Originally Posted by vxf
You need them to use their brains. The whole point is you need them to do something that requires effort. You need them to read something that is difficult to comprehend.
Otherwise, thinking does not happen. Otherwise, learning to focus does not take place.
The brain needs exercise. The ability to focus does not come innate. Attention spans can be lengthened even without chemicals. THAT is the whole point of reading something difficult or 'boring'. It's not (just) to teach literature. It's to teach them how to use their brains. And to train them in using their brains.
Do you question why a football player needs to lift weights? It's boring and it is not directly related to what he is doing on the field. Yet, it makes him a stronger player.
Same thing. Reading obscure material is weightlifting for the brain.
Oh, hogwash. I had the highest reading comprehension in my class in 8th grade before Shakes and his tales of woe were forced on us. I read Romeo and his selfishly stupid disaster with Juliet and was affronted at how those two could possibly mess up subterfuge so badly. From then on, I used cliff notes and that didn't impair my reading comprehension one bit. Sure, we were forced to read passages of Hamlet or some such aloud, but it's completely possible to read pages of thees and thous without retaining or comprehending a single bit of that drivel. Reading something difficult doesn't necessarily mean you're going to "get it" or "care" or study.
Perhaps you blame my later D in physics on the fact that I refused to immerse myself in Hamlet? I'm thinking not. I'm guessing that an intro physics class instead of the 8th grade lit class would have helped me a lot more.
When asked to analyze some drug-induced horror by Poe, I recall hours of painful reading that to this day has served no purpose that I can tell.
There are better teaching texts, especially for reading comprehension, critical thinking and analyzing. The text does not have to be nearly impossible to read, nor does it have to be boring, tragic and about some fat, pompous king no one cares about.
The brain is a muscle that has many ways to exercise and learn. Being forced to read "classics" that students don't enjoy is just "mindless" exercising that is the equivalent of staring at the weights without actually using them. It doesn't instill good reading habits or any other deep knowledge that will necessarily help them later in life.
Your analogy is well-written and thoughtful, but it's still hogwash. I commend your English teacher for instilling in you good writing skills and the ability to lay out an argument that makes sense and, on the surface, appears to hold water.