I began this quest with a strong belief that schools are supposed to lay a foundation for love of literature by exposing children incrementally, based on age appropriateness, to the best writings of our common language and, to the extent possible, to the best writings from other cultures. There are so many superb novels, short stories, poems, plays, and essays to choose from that it is impossible for any student to read them all. But this fact makes it all the more important that teachers make the effort to identify the writers and works that will broaden their students' horizons beyond their own immediate circumstances and reveal to them a world of meanings far beyond their own experiences. Great literature is "relevant" not because it echoes the students' race, gender, or social circumstances, but because it speaks directly to the reader across times and cultures. A child who is suffering because of a death in the family is likely to gain more comfort from reading a poem by John Donne or Ben Jonson or Gerard Manley Hopkins than from reading banal teen fiction about a death in the family.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Diane Ravitch on Literature
I've been slowly making my way through Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn by Diane Ravitch for many months. It's important, worthwhile, eye-opening and even good for the occasional laugh (certainly many gasps of astonishment). But this paragraph is simply delightful to read, particularly coming from a modern day teacher and thinker...