Does the school system have any right to impose older generations' taste in literature on students?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by LimaUniformNovemberAlpha, Feb 17, 2021.

  1. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    Feb 17, 2021

    There are a number of noble goals pursued by the education system.

    History classes, to provide the context behind the modern politics about which students will vote when they grow up. (Well, some will, some won't.)

    Science classes, to provide a head start on engineering concepts that could earn them a job... or if not, at least help them reduce their heating bill.

    Math classes, to sort students by intellect with less room for ideological bias than either of the above.

    The justifiability of spending tax dollars and students' time on these goals is somewhat disputed, but a plurality of voters seem to have come down on its side, with only the most libertarian of libertarians daring to call it unjustified, using... quite frankly, rhetoric not too different from that which everyone else accepts as good enough reason not to nationalize all medical research or the manufacturing of medical supplies.

    But one thing that always bewildered me in still having a plurality of voters on its side is the decision to impose Shakespeare, Catcher In The Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, etc... on students who would much rather explore their own taste in fiction. It is clearly a bias in favour of older generations' taste in fiction, at best, and at worst just a bunch of insincere virtue signaling from older people who weren't any more interested in that literature themselves.

    One option that comes to mind is to assign students who wish to write their essays on a particular novel with volunteering teachers who've read that novel, and use distance education to assess such essays. But in my mind, it would be only slightly better. You have not imposed someone else's taste in fiction, per se, but you have imposed the medium of choice; literature; over a medium they might have otherwise preferred, like television, radio, comic books or video games; the latter of which, incidentally, could be multi-tasked with news that could give them a head start on history.

    So what do you think? Is it justified for the education system to impose literature; let alone specific literature; on the student population? Why or why not?
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2021
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  3. Aces

    Aces Devotee

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    I believe that there shouldn’t be a cookie cutter ever to education. Every single student is unique and different. They will have interests, hobbies, and even experiences that vary wildly between them. Not only that, but they will have their own interpretation of that information, they will form their own thoughts, judgements, and biases. Which is why I believe our cookie cutter education system is broken. When I was a classroom teacher, I was a science teacher. I tried not to teach what to understand, but rather how to understand. Science is replicable. In fact, it is one of our most basic and standard laws: we must be able to reproduce results in order to confirm them. It also means that if you take a set of students, provide them materials that have a known outcome, but refuse to give them the outcome, you can then force them to find it on their own. Ie. if given the same resources and parameters as previous generations, they will eventually arrive at the same conclusion. You can approach it with any level of thinking, there’s multiple “correct” routes.

    English is a bit different. They will receive the same information, but will arrive at completely different but entirely valid conclusions. When a story is told, it is up to the reader to connect the dots. To fill in the blank space. The human mind is remarkably good at doing this. We will associate our own experiences with the story, we will make connections with different characters for different reasons. There is no necessarily “correct” interpretation of the material. There’s no “correct” end point. The perfect example of this is demonstrated with every single book club. Every single classroom where students are reading the same material.

    You take ten people, and you give them each a copy of the same murder mystery novel. You then ask them why did they person commit the murder. We know who did it, it’s explained clearly in the novel that it was Mrs Plum in the sitting room with the pipe. But the why is left to the reader to explain. Those same ten people will offer eleven different theories, and they will all be equally bias and tailored to the person who spoke it.

    So then, why do we subject students to these same novels that have been read a thousand times before? Because they deserve to be read again. The new material deserves to be read. The story deserves to be told. Why? Because it expands the mind. It forces you to consider the why of the story. It forces you to make connections and conclusions. It forces you to experience the human condition as told by someone else.
     
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  4. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    So... comparing modern generations' reactions to a book to previous generations' reactions to the exact same book is reason enough to impose that book on a new generation?

    A: If that's the reason, why do semi-modern books like To Kill A Mockingbird take up ANY time that could have been spent on more of the works of Sophocles, let alone Shakespeare?

    B: Why, if that's the reason, isn't there a publicly-available statistical trend kept track of in how students' interpretations of these works has changed with each passing generation?
     
  5. Aces

    Aces Devotee

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    You missed the point. Do scientists not study the work of others to advance our own? Do historians not study the notes of those that came before them? Of course they do. A lot has changed since Shakespeare’s day, sure. But a lot hasn’t. The ability to draw connections with someone you can’t ask directly what they meant is an important skill. One that everyone who practices STEAM professions used on a daily basis.
     
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  6. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Another reason to read the novels of Shakespeare and other old works is to help the student learn to think outside of their own perspective. Any quality literature class will expose the student to knowledge of the culture, history, and language meaning of the time. The reading then becomes a process of analysis using a different set of criteria rather than your own experience and knowledge of the world around you.

    While there may not be one "correct" interpretation, not everyone's interpretation is "correct" just because they have had an experience and can make a justification based on today's interpretation of the language.

    It makes you go outside of what you know. Learn some about the time. Then read the work using those boundaries. You really read works like Shakespeare to figure out what did it mean at the time, but because life has some very specific themes, you can see then in today and parts of today in then.
     
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  7. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    LUNA, are you working on a college assignment by chance?
     
  8. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    I think there is value in having students choose their own literature books, and value in exposing students to a particularly good novel that is discussed as a class. Careful thought should be done to choose good literature not just same as always has been done. Students will never read great literature such as To Kill A Mockingbird and Hamlet unless it is required. The benefits of such literature can be great.
     
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  9. mathteachertobe

    mathteachertobe Cohort

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    I can't get past the idea that the "noble goals" of math classes include sorting student by intellect.
     
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  10. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    What's the alternative? Let people's perception of your intellect rely on a singular IQ test? Let it be gauged by a plurality of grades in other courses, including ones at which intentional OR unintentional ideological biases may cloud one's assessment of the merit of one's answers? Let it be a "know it when they see it" thing, in which case, it will be biased against those who popular opinion would prefer to smear as stupid, whether for the lulz, or to discredit their challenges to mainstream thought? What possible other means are there to fight back against someone being falsely smeared as stupid?

    All the things people have invoked about literature thus far either sound like things that could just as easily be handled by a history class, and/or things that still don't quite justify the coercion of both the taxpayer and the student in imposing such literature on them. We live in a world where making the taxpayers pay for allergy sufferers' epipens is considered unthinkable, but spending those same tax dollars to shove To Kill A Mockingbird down students throats is acceptable, because they think their desire to do so trumps individual students' freedom of choice in which fiction to consume? Seems like a misuse of tax dollars if you ask me.

    No, this isn't a college assignment. I'm just a former teacher who's switched careers and is venting about everything that bothers me about the education system.
     
  11. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    Feb 19, 2021

    The school system isn't forcing tastes in literature; kids are free to completely hate their assignments of 18th-century texts. In fact, I suspect if you took a poll of the older generations that those works weren't exactly the most popular assignments.

    We always gave our kids lots of choices in what to read. In 4th grade, my middle son gravitated towards the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series and read each one repeatedly. Now, this isn't actually terrible, but his reading level was above Kinney's writing at the time, and it felt like a waste.

    Kids (and adults) will be drawn to whatever's easiest and demands the least energy from them, generally. Sometimes, they need to be pushed to test their limits. That's what I think having older, more serious work does for them. There are probably a lot of works that could accomplish similar goals, but the ones chosen are generally available and have the virtue of most English teachers having a good understanding of them.
     
  12. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    I’ve never been forced to teach a particular piece of literature because it was required by the curriculum. The curriculum is skills, not particular texts.

    I have, however, been forced to teach a particular novel or set of texts because we are limited in resources and textbooks & novels are expensive. Just a one-year renewal for the online version of our literature book was going to cost $10,000. The textbooks were around $75,000. We have had them for maybe 6 years. We won’t get new ones anytime soon. Yes, we get a choice for novels, but again, not often.
     
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  13. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    So what happens when a standardized test has to assess skills on this? Does the standardized test exclusively come up with unique, original short stories? Does this mean teachers who emphasized novels more, and short stories less, are leaving students with as much knowledge in total but less of the knowledge that will help them on a standardized test?

    The fact that the public sector itself actually has to pay for these books unsettles me even further. Where on Earth is the downward pressure on prices supposed to come from? That sounds like one hell of an incentive for the literature industry to bribe school board trustees into promoting these books, and one hell of an incentive for the school board trustees to accept those bribes.

    By "forcing their taste in literature" I don't mean forcing kids to "like" them, I mean forcing kids to read them at all to compete with their classmates for future jobs. It is one thing to impose lightning safety tips on them; if we left that to the market, dangerous-but-highly-profitable work's risks would be downplayed by employers. But of all the things schools impose, choice of fiction to consume seems like the one that should most be a matter of personal choice, if only by definition. We all have our favourite works of fiction, but telling someone they're wrong to like something else is one thing, telling someone they have to pick this or they're denied access to better schools and better jobs is another.
     
  14. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    Skills have nothing to do with a particular text. I can teach the same standards with completely different text than my teaching partner and still have kids do equally well on standardized tests.
     
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  15. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    But do the standardized tests come up exclusively with unique, original short stories, though? What are students made to compare and contrast, if not standard novels typically associated with the course? (Frankly, I'd rather compare and contrast was handled in a history course and related to non-fictional persons and events, but I don't blame you, of course, for doing your job.)

    Where I'm from one standardized test was worth 50% of the grade. Somehow I don't definitively recall whether it involved the novels associated with the course or not; I'd have thought I would've remembered that; but the tests we did throughout the rest of the year did. I don't know whether that prepared us better for the final than a bunch of short stories throughout the year would have or not.

    How do you know there are not confounding factors in your teaching styles that muddy the effect of different texts used in teaching?

    EDIT: Should the tangent delved into in post 9 be moved to a separate thread?
     
  16. viola_x_wittrockiana

    viola_x_wittrockiana Comrade

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    I think you're not quite understanding how schools operate here. Standardized tests have almost nothing to do with students' grades. Sometimes there's a role in determining qualification for grade promotion or for graduation in the case of Regents' exams, but a student can do satisfactory work in class and score poorly on a state test and receive a good grade. A student who earned a 92% in class but scored below average on the exam will move on to the next grade.
    As someone with intimate knowledge of standardized tests, what texts your course covered is unlikely to matter. The skills are what matter. The texts are a mix of fabricated informational texts and literature excerpts. The literature excerpts are mainly used for identifying elements and vocabulary questions. I've seen the same excerpt from "The House on Mango Street" show up multiple times, but having read it in class wouldn't have helped with the questions. The texts are chosen by the textbook or instructor because they illustrate the elements students must learn, not because anyone is imposing their tastes on students.
    The AP literature exam is the rare exception to that, but there's a published reading list available to anyone.

    Additionally, many schools offer options once students have learned the basics. The school I attended offered Brit lit, American literature, the classics (ancient Greek & Roman), modern novels, and a course on poetry, drama, and short stories. Students were/are free to choose the courses that hold interest for them.
     
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  17. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    The standardized tests give students the text or text excerpts to use during the test. They are never tested over a text they have previously read. They are all cold reads.
     
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  18. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Connoisseur

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    Students should have required reading at school and individual choice in reading on their free time. Kids will be required to read things they are not interested in when they start working. They need to get used to it. I never liked reading email from a certain person at work, but it was required in my job to read it. There are lots of things we have to do in life, some we may not like. School should prepare students to be able to work. If they do not learn it at home, schools need to teach them. Also, as someone else mentioned, students will not automatically know which books may be of interest to them. Once exposed to new lit, they may come to like it.
     
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  19. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    I think there are a couple of things that need clarified by the OP. You use the words "standardized tests" but what you are describing is a "common assessment." Standardized tests are tests given to every student in a certain grade by the state (such as the Virginia Standards of Learning assessments) or a few of them are national (Like the Iowa Test, that is given throughout our country. These standardized tests are not a part of a student's grade. They are used to see how specific schools and districts rank and in most states, the results can determine (in poorly performing schools or districts) if changes need to be made to improve the schools. In some states, and in some grade levels, they can even result in a child being retained (for example, failing the 3rd grade reading exam in Virginia requires that the student attend remediation, or be retained, and retake the test to show proficiency.)

    If what you are describing is students throughout entire districts taking the same test specific to the subject, that is called a "common assessment" and yes, it can count for a prescribed percentage of the student's individual grade.

    You mention students being forced to read "old fashioned" novels, but you may not have concerned the following:
    --in some districts, teachers have a great deal of say in what novels are chosen. In other districts (especially lower income areas) the specific texts are prescribed by the district. There are reasons districts sometime prescribe what books teachers must use.
    • First, books have to be approved for age-appropriate content by the curriculum developers (employees of the school district, who typically have a PhD in education or literature.) The reason for this is very important. 7th graders don't need to be reading books with a rape or suicidal idealization, for example -- it is not developmentally appropriate at that age. What is fine for an 11th grader to read is quite different than what is appropriate for an 8th grader.
    • Second, the book needs to avail itself of the skills teacher at that level are required to teach. Some required skills we have to teach are point-of-view, compare-and-contrast, sequencing, specific designs of specific genre's, dialogue, use of dialect, etc. Some novels lend themselves to specific skills better than others.
    • Third, in many parts of the country, there are certain types of novels that will be so controversial that it will lead to parent protests and even lawsuits -- for example, books which feature suicidal idealization or sexual orientations that are still socially controversial in that region. This doesn't exclude books, but if there is a choice between two books that both lend themselves to specific skills, curriculum directors tend to pick the least controversial. Districts regularly get sued over their book choices, so the curriculum committees have to decide if it is worth the money it costs to deal with these lawsuits, or if it is just better to choose a more established, less controversial novel (don't get me wrong, many "old fashioned" novels are controversial, too.)
    • Fourth, once the curriculum committee selects appropriate books, then they have to purchase these novel sets (which are not cheap -- most schools get the "library binding" or the "library paperback" which are typically $15-$45 each (not the $5.99 paperbacks you see on Amazon). These have to be ordered well in advance, so which novel will be used is typically decided at least a year in advance. (It takes a while to get them delivered.) Then they have to be inventoried, have inventory stickers put on them, and be fairly distributed throughout the district, so that low income schools have the same access as higher income schools. This is actually one of the main reasons many districts make universal book decisions -- because otherwise, more affluent schools have more access to modern and up-to-date novels, while lower income areas cannot buy new book sets because of the expense. Now, after all of this is done, teachers have to have these books in their hands in advance, so they can develop and plan for their teaching. Once these book sets are purchased, they typically have to last at least 6 years before they are considered "worn out" and new books can be considered.
    • Fifth, for a novel to be used, a teacher has to be familiar with it. Fortunately, most literature teachers are avid readers, but they have to do more than just read it, they have to be intimately familiar with it, they have to design lessons and assignments for it, they have to pace it (figure out how many pages or chapters should be read at one time, where are the natural breaks, etc.) And all of this has to happen far enough in advance to get it through the curriculum committee, and get the books purchased and distributed to the schools. The first year you teach a new novel, is a learning curve for the teacher. You almost never get the pacing right the first year, it takes trial-and-error to get it just right. The more you teach a specific novel, the more resources you develop for it. The more you hone your assignments and pacing.
    • Last, here is something you may have never considered. Most school districts have certain novels that are specifically "reserved" for specific grades or classes. For example, in many districts "Charlotte's Web" is reserved for 3rd grade teachers. "Frindle" is reserved for 4th grade. "Ghost Cadet" is reserved for 5th grade. "Hamlet" is reserved to "Intro to Shakespeare" while "Taming of the Shrew" is reserved for the more advanced Shakespeare class. Why? If you leave it completely up to every teacher, one teacher who loves Charlotte's Web may teach it in 2nd grade, and then the next year, in 3rd grade, a different teacher might choose it -- meaning the same child has to study it twice, which makes it incredibly hard for the second teacher. So in many districts, while the teacher can select a novel, they have to choose it from a specific list of choices, to avoid duplication.
    So typically, it takes a while before a newer novel is introduced into a class, and in most schools where they are used, two things are in common: 1. the district allows individual teachers more discretion in their book choices, and 2. oftentimes, those teachers actually purchase the novels themselves (the cheaper Amazon type paperbacks) or beg the PTA to purchase them, and spend hours of their own time (unpaid) to develop the resources, come up with assignments, pace it, and develop assessments and projects. While it is wonderful that they spend their own money, and a lot of uncompensated time doing this, it should never be an expectation that it be done.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2021
  20. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    Well, what you refer to as a common exam is where I'm from still regarded as falling under the umbrella term of standardized tests. Different terminology for different regions, I guess. They would collectively lower a whole class's grades if their poor performance on standardized tests suggests a classroom teacher marked more leniently than most other teachers of the same course.

    I'm all for having lists of which books are for which grade levels to avoid repetition. I'm not against that at all; I'm not claiming every student is entitled to have whichever book they're into this week be the subject of their book reports or essays; obviously if no teacher agreeing to assess it for them is a limitation, so too should the need to avoid repetition be a limitation as well. If we're going to require the assessment be specifically of literature (and again, part of me thinks that seems, though better than requiring "specific" literature, still a little murky as far as justified uses of a mandatory core course go) already that in itself constitutes a limitation as well.

    Would there be any legal liability if a student who wished to do distance-assessment of a novel essay/book report that wasn't one of the "standard" books agreed to pay for their own copy of the book? Would that be considered a reasonable compromise, or just unfair to the poor?

    As well, to what do you attribute the fact that all those skills you mentioned are assessed in assessing a student's analysis of a book, instead of a student's analysis of a story told through some other medium?
     
  21. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    It is not different terminology. In the United States, standardized tests are done by the state or other testing agencies that are not affliated with the schools. Teachers NEVER grade standardized tests -- those are sent off to unbiased graders.

    Please let me know what part of the country you teach in, and I will be glad to show you (if you are in the United States) that what you are describing is a "common assessment" not a standardized tests. It is not allowed to use standardized tests towards a student's class grade. Period. End of sentence.
     
  22. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    I'm from Canada. I'll not specify which province, but in my teacher-training they often referred to the end-of-year province-wide final exams, sent off to be graded by a select few teachers who specifically volunteer to grade them, as a form of standardized testing.
     
  23. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    Summative assessment. Common assessment.

    Not standardized testing.
     
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  24. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    "Summative assessment" is a term I'm familiar with, but it applies to in-class unit tests assigned and corrected by the classroom teacher as much as to the final exam. In teacher training standardized was used to distinguish those finals corrected at the provincial level from unit tests corrected at the local one.
     
  25. CherryOak

    CherryOak Comrade

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    Maybe the answer is simpler than it appears. I teach novels I like. Maybe they actually like those books. I sure did read some horrible ones in my day, though. However, I would have sworn I hated poetry until my Brit Lit class. That prof converted me and I am forever grateful. So, I'm glad he didn't let my ignorant self drive all the decisions.
     
  26. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    I only skimmed the replies, but I'm beginning to lean more into the idea that school should serve to develop a common knowledge and "cultural language" (to quote E.D. Hirsch). The classics are part of a common language and knowledge that is deeply embedded in our culture. That's not to say they're all worth keeping; some of them are problematic and should be replaced with different literature that represents a wider range of sources, perspectives, and world views. But there are references and idioms and sayings that are so entrenched in our culture that not understanding them puts certain people at a distinct disadvantage.

    Not knowing science or history or civics, and not understanding how those things came to be what they are and the cost to get there... that's how we end up with people who deny facts in favor of uninformed opinions and ideas.

    I also agree with the comments that students sometimes just need to be pushed out of their comfort zones. High schoolers care about a lot of things, but a lot of them may not have opportunity or motive to go beyond what they already know. The school's role is to produce educated, informed, and engaged citizens, and you can't be any of those if you stay inside a comfortable bubble of limited knowledge and perspectives. Growth is uncomfortable. Teachers provide a safe (hopefully) and guided way for students to explore new ideas they may not otherwise encounter for a long time, and enable them to deal with ideas that make them uncomfortable just because they're new.
     
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  27. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    I had a teacher in high school that had us do book reports/discussions and one time we had to make a list of 5 books we REALLY wanted to read. Once our list was approved (for appropriate content) we switched our lists with other students. So then we picked a book from THEIR list. It was fun because there were a lot of books others have ever heard of so they got to read something different. Another time we were able to pick a book to read and I actually picked several books that were already in the curriculum for the higher grades so I was denied. I actually WANTED to read the classics but I think I ended up picking Rebecca because it wasn't on their list. My poor teacher LOL
     
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  28. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    And that approach, in my opinion, is an at least somewhat more admirable way to go about pushing students out of their comfort zone than letting which books students are expected to read hinge on whichever choice of books the education system thinks will go over better with the voters.

    Still, I don't think it's the job of the education system to push them out of their comfort zone specifically in the context of one's taste in fiction. That which they have to learn about real life is already doing so in a higher-stakes sense.

    I think we're at somewhat of a standstill as at the end of the day it does all boil down to different moral priorities. Blue and orange morality, if you will.
     
  29. CaliforniaRPCV

    CaliforniaRPCV Comrade

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    The alternative is to be concerned with the mastery of the material rather than some foggy judgement relating math or an IQ test to an unrelated subject.

    Sorry if I missed it, but may I ask what you switched to from teaching?
     
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  30. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Please describe how you would go about teaching the required standard when everyone chooses their own reading material.

    What do you do when you are expecting them to show they understand and can demonstrate the use of the content in their chosen fiction novel when their novel does not contain the required content? Or do you believe that all novels will contain information for the required standard you will be teaching?

    Do you, as the teacher, have to read all novels selected by students to ensure they are high-quality and will serve the purpose for the standard you will be teaching? Not all novels do a good job developing a theme or foreshadowing, etc.
     
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  31. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    That would border on identifying information.

    But I will say this. It was never about mastery of the "material." Mastery of skills, maybe, but most of these skills could be just as effectively demonstrated through student analysis of real-life historical events as through students' analysis of expressly fictional ones, (as I alluded to in the same post you quoted) but if people respected mastery of "the material," you'd see a lot more trust in nuclear engineering from the left, a lot more in sociology from the right, and a lot more in both from me.

    We live in a world now where voters hesitate to push for student loan debt forgiveness, because that would cushion the natural consequences of majoring in a useless degree. Why is it better to require one to study the same subject in high school that would be a poverty sentence if they picked it as a major in college?
     
  32. CaliforniaRPCV

    CaliforniaRPCV Comrade

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    From a mathematics point of view, I'm not sure I there is a difference between mastery of skills and mastery of material.

    Useless degrees... Hmm. That's an interesting thing. I do not mean to offend with my choices in subject in the following. I respect anybody that studies anything, especially when they are subjects I, myself, could not do, including the examples I use.

    We are in a time where over-qualification is a hiring requirement. College degrees are being used as employment filters just because there are so many people with degrees. You can call a degree in English or Art History useless. But it will get you past a filter that's looking for someone that can write a sentence. And even if you can write a sentence, if you don't have a degree, you won't be getting that job you are qualified to do.

    At the same time, I too have a beef with what is being, or has been, emphasized in schools. Attitudes change over time, and from place to place, school to school, classroom to classroom. I'm an old pre-geek pride guy. Math and science weren't as valued when I was in elementary school and high school. At times, there was actual animosity toward the subjects. I get it. I think things are better now. The is more balance.

    I think you are talking about issues teaching objective critical thinking, including learning and incorporating knowledge in that thinking. That, unfortunately, is a political problem. Because if you teach that, you are going to have students come to very different conclusions than their parents. And teachers. And the communities they live in. Yes. It is a very deep problem that negatively impacts real education.
     
  33. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    For what it's worth, I kind of worded that wrong; I didn't mean to say the material isn't important at all, but that it isn't as impressive, on its own, as skills would be. Obviously, when combined, the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts, and they should be multi-tasked as best as possible. But where they come into conflict, skill seems to be the part people respect the most, in light of the aforementioned examples of people's mistrust of expertise, and their turning to people of intelligence, if not necessarily expertise, in deciding who or what to believe instead.

    The curriculum needs to be drastically re-evaluated if education is so mismatched with required skills that it's being used as a tiebreaker. 4 years of real stress; and at a public university, 4 years of tax dollars being spent on it; should have some real relevance, ideally in skills and knowledge, but at least in skills; to show for it. My skepticism of the education system has only been higher ever since I've worked for it.

    If teaching critical thinking through history classes is more likely to get blowback than teaching it through literature classes, so be it. Don't try to smuggle critical thinking in through conversations about fiction, that is a grotesquely two-faced approach that shouldn't be taken on in the taxpayers' name. Fight the battle head-on, out in the open. If any institution should be willing to fight that battle, it should be a public service funded with billions of tax dollars. I can think of other public services that fight battles while people with degrees lead people without them by the dozens. (Whose sass-mouthing ends in "sir!")
     
  34. CaliforniaRPCV

    CaliforniaRPCV Comrade

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    How about critical thinking from the approach of the sciences? Math, chemistry, physics... biology. Um, evolution, climate change. You can get into some pretty hard political spots there. It doesn't take long to work yourself into a problem with parents and community going that direction.

    Apply that rigor to history as well. You get to the same hard places. And that's why the prompt "discuss your favorite ice cream flavor" comes up as a valid critical thinking subject.
     
  35. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    The "skills" schools are attempting to teach do not exist devoid of material and content knowledge. Critical thinking cannot happen without solid knowledge of the subject. Cognitive science has begun to solidly show that the "skills" teachers are trying to teach just don't exist in the way we're trying to teach them. All comprehension is context-dependent. Without background knowledge, comprehension and critical thinking can't happen.

    The material is arguably more important because it's the foundation. "Skills" crumble without knowledge.
     
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  36. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    You said this so well. Thank you.
     
  37. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    It's still evasive as all hell to completely sidestep controversy with parents who don't want their kids thinking differently with them. Be open about it. Tell them how critical thinking is being taught and what the consequences of it may be. Negotiate in good faith before the next school board election, or the one after that may go the way of Presidential ones.
     
  38. CaliforniaRPCV

    CaliforniaRPCV Comrade

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    I think people are well aware of the consequences. They don't want those consequences. Aren't you saying that's why you left teaching?
     
  39. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    My English class is based in early American history. Students get their knowledge base mostly from their social studies teachers, and I use literature about the time period to teach the reading, writing, and language skills required in my subject.

    Literature by itself is such a huge entity that there has got to be some way to narrow down the texts. While it would be great to allow kids to choose their own materials to read it is just not practical.
    1. I have over 100 kids a day.
    2. My classroom library & our school library are limited in texts.
    3. Many kids have no public library access.
    4. Some kids hate to read and wouldn’t even know where to start to choose a book.
    5. Classroom time is limited.
    6. Our school has limited funds.
     
  40. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    Actually, I was more skeptical that it came anywhere close to its lofty ideals than ever before. That and the workload was overwhelming.

    But "consequences for individual teachers" =/= "consequences for the voters." They re-elect the same school board trustees knowing full well that most of the content, at least by a measure of in-class instruction spent on it, refers to real life. Content about fiction is the outlier. Using the latter as the vehicle to smuggle critical thinking into kids minds' behind the backs of the taxpayers who fund it sounds a little sketchy to me.
     
  41. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Feb 27, 2021

    This, exactly!:)
     
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