Friday, April 15, 2005

On keeping friends, blotiquette, and reading

It has been some time since my last confession, I mean post.

Previous concerns (I'm saying screw blog etiquette and I'm answering questions from previous posts): yes, Holy Thursday is one of Blake's more famous poems. It's one at least that the professors keep returning to. All of Blake's works are worth a (re)reading. He single-handedly created his own mythology which the best critics have yet to resolve. Plus, anyone who believes in eminent utopia and nude picnics is worth a closer look.

So, yesterday I had to sit down with the librarian at school and decide what works we'll be forcing the students to read next year (ha, ha, ha). We have to create a system by which they must read a certain number of books (independently, mind you) each quarter. So we ask ourselves, "If I were attempting to do the least amount of work to complete the assignment, which books would I read?" This is a shame. A crying shame--in fact, I have shed not a few tears thinking I once was this kind of person--until I thought I had discovered something noone else had considered--books. Yes, my first book was Jimmy Buffet's Tales From Margaritaville, but I moved on to Grisham and a biography of Jimi Hendrix by the end of that revelatory summer.

I return to a reoccuring problem: how to interest the students in books?

Ok, so the librarian's are yelling over the speaker phone that we must get out, but for more on the redemptive purpose of reading (an essay) see my brother's new blog:


Blogger Kezza said...

i confess, i mean post almost daily =) until i decided to attempt to write a real story...

nice blog!

8:56 AM  
Blogger mattreed said...

It must be a universal trait that Librarians yell loudly over the speaker, especially when they want you to leave. It isn't a very pleasant trait, I should say. Not very pleasant at all.

7:24 PM  
Blogger d press productions said...

it's even more when they yell loudly over the speaker, then tell the people standing near the desk to please be quiet.

in our school, we had to read X number of pages, and write a 2 (?) page paper on each book. since i read fast, i would find the biggest damn books i could (jules verne was one, if i remember correctly), so instead of 3 papers, i'd only have to write one.

can you "make" them read books that are "literary" (i.e. not by an athlete or movie star), but still enjoyable? something like kurt?

3:51 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Hey Brudder,

Have you read Bloom's "The Western Canon"? He's excellent and sure to inspire (he also references Blake on nearly every page). You wouldn't even have to read the book, just survey the table of contents to get together a good list of books to have the kids read. In your position, at a fundamentalist institution, I think you could get away with requiring the kids to read "dead, white, European males" without any justification (which Bloom provides a lot of, incidentally), since the WASP's are eager to protect their heritage.

Do the books have to come from the library? I was thinking that a revised and updated version of a classic could fit the bill, but would probably not be in the library, at least not in large quantities.

What did you think of Rorty? I posted it because the night before I found it, I gave a long-winded discourse to my wife (Corie) on how I went to school because of the "redemptive truth" in Religion, but found that to be empty (except for its aesthetic value), then I turned to philosophy and found the same (except for its aesthetic value), and now I am wondering, "where the heck do I turn?" Rorty has apparently gone down the same road. His homepage reads "Richard Rorty is Professor of Comparative Literature and, by courtesy, of Philosophy at Stanford University." He realized that philosophy, like religion, if metaphysics is dead, is essentially comparitive literature, and though he is a philosopher by training, he teaches philosophy "by courtesy".

7:27 AM  
Blogger mickrect said...

Our list includes many "classics" of American, British, and "World" literature. Yet the problem with them is that they are classics. Next year, the 11th and 12th graders will have to choose from Hardy, Dickens, Swift, and the like--whereas the 10th grade will avoid Dostoevsky (b/c he is long) and read Medea. I've devised a system that assigns point values based on reading level and page numbers (not without its faults). I'm hoping this will encourage the Dostoevsky's (44) and discourage the Medea's (5)--all the while hoping they are actually reading and learning (not just reading teh Cliff's Notes).

Not everything on the list in is the library, but they're too lazy to go to their own library.

Ennui is their problem.

Today when I said, "Ok, open your books to p. 345. This is Marriane Moore's 'Poetry,' " they groaned to no end. I try not to take offense and think, "Perhaps I make this boring." Even when I convince them that the author feels the same way as they do about "Poetry" (line 1: "I, too, dislike it"), they still groan and say it is "boring," "stupid."

Tomorrow I assigned TS Eliot's "The Hollow Men."

This was part of the curriculum and completely unintentional.

4:02 PM  
Blogger mattreed said...

I would have a hard time teaching literature to high school students because I wouldn't be able to easily hide my contempt for them. That I may have been like them at their age would only increase the contempt (and would probably throw in some embarrassment). Anyway, I like the points system (have you considered, though, Dostoevsky's shorter works like Notes from the Underground?). I like the idea of having students write responses to the works they read that Cliff's notes wouldn't really help them with. It would also help them to try to write creatively and also help them to look at literature from different perspectives.

7:05 PM  
Blogger mickrect said...

matt and lucas: i agree writing shd accompany the reading--i have not suggested it merely b/c i don't want to grade it. perhaps i should think more like an idealist since, god help me, i'm planning to come back next year.

Did you like Dr. Szabo's 1 page response papers? They seemed to work well, not too long, not too short. And the single-spaced made it feel like you weren't writing for school.

5:50 AM  

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