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December 13, 2012


Replies: 80

Reading for School: Awesome or Awful?

Memnalar Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2012
I've noticed (or imagined) a trend.

John or Jane Doe talks about how much (s)he doesn't like a certain writer, or novel, or poem, etc. At some point, the complainant often will mention that the reading of said horror was done at the bidding of the educational establishment, i.e., required reading.

So that makes me wonder: Is required reading of literature in school a good idea? Effective? Essential for exposing young minds to Important Works? Or is it counterproductive, causing students to resent literature that they were forced to digest and analyze according to the almighty syllabus?

How about your own experience? Do you enjoy reading and/or writing because of what you had to read in school, or in spite of it? Would you be willing to re-read something you hated in school after time has passed?

Someday, I might pick up A Separate Peace again, as soon as the convulsions stop.

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Devious Comments

WorldWar-Tori Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2012   General Artist
I think it's more than just that but I think that's part of it.
When I was in high school we had to read To Kill a Mockingbird. I hated it, a few years later I came across a copy and decided try it again, I loved it.

I also think it includes other things such as interest. A lot of people don't have interest in reading these days. When I get excited and talk about a book a lot of people my age look at me like I'm crazy.

Discussion, when I had to read certain things, even if I didn't like the book (for example I don't like Romeo and Juliet, I read it before it was required, so discussion was easy for me). I was reading it in two different classes. My general English class I hated the discussion and couldn't even imagine any part of the book I liked because the conversations were so undereducated and ridiculous. In my Creative Writing class we had to read it and I was more interested in the book than ever because of the conversations around it.
-another reason this applied to being important was often I was already reading a book so I'd finish the book I was reading before starting the required one. If the discussion 'sucked', I had no interest in picking it up at all.

I'm sure there's more but force and discussion were the two main things that always deterred me from reading in school.
Vineris Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I can't remember anything particularly traumatic about having to read books for school. Except for Lord of the Flies, and that's only because all the teachers had some sort of giant hard-on for it so I ended up having to read it like... three times and watch the stupid movies in both English and Social Studies.

As for the others, some of them I liked, some I didn't, and that's pretty much the same experience I've had reading books for fun.
SilverInkblot Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I find that it seems a lot of the books in the canon are there because they're "part of the canon." Bit of tautology there, but the mindset seems to be stuck; certain books are "supposed" to be read.

I enjoyed Shakespeare a lot more when I got a teacher who took him off of the pedestal of "OMG this is great literature!!1!" I think a lot of books in school could use that. I think required reading is a good thing, but we need to update both what is being read and how we're teaching it. Which probably goes a long way to explaining why Adolescent Literature is the best course I've taken in a long time.
Avatar-720 Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I don't think that the reading of it is the main issue, at least for me; I was put off some books we studied because of just how long we spent analysis every other word for "hidden meanings" and what-not, so we could regurgitate it at the end of High School in an exam hall.

I like reading, so long as I can do it at my own pace and enjoy reading it. When I'm reading because I must, and whatever I read cannot be enjoyed but must be stripped of everything so that we can take peeks at the bones beneath, I do not take a liking to it.

I don't doubt that I'd have enjoyed Lord of the Flies or Great Expectations had I read them because I was interested, or was given time to enjoy them and form my own ideas about them, but at school, that was not an option. That was one of the reasons I failed at analysing poetry: the absolute garbage we had to study just got to me, and I shut down whenever we start on it. I disagreed with half of everything we read, but because the questions were fairly linear, I was required to say why I agreed, or how the author implied X using Y, when I actually thought he/she did a pretty lousy job at implying X using Y, if that was even their intention. But I digress.

There was only really one book I know that I'd not have liked regardless, and that was The Kite Runner I studied for A Level English before my breakdown. Every other chapter was rape, with some later ones not only being about rape, but child rape. It might as well have been called The Rape Kite Rape Runner Rapey Rapey Rape Rape.
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I may be the slight exception to most people, but I enjoyed what I was assigned. My final year of high school had me study awesome texts like Frankenstein, Bladerunner and Hamlet, and I didn't mind The Justice Game by Geoffrey Robertson, which was nonfiction and ironically a good choice considering I went on to do law at uni. Previously I also did 'To Kill A Mockingbird' and loved that too. I enjoyed pretty much every single Shakespeare play that I was assigned as well. If it wasn't for school, I definitely wouldn't have enjoyed Shakespeare. In my extension classes, I also did Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, William Wordsworth and John Keats, who were all very good as well. What probably helped was in addition to the required readings, I was also asked to look for related texts which gives me the opportunity to read the type of stuff I like reading, whilst comparing and contrasting it with the required readings. This adds a whole layer of interestingness because drawing connections between texts can lead to a whole lot of insights that you otherwise wouldn't get from a single reading of a single text.

That being said, I do agree with past comments that it depends on the person.
TuesdayNightCompany Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2012
I didn't read any of the required reading books, except 1984 and Animal Farm. I really, really love reading, good god I would spend all my time reading, but I didn't have interest in any of the required reading. I think the required reading is mostly counter-productive. I've had a rather large vocabulary most of my life and literally read the dictionary a lot. But I acquired this love of reading through choosing books myself.
ElleRochelle Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2012   Writer
I think it really depends on the person and the piece being read. I know there are some books that I'm glad I was made to read in school. We read To Kill A Mockingbird in school and it is now one of my favorites.
Valros Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2012  Student Writer
I wonder if it's a similar problem to the rest of public education (at least in America)... teachers either feel barely competent enough to follow a rote curriculum rather than take the lead in its design, or feel constrained by ridiculous standardized tests, or both. It happens in math education a lot, and definitely leads a lot of students to hate math. I wouldn't be too surprised to learn there's a certain "cycle of abuse" in assigned literature either: "We're reading these books because that's what I read in school..."

I mean seriously, what's the point of Tess of the D'Urbervilles?

There should be a much wider range of reading in K-12. Especially in sci-fi/fantasy, and not only because those genres hold a special place in my heart :D Science fiction, in particular, reflects important changes in postwar American culture.

I wonder also if using audiobooks (in addition to the text) would help, too. I mean, if typical high-school level reading is about seven to nine hours worth of audio, right? Split up into nightly assignments that's only 1-2 hours of listening/reading per night. Not too bad, if you can choose the method.
BarbecuedIguana Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2012
Well, it is a good way to sell millions of books that would otherwise never sell a copy and using tax dollars to boot :evillaugh: It gave us Stepphenwolf, both the book and the band. Required reading can't be all bad....

I don't know. Aside from Robert Cormier's "I am the Cheese," and Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" I can't recall any piece of required reading that I've returned to read, or an author that I've been turned onto by required reading and have followed ever since. Those have all been in the realm of books my teachers despised and considered not worth reading.

At the same time, I am glad someone forced me to read outside my comfort zone. There's a lot to be learned from Guy de Maupassant and Franz Kafka and Amy Tan and Toni Morrison and Mark Twain and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" is an excellent novel. Of course, I will never read it again since I have been assigned to read it four different times and am still - even decades later - kind of tired of thinking about it.

High end literature courses are also a terrible thing to give to anyone interested in being a published author. James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon and TS Elliot - these guys are interesting in the classroom because they provide texts that can be puzzled over endlessly. Write like any one of them and the publishing world will think you're a lunatic.

At the same time, we live in a world which is more than happy to cater to our every need and let people live in a cocoon of mind-numbing sameness. The other day, at the dog park, I found myself ease-dropping on a conversation a couple of college students were having and wondering if they knew just how amazingly dumb they sounded. They did not sound mean, nor ignorant but intellectually pathetic - grasping for words that should already be well entrenched in their vocabularies. I also had to wonder if I sounded like that when I was young (or if I still do in certain company). Who knows. If we're lucky they were just stoned, if not then darker days still lie ahead because one thing both Aldous Huxley and Whitney Houston can agree upon is a belief that the children are the future (okay, that was a brain fart but I'm tired and can't thing of any way to end this so there :D)
YTcyberpunk Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I think kids should read books in school, and be familiarized with "the classics." What I object to is how they choose which books kids read in school. Mainly, the fact that it felt like I read the same. Damn. Book. in high school for four years strait: American Classic, a lonely protagonist, selfless hero, made depressed by sinning characters around him, commits suicide/dies a Jesus-like-sacrifice-death at the end, everyone is depressed.

How are kids supposed to learn to love reading if we only show them one genre of literature? I only got to read sci-fi through a sci-fi course (that wasn't even part of the mainstream school I attended, it was part of an art charter school I went to in the afternoon), and one book ("Brave New World") in a Modern American Lit. class. I got a nice dose of fantasy in British Lit. class. Those readings, I didn't mind. But I hate how so many mainstream English courses force kids to read nothing but depressing "classics" set in the real world, and turn their noses up at anything sci-fi, fantasy, horror or comedy. Basically, the only time I got to read something interesting in high school is when it was a special lit class, like British Lit or Sci-Fi Lit.
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