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Old 04-05-2015, 12:01 PM
 
5,037 posts, read 3,292,133 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tnff View Post
Had a long discussion with my 9th grader last night which came around to this: Why do they pick such boring books and plays for high school literature? Which made me think back to my own school years and I have to agree. It seems almost as if the literature chosen is designed to make kids hate reading.

They're in the midst of To Kill a Mockingbird, and might get to Romeo & Juliet this year. This isn't a kid who hates reading, but would like variety. He's already stated he much rather study Macbeth, Hamlet, Henry V, or Othello instead of Romeo & Juliet because they have more action and appeal to a boy.

Let's be honest: How many people would really read Mockingbird or Anne Frank if they weren't required reading in school? Is it merely social relevance and tradition that ties us to the same things when there are many books that would stir the imagination better and capture young readers for a lifetime if that's really the goal?
Senior year (2007) and the english teacher had us read Scarlet Letter.

Out of the entire class...

One person read it...

So she had it read out loud. Still remember nothing of it.

I'm an avid reader, but the books Remember from english class were just terrible picks for keeping HS students engaged at the time.
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Old 04-05-2015, 12:07 PM
 
Location: The analog world
15,217 posts, read 8,552,273 times
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It's fascinating to me that so many apparently got nothing out of The Scarlet Lettter. I think it provides a wonderful opportunity for readers to draw parallels with the modern issue of social media ****-shaming. To me, it's very relevant for today's young people.
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Old 04-05-2015, 12:15 PM
 
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I read Snow Falling On Cedars to help my son with his English class assignment. It was the most slow paced, navel gazing piece of crap I've ever had to suffer through. With every move a character made, the author had to stop and spend 6 pages describing the scenery ad nauseum. What might have been a thought-provoking story was lost through the sludge of over-description, an author in love with his own prose, and an editor who misplaced her red pen.

Sure, I suppose exposing kids to books they wouldn't normally read is useful, if only to let them know that lots of garbage makes its way into print.
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Old 04-05-2015, 12:51 PM
 
9,285 posts, read 7,493,261 times
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Sometimes it's not what's taught, but how it's taught that creates problems. I left high school thinking Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen were extremely boring writers. Five years later, after college and during my first year of working at my profession, I rediscovered them and found their books compelling. I sought out all of their works and read straight through them.

The difference was not only in my own maturity - I was a teen who read heavily and reasonably widely - but in the way "Pride and Prejudice" and "The Return of the Native" had been taught during my senior year's Engish literature class. I had a well-regarded English teacher - but her ways were not mine, and I found her practice of tearing classic novels to bits and overanalyzing every little thing devastating to my ability to willing suspend disbelief and to the continuity of the novels' narratives.

I'd had a remarkable, enthusiastic and demanding English teacher during my junior year, who made the Transcendalists come alive, so that I'd read lots of Hawthorne and his peers - and got it, and enjoyed it. Conversely, my senior year English teacher just about ruined much of English lit. for me, through her uninspired and rather stodgy teaching methods. Original thought about the English novel was not encouraged in her students, who were expected to reflect her views rather than their own in their critical essays.

She played favorites a bit, too.

But even she was unable to ruin the Elizabethan poets for me, thankfully. I loved their work upon first acquaintance, and still do. And she did teach her students to memorize and recite the prologue to "The Canterbury Tales" in Old English, which I remembered and still do each April. Haven't done it yet this year, so I'd better get busy...

It's never a bad thing to encourage kids to read "the classics" outside the schoolroom. If they encounter them in class later on, well, they'll be that much ahead - and by then, even less than stellar teaching will be unlikely to ruin the books for them.
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Old 04-05-2015, 01:16 PM
 
Location: Tennessee
33,862 posts, read 32,163,935 times
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I've got news for you. I am a female in a retiree program and taking a class this semester on "short stories." The instructor is an older male. In my opinion, I'm still being asked to read "girl stories" and some I had to read in high school. The stories are relationship oriented (not necessarily romantic), fictional stories about writing, stories about natural death. Girl stories. The instructor flat out told us he doesn't like horror or sci-fi and apparently anything "action/adventurous/diabolical." No Poe, no Hemingway, no King, no Bradbury.

I'm also in a nonfiction retiree book group. We vote on what we read. They typically pick what I call "girl nonfiction" even though I believe almost half are men in the group. What I mean by that is we don't read biographies about generals and dictators and killers and white collar criminals. We don't read books about any bad people in a protected class. They don't even nominate them nevermind vote for them. We don't read books about battles, sports, real life adventure, rescue, the military or what I call bad/horrific events in history. It's more uplifting or philosophical stuff. They are more about people than story...people who overcame odds to become leaders, empowered women, presidents with big social programs or the founding fathers and their families. They do vote for science (several worked in that field) or the economy. Sometimes I take a month off to catch up on nonfiction books I have at home that I know they will never pick. I don't always mind reading something I would never buy on my own to read but I picked up on it being mostly "girl nonfiction" when I first joined the group.

The fiction book group, which I don't belong to, is worse, judging from the titles I've seen.

So, don't think once you are out of K-12 school, it gets better in a group scenario.
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Old 04-05-2015, 01:24 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
71,898 posts, read 63,214,459 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeonGecko View Post
I read them when I was 10.

Actually, I read Romeo & Juliet when I was 5. I thought it was stupid - killing yourself because you thought your SO was dead, and then they wake up and see you're dead, so they kill themselves as well.

But I wouldn't have been able to form an opinion had I not read the whole thing!

To Kill A Mockingbird is still one of my favorite novels.

Maybe they're trying to get kids to broaden their experience and not just suck down a steady diet of murder and mayhem. Although there's actually plenty of murder and mayhem in Romeo & Juliet.

Sheesh!
This is what I didn't like about it. But the book is supposed to be about the damage family/clan feuds can do, like the Hatfields and the McCoys. On a grander scale, Serbia vs. Kosovo.
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Old 04-05-2015, 01:26 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
71,898 posts, read 63,214,459 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LauraC View Post
I've got news for you. I am a female in a retiree program and taking a class this semester on "short stories." The instructor is an older male. In my opinion, I'm still being asked to read "girl stories" and some I had to read in high school. The stories are relationship oriented (not necessarily romantic), fictional stories about writing, stories about natural death. Girl stories. The instructor flat out told us he doesn't like horror or sci-fi and apparently anything "action/adventurous/diabolical." No Poe, no Hemingway, no King, no Bradbury.

I'm also in a nonfiction retiree book group. We vote on what we read. They typically pick what I call "girl nonfiction" even though I believe almost half are men in the group. What I mean by that is we don't read biographies about generals and dictators and killers and white collar criminals. We don't read books about any bad people in a protected class. They don't even nominate them nevermind vote for them. We don't read books about battles, sports, real life adventure, rescue, the military or what I call bad/horrific events in history. It's more uplifting or philosophical stuff. They are more about people than story...people who overcame odds to become leaders, empowered women, presidents with big social programs or the founding fathers and their families. They do vote for science (several worked in that field) or the economy. Sometimes I take a month off to catch up on nonfiction books I have at home that I know they will never pick. I don't always mind reading something I would never buy on my own to read but I picked up on it being mostly "girl nonfiction" when I first joined the group.

The fiction book group, which I don't belong to, is worse, judging from the titles I've seen.

So, don't think once you are out of K-12 school, it gets better in a group scenario.
For fiction and non-fiction both, I can't recommend anyone more highly than Sir Laurens Van der Post. He writes beautifully, and some of his subject matter is spell-binding. Check him out. IMO one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, though he fell into controversy after his death. I particularly enjoyed his books on the Kalahari Bushmen. His lyrical writing would be a good stylistic model for HS kids.

Last edited by Ruth4Truth; 04-05-2015 at 01:50 PM..
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Old 04-05-2015, 01:36 PM
 
Location: Tennessee
33,862 posts, read 32,163,935 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruth4Truth View Post
For fiction and non-fiction both, I can't recommend anyone more highly than Sir Laurens Van der Post. He writes beautifully, and his subject matter often is spell-binding. Check him out. IMO one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century.
Uh-oh

Master Storyteller or Master Deceiver? - NYTimes.com
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Old 04-05-2015, 01:44 PM
 
2,540 posts, read 3,272,227 times
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HS literature is not about being entertaining reading, I would say it's not even about any of the particular works, rather they're used as benchmarks for introducing kids to the study of literature itself: they're classic examples of certain writing styles and approaches, historical context, and examples through which kids are taught to analyze themes, characters, literary styles, etc. Shakespeare may not be fascinating or even relevant in today's world, but you couldn't study English literature without studying Shakespeare and the role he played in it.

That said I was always an avid reader, reading everything I could get my hands on since I was four, always with a book - and yet grade 9 and 10 English has almost put me off literature entirely because I just hated so many of the chosen works. I was into 'girly' literature like Jane Eyre and Little Women and books with a positive, uplifting message, but we didn't read anything remotely like that in school. Instead most of the works were excessively dark and way too graphic for my liking - we read Hiroshima which was absolutely horrifying with detailed graphic descriptions like people's burned-off skin peeling off them after the blast; All Quiet on the Western Front had lots of scary detail as well. I also though Orwell's Animal Farm was the stupidest thing ever - I kept thinking, why in the world couldn't you just write a book about the political implications of communism without resorting to a stupid talking-animal story.
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Old 04-05-2015, 02:11 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
71,898 posts, read 63,214,459 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LauraC View Post
This makes some of his books worth reading, still: He was a spellbinding storyteller, a figure of mesmerizing charm. He's a moving writer in his work about the Bushmen, both fiction and non-fiction. But from some of his biographical material, I gather he had a thing for underage girls, which is a bit of a turn-off, to say the least. How do we reconcile the darker side of writers' personalities with the (at least occasionally) inspired work they create?

Thx for the NY Times, link.
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