I can’t say that literature shouldn’t be taught any more than I could say that art or music shouldn’t be taught. Literature is part of our cultural heritage, something that humans have been drawn to create since before we were able to forge tools that would record it. It’s not only a collection of nice stories, it’s a record of humanity. Evidence suggests that reading literature increases empathy. I think learning how to be a good human is worth the potential pain of slogging through Hemingway as a young teen.
So, literature’s in. Does it need to be taught in English class?
I encouraged my students to leaf through copies of the books on the list before they read, to consult reviews and Goodreads pages, to read the first fifteen pages of this book and that, just to see how they landed. In other words, I treated them the way readers want to be treated in an age when they have access to everything, when something more engaging is a click or a swipe away.
The result? I’ll have to wait a week or two – when they turn in their final projects based on their selected novel – to know for sure about the academic side of things, but I’m betting on their success. Because aren’t we more engaged as readers when we have some autonomy? When we can try things out and settle on something that strikes us? Don’t we read more deeply? Aren’t we more likely to have something meaningful to say about books we feel a connection to (even if we don’t like the book in question?).
Apparently, the main purpose of inventive spelling is to preserve the self-esteem of students. I guess…the idea is… it will hurt their feelings too much… if adults tell them… that they spelled a word wrong? No, I do not accept this. I have to call shenanigans on this touchy-feeliness so hard. Do we even REMEMBER pioneer times where kids had to milk cows at four in the morning and then walk five miles to school in the snow and then every once in a while they would get typhoid? Am I the only one here who played Oregon Trail growing up? Kids are CAPABLE. They are resilient motherbuggers. They can survive scary diseases and harsh elements. Not that they SHOULD. But they CAN. I think they can handle being told they didn’t use the right version of “your” in a sentence without having to work it out in psychotherapy years later.