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Public school required reading lists....

Discussion in 'General Debates' started by idea, Jun 6, 2015.

  1. idea

    idea Well-Known Member

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    So I was looking over next year's required reading list for my kids, and am rather disappointed... Nothing educational, it's basically soap-opera trash (not award winning literature, no classics, etc. etc.)

    Rather than get into a long debate on what kids should or should not be forced to read, I have a different proposal, and was curious as to everyone's opinion on it.

    If I created a survey with the following, would you sign it? Please edit/suggest away!

    Thanks.

     
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  2. Nietzsche

    Nietzsche The Last Prussian
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    There is a significant problem with this, namely in regards to the agenda bias of the individuals who choose the books. At least if the list is done by committee you have a chance at preventing obviously-biased material. It is decidedly difficult to get away with Holocaust-Denial literature when you've got a group of people who can out-vote the ignorant ******* who proposed it.
     
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  3. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise

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    Whilst I agree that more freedom of choice for reading lists is absolutely a good thing. I also think it shouldn't outright replace required reading. I mean perhaps it's because of my own boredom and frustration in the classroom (long story) but there are certain books that deserved to be critiqued/studied in class. And that will of course differ from region to region.

    I think it should be more of a balance. Have things like Shakes and Chaucer and Homer and whatever the hell else one studies in High School. But at the same time have individually chosen material for kids to explore and discuss within the confines of class.

    My teachers did something like this during Primary School. We had assigned reading materials for kids, Roald Dahl in the younger years and even Hating Allison Ashley (if you were a 90s kid) but they also caved to popularity from time to time. We read the first Harry Potter in class and then went to see the movie, we were allowed to read things like Goosebumps in quiet reading time and our year 7 teacher would read to us a chapter from Captain Underpants in the arvo, if we were good that day. And believe it or not, that did more to encourage us to read than simply assigned reading lists did.

    Our High School teachers gave us this privilege more incidentally. Probably because we were older and had more independence. I mean there was a library where we could basically read whatever the hell we wanted to. We could even discuss what we were reading and our thoughts during class. But there needs to be some guidelines as well. And the teachers are there to teach children, not let them do whatever the **** they want (and I still have all the lines I had to write in my various books during detention to prove it lol!)
     
  4. Shadow Wolf

    Shadow Wolf Crazy Diamond

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    When I was in high school, each year had its own assigned readings for English class (such as Shakespeare, Poe, Bierce, Chaucer, and Lord Tennyson), but we also a had reading program in which you could choose what you want as long as it was within your reading level (it was eventually decided that those of us at the highest reading level could go below that as long as we didn't make it a habit).
    I agree the required readings are needing to expose students to a diverse genre of reading, a number of different authors, and subjects that will challenge them and expose them to different thoughts and positions about the world.
    High school should be a time to expand horizons and learn about things you didn't know about, not provide a shelter to keep you within your own comfort zone.
     
  5. Skwim

    Skwim Veteran Member

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    Drop the preaching. It's condescending and offensive.


    Stick to the issue: You don't think children should be reading soap-opera trash, and here's what we can do about it and why it's the best solution.
     
    #5 Skwim, Jun 7, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2015
  6. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    Part of having required reading is so the teacher can use a text that has been read by everyone, as a basis for class activities, discussion, teachings, etc.

    Either you have a central required reading list, or required readings chosen by individual teachers.

    There are valid arguments for either of them, but you can't avoid having the entire class reading a number of pre-selected texts. And even if you allow the individual teachers to choose as much as possible, you probably need some standard texts for examination and assessment purposes.

    The idea of flexibility is good, but the realities of the present education system make it difficult to avoid a degree of standardisation.
     
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  7. Marisa

    Marisa Well-Known Member

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    You know I went through this with my own daughter, who is 16. It seems like very few of the books that I read when I was in school are on her required reading list. Then I had an epiphany, that I am 33 years older than she is and that translates to three decades of literary happenings, many of them in the young adult genre and of which I was unaware. That also translates to three decades of social advancements creating new and challenging ideas for today's youth that I get to experience as a grown up. Recognizing that I don't possess a degree in Child Development or the Literary Arts, I opted to educate myself on what books are being read, but in general leave that to the people with the educational expertise. When she and I discussed, for instance, To Kill a Mockingbird, we had different perspectives which could be traced, in almost every instance, to different early life experiences because she's growing up in a different world than I did.

    It's very true, that old say that "a little knowledge" can make one know just enough to be dangerous.
     
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  8. idea

    idea Well-Known Member

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    I agree, you cannot make it into a free-for-all, which is why I suggested assigning a topic, and requiring grade-level appropriate books that are subject specific be required. There really are great systems where most books have point values, grade-levels, and reading comprehension tests so you can require everyone to read a certain number of 'points' etc.


    I would be so happy if Shakespeare, Poe, Bierce, Chaucer, and Lord Tennyson were on our kids reading list, unfortunately, our school district believes in encouraging "reading for pleasure" which is a fine sentiment, except that the "for pleasure" list is nothing but garbage. It is the equivalent of forcing students to watch hour after hour of cheesy soap operas over the summer.

    You don't think standardization could be accomplished by assigning a subject?

    I agree, and I think the real experts are the ones who create awards such as the Newbery award, or the National book award. If my child were asked to read award winning books, I would be fine - none of the books on our list have won any awards. Our list was chosen by administrators, not experts. It is sooo frustrating!!
     
    #8 idea, Jun 7, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2015
  9. idea

    idea Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the edits -

    "why? I would think it would do just the opposite." - Why do you think it would do the opposite? Multiple books would bring multiple viewpoints about an issue into the classroom. You know what they say - What is the difference between research and plagiarism? Research uses more than one reference. I would like to see more than one book, more than one author, more than one viewpoint on any given subject being brought into the classroom.

    "Why are you mentioning this? Do you want the school to use such programs?" - the point, you have to test and grade kids to make sure they actually read their book, and there is no way that all of the teachers can read all of the books they might choose - but, this does not create a problem. There are already independent reading programs where most books are rated for grade level and have test questions etc. where you earn points/book (larger harder books earn you more points) etc. etc.


    I agree, better to keep the message short, and to the point.
     
  10. Marisa

    Marisa Well-Known Member

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    How can you not recognize your own bias? I almost exclusively read non-fiction, but that doesn't come anywhere close to meaning that fiction is nothing but a collection of different genres of "cheesy soap opera". There isn't one exclusive source from which insight can be gained, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    I don't really think you can expect to approach standardization unless everyone is, literally, on the same page. Different perspectives will have different reactions to the same written word, how can there be anything but educational chaos if everyone is reading something different?
     
  11. idea

    idea Well-Known Member

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    I have nothing against non-fiction books, but some non-fiction is obviously better than others. Why not choose award winning books?

    The number of books published per year:
    Books published per country per year - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The US alone publishes 304,912 books / year. Long gone are the days where publishing is restricted to large publishers, and quality is assumed in any book.... time is precious, no one can read all of this, so why not read the best of it? Why not at least choose award winning books?



    I really don't think it's educational chaos to allow students to choose their own grade-level appropriate, points rated, books.

    What I do think, is that it is educational chaos to allow any organization to control information in the form of deciding what slant on any issue all of the kids will be forced to read.
     
  12. rosends

    rosends Well-Known Member

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    Assigning texts in a classroom serves a number of purposes and some simply can't be served by having students read whatever they want. A teacher might choose a text because it establishes a cultural literacy, or because it is a particularly good example of certain literary devices or methods which are considered important for a student to know and have seen. A text a student chooses might simply not touch on the themes or authorial choices or artistic/generic styles that the teacher needs the students to have experienced.

    Classroom conversation blossoms when there is a shared reading experience. The multiplicity of voices is encouraged when individuals can agree or disagree with each other after having read the same text. Sure, I could get a great conversation going between students who read different books, but that doesn't teach the students about the variety of valid responses to ONE text. If I can get my entire class to read Hamlet, and then they debate about the meaning of a word or phrase, or character point, then they can see that one text lends itself to many different readings. That's English teacher gold.

    So, yes, in many classes, I allow independent, outside readings, and in a few classes, I have split the class into two and given two separate assigned texts, and there are great assessments and projects which can stem from these practices. But I would never give up watching a class of 25 battle it out because they have all read the same thing and are discovering their own artistic and interpretive point of view, and working hard to defend it.
     
  13. Marisa

    Marisa Well-Known Member

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    "Award Winning". Is that anything like "movie critic"? Again, a bias is showing. Literature that you don't appreciate is considered "cheesy soap opera". If memory serves, there are quite a few "award winning" literary endeavors on the banned books list. You're walking a pretty close parallel here, IMO.

    How do you guide a conversation about Boo Radley unless everyone is reading To Kill a Mockingbird?

    What do you think you're doing?
     
  14. idea

    idea Well-Known Member

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    ok, so let me thicken the plot - here is the assigned book for 8the grade that my daughter is supposed to read over the summer:

    Unwind, by Neal Shusterman.

    Unwind (Unwind Dystology):Amazon:Books

    There are many Christians who love this book for it's pro-life message, and I am actually a pro-lifer myself, but I disagree with making everyone read this who might have different views. I now live in the Bible belt, and feel that the required reading books are motivated by one group of religious people where I live....

    Oh, Unwind is also anti-Semitic in that Jewish people tithe (kill) their 10th child as part of their religious beliefs...

    I really did not want to turn this into a thread about what books should or should not be required to read, and am just posting this as an example of the types of problems, and political/religious agendas that so easily get mixed into required reading lists.

    I agree it is fun to have a book-club discussion over the same book, but there is a fine line between an agenda of indoctrinating political/religious views within kids, and fostering classroom discussion. I think the only way to prevent political/religious indoctrination by the majority where you happen to live is to allow the freedom of choice in books.

    Imagine a religious/political view that you disagree with... Now image that the majority of the people where you happen to live hold this view, and that your child is required to read pro-_______ (fill in the blank) books for their RELA class.... what would you do?
     
    #14 idea, Jun 7, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2015
  15. rosends

    rosends Well-Known Member

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    So your issue is less with the concept of a shared reading experience but with what you see as a transparently agendized choice of this particular book? I haven't read this book but a quick look at Amazon shows that it was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers. If the goal is to get people to read, then this book seems to have a track record of success.
     
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  16. Shadow Wolf

    Shadow Wolf Crazy Diamond

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    You still haven't told us anything the kids can pick from. I remember my mom thinking The Incarnations of Immortality series was junk, even though much of it is derived from classic mythology and literature, with lots of characters being named after Greek gods and Heaven and Hell being based on how Dante presented them in The Divine Comedy.
    You won't get any argument from me that the classics need to be there, and their does need to be things the entire class is reading in order to help students with reading comprehension and for effective discourse, but saying it's all cheesy soap operas may just be your bias in being out of touch with youth culture today. Sometimes parents just don't understand.
     
  17. idea

    idea Well-Known Member

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    I believe that the best way to get people to read, is to allow them to choose their own books. Everyone has individual interests, there is no single book that will appeal to everyone - force everyone to read the same book, and there will always be people in the class who do not enjoy it.... Allow everyone to choose their own book, everyone picks something they are interested in, now everyone is motivated to read.

    See above, I posted our required reading book. Yes, I agree, everyone has different opinions and likes/dislikes. Any required reading book is going to stem from one group's opinion and will be dissatisfying to the rest.

    If the point of education is to encourage people to be independent, to think for themselves etc. etc. why not let them choose books for themselves?

    The difference between something that is enjoyable or not is the difference between what you would choose for yourself, and what is forced on you by someone else.
     
  18. rosends

    rosends Well-Known Member

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    I am unapologetic about what I am about to say:
    I often don't choose a book with the purpose of having my students enjoy it. I choose it because of its value when I teach it. I try to explain it so that they will appreciate it and understand it. But while it is nice if students enjoy the book, I don't let that determine what I teach.
     
    #18 rosends, Jun 7, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2015
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  19. Shadow Wolf

    Shadow Wolf Crazy Diamond

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    I had the tab for this thread up, and typed that up and posted it after you posted that.
    I do agree they should be able to choose, but there also needs to be books they don't choose. To Kill a Mockingbird, for example, is something that should be required reading. And because it is required, the class, as a whole, can discuss it, the class can gain new perspectives and insights into it, students can share their own thoughts, and it can help students with reading comprehension when they can have the thoughts of others helping them to gain new perspectives of their own.
    And, of course, you can't grow as an independent thinker or learn to think for yourself if you only expose yourself to things you like. You'll only stunt your own growth and prevent your own progress if you only expose yourself to things you like. And, being exposed to new things, such as through a required reading list, you may learn of other things you enjoy.
     
  20. Marisa

    Marisa Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like something on par with The Handmaid's Tale to me. Culture wars being fought with actual blood. When have we seen this before? Oh yeah, the Civil War.
     
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