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If you could design the English Curriculum..:

Three-Puppet Saluter
Well, it's fair that English classes should spend more time on instructing kids how not to write like it's Yahoo Answers, but why you're arguing not in favor of beefing up conventions but in favor of dumbing down the other areas really baffles me.

And when I say things will go over your head, I'm not just talking about things only of interest to philologists or whatnot. Shakespeare's a paradigm this culture's been raised on. Sorry.

EDIT: Oh, and for the love of god, no five-paragraph essays. The keenest insight in the world, subjected to a five-paragraph format, would still look like it was written by a clueless amateur.

edited 23rd Apr '12 1:09:54 PM by DomaDoma

Hail Martin Septim!
 427 JHM, Mon, 23rd Apr '12 4:52:46 PM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
Let us not continue to argue with Deboss. His own emotional rejection of any literature that is not within his narrow purview totally outweighs his ability to logically argue his point without dodging other people's statements, obfuscating or nitpicking. Where his opinions could be intriguing, his lack of argumentative finesse leaves this debate wanting, tedious even. If he can bulk up his argument with some wit, I'll respond to his posts, but I for one am becoming seriously bored of this back and forth.
 428 Tam H 70, Mon, 23rd Apr '12 10:16:31 PM from 合計虐殺 Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
War ALWAYS changes. Man does not.
I think you misjudge Deboss. He is not using emotion at all. Just logic. Because you don't like it, you assume and you attach your own prejudices towards what he is writing.
 429 Deboss, Tue, 24th Apr '12 2:55:03 AM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
Any aspects of critical thinking should be covered by courses in formal logic as literature based courses suck at teaching you that literature can't present evidence in a worthwhile way, and fail to teach that rhetoric is meaningless drivel against evidence, of which fiction cannot present any in a reliable way. Literacy rates are being hurt by a focus toward teaching specific sets of books instead of the most engaging writing there is available to students, and it has to be broad spectrum engaging, not engaging to the handful of students who like that particular style of writing or the teachers, who shouldn't get a vote to begin with. Trying to make them cultured, should simply be cut. Any aspect of culture that can't keep itself popular without being mandated has proven that not enough people care to keep it alive in a meaningful way and deserves to die.

Language is a tool for communication, trying to expound upon the history of the development, and the numerous things you can do with it is a sales pitch, it's pointless if they've got to take it anyway. Being able to communicate is the point. Making a good argument does not effect the value of a statements truthfulness. Hence, the ability to worm out the different ways a phrase could be wrong is somewhat useful, the ability to test simply goes through all of it and is of far greater importance.

Disagreeing with someones fundamental assumptions/goals is perfectly fine. If you can't assemble a decent argument around those assumptions and you have to stop arguing because you can't convince them of something, I question why you think you have sufficient experience to call rhetoric worthwhile.
 430 Jhimmibhob, Tue, 24th Apr '12 10:05:21 AM from Arm's reach of the julep machine Relationship Status: My own grandpa
Physics:engineering::philosophy:literature.

The purpose of an education is to make you smarter than you were when you walked in. Structuring a curriculum around what the not-yet-educated would LIKE to know kind of defeats the purpose—in other words, if your reading preferences were any good to begin with, there'd be little point to taking a literature class.

We might or might not be engaged by what's good, but that's not the latter's fault. There's a perfectly good avenue for someone who'd rather lower his sights in favor of being engaged: it's called a book club. They don't even charge tuition.

And finally we move to the blank assertion "popular culture equals culture, and is up to a vote." Congratulations: like many assertions, that's actually impossible to refute. (Of course, like many assertions it's equally impossible to prove.) I'm not really inclined to change the mind of anyone who believes that. Of course, I'm not required to take them seriously, either, and don't.

edited 24th Apr '12 10:05:37 AM by Jhimmibhob

"She was the kind of dame they write similes about." —Pterodactyl Jones
Three-Puppet Saluter
I'd guess about as many people care about pre-calculus as they do about Brit Lit. (It's high school; the social norm is not giving a crap.) Does that mean it, or anything else in the classroom, shouldn't be required, on the simple basis that teenagers wouldn't choose it on their own?

edited 24th Apr '12 10:18:53 AM by DomaDoma

Hail Martin Septim!
 432 Firebert, Tue, 24th Apr '12 3:42:15 PM from Somewhere in Illinois
That One Guy
[up][up] Well said.

[up] Yeah, I really wouldn't want to see the world such a system would produce.
@Deboss: I disagree. Great authors are people who have something to say and are capable of saying it in the most concise and coherent way possible. You're asking, "Why is formulating your ideas coherently so important?" Two words: common courtesy. Mutual understanding is essential when you're having a discussion, and precise wording helps achieve it — Natural language is ambiguous enough already.

On the other hand, thanks for acknowledging the importance of formal logic. Not one Belgian high school offers a formal logic course — can you imagine?
Quid autem coelo pulchrius, nempe quod continet pulchra omnia?
Three-Puppet Saluter
I couldn't, actually. But then I tend to think of continental European schooling as an undifferentiated pool of high standards, so yeah.
Hail Martin Septim!
 435 Deboss, Tue, 24th Apr '12 8:07:47 PM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
Physics:engineering::philosophy:literature.

No, physics:engineering::logic:philosophy. Or possibly logic:reasoning depending on how you want to do it.

The purpose of an education is to make you smarter than you were when you walked in. Structuring a curriculum around what the not-yet-educated would LIKE to know kind of defeats the purpose—in other words, if your reading preferences were any good to begin with, there'd be little point to taking a literature class.

The first part has nothing to do with the second. Personal taste and understanding have little to do with each other. Structuring a curriculum should be built around what needs to be known to understand what's going to be used. The trivia components aren't necessary.

We might or might not be engaged by what's good, but that's not the latter's fault. There's a perfectly good avenue for someone who'd rather lower his sights in favor of being engaged: it's called a book club. They don't even charge tuition.

Actually, it is the latter's fault. If you can't engage people, how can you tell them much of anything worth while? If you're trying to teach people how to argue, hooking them is part of the components I believe. Failing to hook people is the authors problem, no? Last point: And that's why literature should not be a mandatory component of the general curriculum (unless you think I've been discussing electives or college degrees?).

And finally we move to the blank assertion "popular culture equals culture, and is up to a vote." Congratulations: like many assertions, that's actually impossible to refute. (Of course, like many assertions it's equally impossible to prove.) I'm not really inclined to change the mind of anyone who believes that. Of course, I'm not required to take them seriously, either, and don't.

Actually I can prove it (well, I can state a decent theory, proof is for math): culture (in the sense of works and artwork and whatnot) is a group of memes from random works (language, to some degree, is an extension of this) so what's popular is what's being bounced around by people in general and is what determines general language definitions as language is memetic in nature. Just as one doesn't need to know about War Hammer 40000 to "get" the meme "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!", one doesn't need to know the origin of "don't look a gift horse in the mouth" to understand the meaning of the terms. Thus origin of terminology and whatnot is purely trivia as long as the usage of the terms is conveyed consistently.

Fortunately, I'm not required to take any of your views seriously either. Since the OP was about a hypothetical "you" we can each assume our own stances as supreme dictator of education curriculum.

Great authors are people who have something to say and are capable of saying it in the most concise and coherent way possible. You're asking, "Why is formulating your ideas coherently so important?" Two words: common courtesy. Mutual understanding is essential when you're having a discussion, and precise wording helps achieve it — Natural language is ambiguous enough already.

Actually, that's not true. Concise and coherent means not wasting time building a structural narrative, backstory for characters, adding random events and world building in. Essentially, it's essays and links to evidence which is something that's recently picked up a lot of steam thanks to the internet. Having to build a fictional character and trying to invoke emotions to make your point is a flaw in persuasive arguments that only works because the general public hasn't been trained to ignore such arguments. Of which, I am entirely in favor of being the primary goal of writing classes. Since eliminating flaws in thinking is the goal, teaching people to use flaws in the thinking of others is a mistake or deliberately self destructive in the same way a "how to lie to people effectively" class is. It might be beneficial, but it's not really something that should be promoted.

I'd guess about as many people care about pre-calculus as they do about Brit Lit. (It's high school; the social norm is not giving a crap.) Does that mean it, or anything else in the classroom, shouldn't be required, on the simple basis that teenagers wouldn't choose it on their own?

Actually, caring isn't the important aspect or whether or not they'd choose it given the choice. General utility is what's important for picking the mandatory curriculum for general students. The lack of caring indicates a flaw in the teaching style, or much more likely in the curriculum decisions, in a lot of cases (if it's the majority of the students and they haven't been preselected for not caring). Caring is only useful in getting the subject to be retained, so while it's a positive, it's not necessary. As for the specific class pre-cal/trig, yes it should not be on mandatory curriculum of all students. If you're going in for physics in some way, then it's a pre-req, but for any one not going into a field/subject that uses trig, it's wasted time unless it amuses them.
Three-Puppet Saluter
Again, why on earth do you hold the position that people in high school are learning too much? Eighth grade used to suffice for self-sufficient, cultured adulthood. Now a bachelor's degree doesn't always cut it.

edited 24th Apr '12 8:36:05 PM by DomaDoma

Hail Martin Septim!
 437 Deboss, Tue, 24th Apr '12 9:49:40 PM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
I don't think they're learning too much, I think there's too much on the curriculum that isn't useful for later in life. It's just there because it was declared to be something kids have to know without doing an actual assessment. They're also not learning the right things, they're learning a little bit of everything instead of a lot of a specific subject.

A bachelors being more valuable than a HS degree has less to do with not teaching enough general knowledge and more to do with the rise of specialized skills being vastly more important for modern jobs. Hence why I want to reduce the general courses in favor of offering specialized skills. I view the mandatory courses as a time obstacle between learning useful things and learning standardized junk. Besides which, I'm aiming to make high school more like colleges to begin with, hence cutting it down in time and removing the entire literature component.

Thus I believe that the changes that should be made are a double set of curriculum, a mandatory section and an elective set, with the mandatory being the minimum level everyone has to meet, and the elective being focused on developing useful skills for profession.

That, and you could actually fail high school way back when. The funny thing about setting an arbitrary goal post for being worthwhile employee is that more and more people try to meet it and then you have to move it further to make it "useful".
Three-Puppet Saluter
...That is actually not a crazy notion.
Hail Martin Septim!
Concise and coherent means not wasting time building a structural narrative, backstory for characters, adding random events and world building in. Essentially, it's essays and links to evidence which is something that's recently picked up a lot of steam thanks to the internet.

They're both about leading your reader to a desired conclusion. Also, authors talk about things that happen in real life — conflicts, moral dilemma's etc. The characters aren't real, but the situations are firmly grounded in reality, no matter how fantastical the elaboration of those situations might be. I'm pretty certain the language of good essayists has been influenced by that of the great writers.

The basic question is this — what will have the most effect when you want to improve your writing skills? Some sentences from a phrase book, or the best that has been said and thought in that particular language?

About making high school more like college: no, it's not a crazy notion, but it won't improve education or society because a) most people in high school don't have a firm idea of what they're going to do with their life. Which, to me, is a good thing: there are many possibilities, you should be allowed to keep your options open for a while — and b) you'll end up with highly specialised people who don't know much about other things and, therefore, aren't as good at thinking outside the box.
Quid autem coelo pulchrius, nempe quod continet pulchra omnia?
 440 Deboss, Wed, 25th Apr '12 3:15:59 AM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
And it's no longer common courtesy to not waste the readers time when you could put your theory and evidence up front instead of hiding it in a story? As for grounding it in reality, that's pointless as long as fiction continues to use things like Artistic License to make its argument, fiction isn't evidence of anything beyond the writers beliefs.

The phrase book sounds like the most likely source of good information. Assuming it's been decently researched, it will have just as much authority on the language as there is authority of the best words in a language. Combined with general applicability, and assuming it isn't bullshit like never split infinitives or something, general advice is better.

The point of the first eight years or so of education are for finding out what you enjoy and are good at (unless, of course, it's like current education and you spin your wheels doing bullshit make work for several years because you school system is based on time spent in class rather than lessons learned) even if you're not sure how to apply such things. If you know what you're good at and enjoy, you can narrow the field down quite a bit. If somebody doesn't, there's always establishing a general learning criteria for non declared.

Unless college was significantly different for me than it was for others, you still had to take general classes. They just don't consist of crappy schedules and you were expected to actually move on after you learned the lessons. Considering most of them are just repeats of what you took in high school (except for math, but that was likely due to my major), I see no reason to make people take the same damn courses twice, just move the general courses down to high school and make them lesson completion based rather than time based.
Three-Puppet Saluter
Well, that's what I get for dashing off a reply right before bed. While it has its points, it is absolutely a crazy idea where abolishing all the cultural commonalities is concerned. A society of specialists who can't communicate with one another and have been trained solely for work does not strike me as one that exactly engenders liberty.

Also: it's one thing to read that power corrupts, and another to see how Galadriel and Boromir and Sam Gamgee are uniquely tempted by the One Ring. It's one thing to read about the sunk costs fallacy, and another to watch Macbeth rationalize himself into murder after murder. The dry textbook material doesn't stick to the brain half as well.
Hail Martin Septim!
 442 Jhimmibhob, Wed, 25th Apr '12 10:13:59 AM from Arm's reach of the julep machine Relationship Status: My own grandpa
Deboss: I'll limit myself to noting that your definition of culture is fairly novel—bordering on hermetic—and will doom you to talking past most people who have voiced or written anything about this thread's subject.

Otherwise, though, we seem to understand each other's premises and priorities fairly well, disagree fundamentally on them, and will need to a) leave it at that, or b) enter the time-honored "NO U" territory. If you & I one day found back-room Academies and generate a statistically significant number of alumni, maybe we can put some questions to rest. Or given our differing goals and priorities, maybe not. I only know that my academy's chess team will be a well-honed engine of destruction, trained for the sole purpose of destroying yours. Love, JB.

"She was the kind of dame they write similes about." —Pterodactyl Jones
I've been going through this thread and I have to confess something: I have no idea how highschool teachers teach literature, which is more important than what they're teaching. Did you have to read entire books/plays?

Because, to be honest, we never had to. We always worked on fragments. All I've ever read of the bard in high school were two pages from Hamlet — III, 1, starting from To be or not to be. For assignments we could read whatever we wanted to read, although the book had to be approved by the teacher.

And to me, that seems the proper way to teach people about literature. I assume that, if you're required to read Shakespeare's oeuvre, you'll grow to hate it. The real problem, however, is the horrible obsession literary scholars and teachers have with interpretation — looking for all kinds of psychoanalitical and political subtexts and hidden meanings. That crap isn't just boring, it's detrimental to the way people read and write.

Secondly, Deboss, where do you think people who create phrase books do their research? Laffy Taffy wrappers? They look for examples in great literature. Le Petit Robert, the best French dictionary there is, has example sentences for every possible meaning of a word, almost all of them from Racine, Hugo, De Musset, Sartre etc. (Others are lifted from essays, cook books, sometimes even movies.)

Thirdly, I stand by my point about high school education. It should cover as many things as possible and leave specialisation to colleges.

And I guess it was different for me — I learned almost nothing in college I had already learned in high school.

I probably went to a very shitty high school.

edited 25th Apr '12 11:33:20 AM by Fresison

Quid autem coelo pulchrius, nempe quod continet pulchra omnia?
Three-Puppet Saluter
Elementary and middle school should cover a lot more of the basic grounding than they currently do, I think. There's also something to be said for high school being the years of specialization - better to be good at a few things than have a cursory, useless knowledge of a lot of things - but my agreement with Deboss ends there.

But do tell how the individual reading went. I was thinking of proposing something like that, but I was afraid the teacher couldn't handle the workload.

edited 25th Apr '12 11:41:57 AM by DomaDoma

Hail Martin Septim!
[up] Fine, I guess. I recall reading Animal farm and The picture of Dorian Gray for English class, and De Avonden and The Kite Runner (translated) for Dutch. We had to write a short text on it, telling what we thought of it, and why — some sort of in-depth review.

Pray, do tell me — is literature separated from all the rest in American high schools? In my high school it wasn't — it was all-in-one.

edited 25th Apr '12 11:52:48 AM by Fresison

Quid autem coelo pulchrius, nempe quod continet pulchra omnia?
Three-Puppet Saluter
By all-in-one, do you mean the humanities? Anyway, yes, American high schools do set literature apart from other subjects. One fastidious old-timer who'd been teaching for thirty years spent a third of the semester on spelling, vocabulary and grammar - good on her, too - but every other English class I've had was strictly about the classics. Sometimes they'd follow a historical timeline; sometimes they'd incorporate non-fiction, like "Politics and the English Language"; but literature was always the bread and butter. (And composition, if you can rightly call a five-paragraph essay by that name.)

edited 25th Apr '12 11:57:29 AM by DomaDoma

Hail Martin Septim!
[up] No, I mean, all-in-one for each language individually (we studied Dutch, French, English, and German, Dutch being my mother tongue). Literature (and the classics) was just one of the things we talked about while studying. We paid much more attention to grammar and writing.

But if that's the case... If literature is a course on its own... then I'm siding with Deboss on this issue. I mean, come on, people — literature isn't that important.

edited 25th Apr '12 12:10:30 PM by Fresison

Quid autem coelo pulchrius, nempe quod continet pulchra omnia?
Three-Puppet Saluter
Deboss wants to abolish the teaching of literature entirely. You'd better not side with that.
Hail Martin Septim!
Bof, I don't know... at the beginning he said something like, "Probably leave it up to teachers for the most part, but focus on varied genres and writing styles to try and get them interested in reading. But no Shakespeare". I agree, except for the "no Shakespeare" thing... and even then, teachers shouldn't make you feel morally obliged to like him.

Oh, and I also studied Ancient Greek. But honestly I don't remember a thing from it and won't shed a tear if it completely disappears from the curriculum. Talk about useless information.

edited 25th Apr '12 12:19:56 PM by Fresison

Quid autem coelo pulchrius, nempe quod continet pulchra omnia?
Three-Puppet Saluter
Polarization through argument strikes again! Yes, all right. I think that's the main point of a lot of education: lead children to knowledge and find a way to get them to drink it like horses. (When you lead a horse to water, that horse will always drink. I don't know how that turn of phrase ever came into being.)
Hail Martin Septim!
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