't really kill me or her that it was part of the curriculum. The trouble was more the way it had to be taught. This was in a public high school in St. Paul, MN, so there were 25 or 30 kids in the class. You couldn't expect kids to read much of the book at any time, the language being what it is. So under the best of circumstances it would have taken approximately forever to finish the novel. Then throw in the fact that very few students ever seemed to read even that small portion, and you ended up with lectures addressed to kids who had no idea what the teacher was talking about. A very few of the Poindexters, my daughter included, were ready to discuss anything. Imagine being locked in such a class day after day. It was an education in something, but not literature.

My thinking on this is that The Scarlet Letter and other such books are taught because they were taught. I'm 58-years old, and I read The Scarlet Letter in high school. Sure, there are timeless verities, but I'm not sure this fits in that category. In my daughter's experience, it simply doesn't work to try to teach the book. Generally speaking, when things consistently don't work, sensible people try something else.

The inevitable question: Is my drop-out daughter now selling crack on the corner? No. Found her way into a very good college. Go figure.
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Old 10-03-2012, 10:25 AM   #19
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I can certainly agree with the "required reading sucks" sentiment. Some of the stuff we had to read just didn't do it for me at the time. I've gone back and revisited some of the books that we had to read, and enjoyed them a second time around, but at the time...there were constant groans when we had to pull out our copies of Catch-22.

Towards the end of my schooling, my high school relied on the crutch of Accelerated Reader to get students to read as it was a required portion of our grade. We would have to go find books on an approved list, read them, and take a quiz on the contents of said books to get points. Most of the books on that list weren't interesting. Thankfully, I had read most of Mom's Stephen King books (most of which came with generous point totals) and I was able to get 2 years worth of credit in a single sit-down at the computer.
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Old 10-03-2012, 11:29 AM   #20
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I wonder what we are supposed to be gaining from analysing books in that way in the first place. All I got from it, in my opinion, was a few grades I was able to put towards something else. I don't feel that I really learned anything or gained any skills. Don't teach it at all. Certainly not to uninterested teenagers.

The slightly weird exception is poetry. I don't read poetry now, and I hated it while I was studying it, but the poetry I studied at school is the only poetry I know, and I now think of it much more fondly.

Does that mean that the only people who actually like the books they were taught in school are the ones who don't read for pleasure?
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Old 10-03-2012, 11:34 AM   #21
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I hated most of the reading in high school, but I love to read now. I read A Tale of Two Cities in high school I was bored stiff. I read Moby Dick when I was thirty years old and thought it was a good story and character study buried in a study of whaling terms. I read Fahrenheit 451 in high school and liked it. I read Of Mice in Men in high school and liked it. I read Cannery Row this year and thought Steinbeck was a genius.

I like to think I read a good variety. I would want my kids to read a good variety of books that talk about the human condition. There are newer books in more modern language that can do that.
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Old 10-03-2012, 11:37 AM   #22
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I'm trying to wrack my brain for a single interest/passion that I have today, that highschool/teenage years didn't attempt to make me vehemently hate. (I'm 45) It's only in the past 15 years or so that I got my interest re-piqued in the classics due to Project Gutenberg.

2 of my children are in highschool and the way the curriculum is set up for them unfortunately seems to take the joie de vivre out of their favorite subjects which they are good at in other ways. However they are old enough to know that to "get their grade" they just have to do it the way they're taught and the rewards will be greater in the long run.
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Old 10-03-2012, 12:23 PM   #23
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I loved english class in high school.

Some of what I remember reading back then for classes; Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, All Quiet On The Western Front, Great Expectations, Pride & Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, Last of the Mohicans, The Red Badge of Courage, The Iliad, The Odyssey, Oedipus Rex, The Aenied, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, A Farewell to Arms, Beowulf, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Old Man and the Sea

Obviously I liked some more than others, but never remember having a problem with being 'forced' to read anything. I remember their being lively discussions and sometimes scene reinactments (we all had parts and read Hamlet aloud) along with seeing the movie versions of some of the books after we read them. Made class pretty fun.

Last edited by AnemicOak; 10-03-2012 at 12:27 PM.
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Old 10-03-2012, 12:45 PM   #24
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It's not the reading, but the lack of flexibility that is a real killer. Being male, I had zero interest in The Joy Luck Club, yet I was forced to read it in 7th grade. Why couldn't I substitute this with something like Shooting An Elephant? I know they're not the same length, but the point is that both are compelling stories of individuals coming to terms with competing cultures; yet written for different audiences. But alas, I was forced to endure teenage female whining instead.

I didn't care much for Romeo and Juliet, but I adored Macbeth and Othello. Yet, the dissection just killed any fervor I had for Shakespeare. Once you get a few pages in, the old language doesn't trip you up; but having to stop every few minutes to explain some obscure imagery really kills the experience.

I really enjoyed Lord of the Flies, but I hated the discussions. No, I don't care to write an essay on the trinity symbolism of fire, Simon's fainting, and whatever the hell else was the third thing. I just want to read about boys being bad. Let me write about the more general theme of human nature instead.


And the worst part is this brainwashes people into looking for some deeper meaning where there is none. I was a great procrastinator in high school. At one point, I had to write a fictional story, which I whipped off the morning it was due. I was in rare form, and it was actual readable, although it could have benefited greatly from some editing.

The basic premise was of two burglars attempting to steal stuff from a museum. The focus was on the completely polar personalities of the characters, and was an attempt to channel Donald Westlake. My story was read out loud by the teacher, and a discussion ensued.


The other students were amazed by the imagery I invoked by calling cameras "eyes". Or the witty interplay of the two characters while haggling over the worth of a vase.

None of that was intentional, I was just trying to get a story out so I could pass the class the next hour. Which leads me to believe that we've brainwashed people to see things in writing that just aren't there; and we continue to praise the the ability weave and believe bullshit in order to make the grade.
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Old 10-03-2012, 12:49 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HomeInMyShoes View Post
I read Moby Dick when I was thirty years old and thought it was a good story and character study buried in a study of whaling terms.
This reminds me of a funny (and inappropriate for posting due to included racial epithet) quote about "Moby Dick" by Philip Roth in "The Great American Novel".
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Old 10-03-2012, 01:48 PM   #26
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That is a subjective postulate. I happen to enjoy Shakespeare, but I also recognize that he is hardly the flavor of the month. For a non-native speaker of English it is more akin to a chore than enjoyment.
For a native speaker of English Shakespeare is hard to read -- until you discover reading him aloud. That makes all the difference in the world, he comes alive. Hard on the voice though...
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Old 10-03-2012, 01:50 PM   #27
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I must've gone to an alternate universe HS. Most of my HS reading and related discussions were at least okay. Yes, they happened to be all Advanced Placement English classes. Maybe the mainstream classes were more shut-down.
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Old 10-03-2012, 03:26 PM   #28
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To dissect something, you HAVE to kill it!

I do believe we need to learn analysis skills, but I don't think dissecting classic novels line by line is the best way to do it.
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Old 10-03-2012, 03:30 PM   #29
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I must've gone to an alternate universe HS. Most of my HS reading and related discussions were at least okay. Yes, they happened to be all Advanced Placement English classes. Maybe the mainstream classes were more shut-down.
My problem with the AP english class was that there always seemed to *have* to be a deeper meaning to everything. I'm sorry, but for me, there's never going to be a deeper meaning to something like "Death of a ball turret gunner", and trying to *make* me come up with one is not going to improve my enjoyment of everything.

I can't say I particularly enjoyed that class, a lot of what we had to read was for me god awful boring. I'd sooner run a drill through my eyes than try reading Their Eyes were Watching God again. There were a few bright points, I did enjoy Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, but found most Shakespeare to be boring, especially as reading material. I've always felt most Dickens could be vastly improved by an editor that would have made him write with about 1/3 the number of words he used.

Honestly, looking back, I don't know that I feel I gained much by taking that class. It didn't kill my desire to read, but I never did want to read what the teachers felt I should be reading. The class could have been vastly improved in my opinion by adding things like Verne instead of DH Lawrence.
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Old 10-03-2012, 03:41 PM   #30
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For a native speaker of English Shakespeare is hard to read -- until you discover reading him aloud. That makes all the difference in the world, he comes alive. Hard on the voice though...
I tried that on the bus at 7.15 am once. Not a popular move.
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