cultural illiteracyTake a look at the article from the UK Daily Mail.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=512087&in_page_id=1770There was a question not...

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I am so glad I am not the only one with these thoughts! A small but influential group in my school has decided that teaching American Literature with the "isms" is dead.  (Claims that is what is happening at the college level?  Really???)  So along with "isms" we threw out The Scarlet Letter because the kids hated it.  Now the junior year is a jumble of literature that loosely falls under our thematic study of "Identity."  While I support some of the changes in literature and our more pointed attention to skills not titles, I think some of my younger colleagues have forgotten that, especially in the English classroom, our content is part of our skill set.  I can already see us trending back, but there are days I can only shake my head and do it my way.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think this article highlights the importance of the work that I am sure we are all doing in our classes of making sure we teach such cultural milestones along with our set texts. Literature after all covers so much more than just the mere study of books!

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I teach at an alternative high school in New Mexico (yes--it's the "new" one), and our school is the last hope for many of our students to get a diploma. If I can teach the classics to them, I believe they can be taught to anyone. We did Of Mice and Men last semester, and my kids were so engrossed in the book that attendance was up while we were reading it. Sometimes I think that teachers have lost their desire to teach the classics, or they are in a rut because they have been teaching the same thing to the same age group for a long time. I still believe if we set the standards high, our students will meet them. Many of my students have so many problems outside of school that it's a wonder they come at all. But they do, and they learn because they want to.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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What would you replace them with? Give them a list of modern alternatives, with all the profanity, sex, and violence included, and maybe they'll change their minds!

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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I teach at a pretty tough school, but I have a lot of autonomy when it comes to what I teach and I just do it. I teach my students (most of whom are just getting a grasp on the English language itself) pieces of Beowulf and Canterbury Tales. Kids will rise to whatever bar you set because I have students fresh out of prison that get it- you just have to be persistent and never lower the bar. If my students can get then anyone's students can get it. I'm sick of teachers watering things down because they're too lazy to actually teach something!

That's why I love this site so much because it's full of teachers who must just work their butts off!

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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What gets me is that I have colleagues who are insisting that because of this illiteracy, we have to stop teaching the classics.  They say that Beowulf and Canterbury Tales and the Inferno and Great Gatsby are all way beyond the comprehension of high school students.  They insist we should be giving them only modern books that these students can "relate" to.  As if they can't relate to unrequited love, as in Gatsby?  Does anyone have any good rebuttals for my co-workers?

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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It is a truly sad state of affairs when students (and even some parents!) think that Harry Potter is real and that there are witches and wizards among us.  I have one student who complained when I referenced Harry Potter when teaching The Hero's Journey, claiming that she doesn't believe in what Harry Potter says he can do... and her parents brought me into a meeting with the principal about "preaching" magic!  When even parents cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, what hope can we hold for their kids?

It's pretty sad when kids in New York don't realize there is an "old" York.  When teaching The Odyssey, they thought Odysseus was trying to get home to a town in the Finger Lakes (Ithaca).  When I asked, "Don't you know where Greece is?", the response was, "Yeah... it's the other side of Rochester."  Yes... we do live near Greece, New York, but come on!  And when I told them that Charles Dickens was born in Rochester, they immediately thought he was a local author they could invite to class for extra credit.

Aww, you mean I'm not a world traveler if I've been to Paris, Tenn.; Rome and Athens, Ga.; and Oxford, Miss.???

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

It is a truly sad state of affairs when students (and even some parents!) think that Harry Potter is real and that there are witches and wizards among us.  I have one student who complained when I referenced Harry Potter when teaching The Hero's Journey, claiming that she doesn't believe in what Harry Potter says he can do... and her parents brought me into a meeting with the principal about "preaching" magic!  When even parents cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, what hope can we hold for their kids?

It's pretty sad when kids in New York don't realize there is an "old" York.  When teaching The Odyssey, they thought Odysseus was trying to get home to a town in the Finger Lakes (Ithaca).  When I asked, "Don't you know where Greece is?", the response was, "Yeah... it's the other side of Rochester."  Yes... we do live near Greece, New York, but come on!  And when I told them that Charles Dickens was born in Rochester, they immediately thought he was a local author they could invite to class for extra credit.

All I can say is "AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!" :)

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Susan Woodward | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

It is a truly sad state of affairs when students (and even some parents!) think that Harry Potter is real and that there are witches and wizards among us.  I have one student who complained when I referenced Harry Potter when teaching The Hero's Journey, claiming that she doesn't believe in what Harry Potter says he can do... and her parents brought me into a meeting with the principal about "preaching" magic!  When even parents cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, what hope can we hold for their kids?

It's pretty sad when kids in New York don't realize there is an "old" York.  When teaching The Odyssey, they thought Odysseus was trying to get home to a town in the Finger Lakes (Ithaca).  When I asked, "Don't you know where Greece is?", the response was, "Yeah... it's the other side of Rochester."  Yes... we do live near Greece, New York, but come on!  And when I told them that Charles Dickens was born in Rochester, they immediately thought he was a local author they could invite to class for extra credit.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

UGH.  This reminds me of all the reports when I was growing up of how 9 out of 10 middle schoolers (or whatever level) could not identify Africa on a world map (or whatever the test may have been...math, geography, reading comprehension)...out would come the map, and my father would test my brothers and me once again, saying, "Thank God! You're the one who can do it." 

We have to blame at least part of this on the advancement of media.  It makes us all lazy.  Why read the book or know anything if you can look it up on Wikipedia or watch the film on U-Tube?  UGH.  I have never been so articulate.  :)

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jeff-hauge | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

We can be honest and admit that reading this makes us breathe easier for a moment. It is not just the underachieving masses in the Yoo Ess Ay.

Wait... there is a NEW Mexico? When did this happen?

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

That reminds me, there was a story about Jesse James in one of my 7th grade readers. One of the boys thought it was the guy who makes the motorcycles.

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

Sherlock Holmes doesn't really exist?! I'm crushed!

Just kidding :) . . . this is a really alarming article, but not surprising at all. My students can tell you anything you want to know about celebrities, even the names of their dogs or what cars they have in their garage, but they can't recognize key people running our country (unless of course that person was under scrutiny for scandal, then they know who it is and what they did wrong, but they still have no idea what that person does for the United States). It's a sad state of affairs that our younger generations and even some of the older ones don't take the time to educate themselves more on world issues.

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Oh my...I guess I always thought that the Americans were the ones who were shamefully ignorant about history and geography (Great Lakes?  What are those???).

One of the comments below the article said this is the result of only teaching basic history in elementary school (or something along those lines) - I have to agree.  The dumbing down of education is apparently not just a problem that our country faces.

What can we do, as teachers, to help stop this?  Let's get some ideas rolling...I know there are some amazing teachers on eNotes, as previous posts can attest...Any ideas, comments, etc.?

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