Teaching literatureI recently had to go to a training session for an online reading program I'll be teaching next year. During a break, I talked with the trainer about differences between...

Teaching literature

I recently had to go to a training session for an online reading program I'll be teaching next year. During a break, I talked with the trainer about differences between teaching reading and teaching literature. She made a prediction: Because of the emphasis on test scores, within the next ten years English will no longer be a required course. In its place will be two required courses: Reading and Writing. She believes literature will be an elective.

Anyone care to comment? Does it add to anyone's anxiety to know that she works for a major textbook publisher: Glencoe McGraw-Hill?

Expert Answers
jilllessa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not surprised by that at all.  You can see it coming in our schools today.  When I did practicum work at a public school, the students' reading of Romeo and Juliet was constantly broken up with the requirement that students spend so many hours per week working on grammar and writing skills.  The break of days at a time between readings made it impossible for the students to truly understand the play.  Discussion of key concepts and themes was left out and the students were tested mainly on their factual knowledge of the events of the play. 

 After that experience, I became interested in the Classical Revival movement in education, and I currently teach at a classical school where the focus for humanities is on The Great Books. At our school, history and literature are often integrated to get a complete understanding of the worldview of a period.   Our goal is to use the Great Books to help students develop key skills such as critical reading, logic, persuasive writing and effective oral presentation.  Not surprisingly, classical school students often out perform more mainstream students on standardized tests (We take the Stanford 10 tests) and we do not teach to the tests at all.  Our school, unlike some private schools, has no entrance test.  If anyone wants to learn more about classical education read "The Lost Tools of Learning at http://www.libertyclassical.org/CCE/tools.htm

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My collegial "choir" above has chimed in with all the pertinent points, and it's not surprising that pencil pushers and bureaucrats are more interested in a bottom line (competency) than they are in students who can actually think and analyze.

Just today I was visiting with someone about the fact that on-line, written instructions have now been replaced by how-to videos.  Even instructions in products you purchase are now on video.  The simpler the better for a world getting dumber by the minute, I'm afraid.  Make no mistake, the next step is to completely eliminate reading and writing. 

Of course, this means we'll have come full circle. We started with the spoken word and pictures, and here we are again.  Cave men (and women).  I say: Way to go, government intervention.

jlcannad eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have struggled with this in my classroom as well. I finally ended up creating my own "textbooks" with a limited number of classic and modern stories (Poe, Irving, Hurston, Bradbury, Ellison) and then fitting the standards around the story so that I minimize the disruption of the literature.  I have to admit that it's hard.  I recently read Oliver Van DeMille's A Thomas Jefferson Education on the recommendation of a parent, and I sighed over all of the truths and all of the ways that we aren't allowed to be good teachers.

kathyw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I know I am preaching to the choir, but there are so many valuable lessons students learn by studying literature that cannot be measured on standardized tests. Compassion and empathy, for example.  Our students are being robbed of their souls for the sake of test scores mandated by politicians who, in all probability, could not pass the tests themselves. 

I haven't been to Washington lately, but I would guess that the standardized test publishers have a posse of lobbyists hard at work there.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In reply to #4--no kidding!  This is the same argument people have been giving about music and art programs which get cut by the hundreds from school curriculums due to money issues.  We are raising a nation of idiots.  If something doesn't change soon, we shall all be speaking Chinese in a few years and it won't matter if we can read, write, and appreciate art and music since we'll be making things in factories to be exported to Asian countries--the new Superpower of the world.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I hate this kind of thinking.  Hopefully the pedulum will swing back now that we no longer have NCLB.  Literature is important for so many reasons.  Literature is how we learn to think and feel and be human.  Due to phonics readers, our kids are growing up hating to read because they get no literature.  I know this will funnel up to high school, but I would hate to see that day.  It is very sad what has happened to education in the last decade.

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

ACK!  This is very, very disturbing.  There is a reason literature has been around for so long...it is VALUABLE to students, even if they do not realize it.  It saddens me to believe that literature might not be taught.  Wow!  I agree with what a few others here have said that literature teaches students SOOO many things that many people don't realize, including exposure to different cultures, lifestyles, beliefs, etc. 

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I share other editors' concerns with this posting. It will be interesting to see if this actually comes about. One other disturbing prediction coming from staffroom chat is that Literature might be enveloped into Socials as a one year course! Scary, heah! Guess we might all find ourselves out of work if these predictions actually come to pass... But is there anything we can do to stop this change of emphasis?

malibrarian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If anyone is interested in learning more about the classical model, there are a couple of great books out there by Susan Wise Bauer:

The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home

She's a great writer, very readable, and offers suggestions that can be utilized in any school/classroom situation.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For shame! You don't teach your students to fill in the bubbles on an answer sheet!! How will they ever survive in the future?