Saturday, August 9, 2008

Literarily Ignorant

I'm afraid I find myself agreeing with more of this than I'd like.

I've been teaching college for nearly 40 years now, and while I find many highly motivated students in every class I teach, I can't say they're as well-prepared as they used to be. It's particularly astonishing when I come across a student who wants to be a writer but can't name the last book he's read, or a book that inspires him, or even his favorite author.

I know it's fashionable, and probably partly true, to say that the poor literary habits I see in my college students is due to their bad public school training, or their attraction to the Internet or to other new media. But I think a big part of it has to do with No Child Left Behind. Clearly, public schools have been forced to squeeze out much of the curriculum (meaning novels, poems, stories in English classes) and instead to focus the teachers' valuable time and the students' time on preparing to take a standardized test.

I can mark a dramatic change in my students that coincides with Florida's use of the FCAT which was an early version of the No Child Left Behind tests. Jeb started it. Must run in the Bush family. Holding teachers accountable is a bogus justification for such a radical shift in pedagogy. There are dozens of ways to make sure teachers are doing a good job without subjecting an entire generation of students to a mindless multiple choice test.

America education has always been notable in its emphasis on originality of thought and its willingness to challenge authority. To adopt a testing system that stresses uniformity and test taking rather than more creative forms of expression inevitably generates students who lose interest in school and education.

If I had been tested in public school the way students are today, I'm sure I would have gotten out of school as quickly as possible. I hate tests, don't do well on them, never have.

Anyone else notice
the regimentation,
the worker bee,
assembly line imagery
of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies?
The way we compete with worker bees
is with creativity, not test taking.


Anonymous said...

Anyone notice the heavy smog and air pollution surrounding the opening ceremonies?

DWO said...

Bravo! (re: comments about No Child Left Behind)

My wife's a teacher ... art, not english but that is her major w/history a minor. (strange world, right?)

Here in Tejas (HouTex), it's felt and talked about just as much. I see it all from a husbands point of view. She used to teach middle skool (pun intended). Brutal. Now it's elementary and not much better. But the students do not give disrespect (as much). Now if we could just get them to "learn" english.

DWO said...

Speaking of the dumbing down of a generation or two, I never was much of a reader until after 35 yrs. old. Now I wonder why. (?) Newspapers, magazines, or the internet are not in the same category. It has to be a book. Kids today get all of their information from the 'net, or youtube/facebook or whatever else is ou there. I use email. that's it. Kids, and even a sizeable amount of [grownups] are avid 'net users. But what do they really know? Except what happened) today? They need more technical schools. Imho.