If you could design the English Curriculum..:

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451 SKJAM25th Apr 2012 12:49:41 PM , Relationship Status: Baby don't hurt me!
As it happens, I recently read a book, "Democratic Eloquence: The Fight Over Popular Speech in Nineteenth-Century America" by Kenneth Cmiel, which among other things covers how Literature became a separate subject from English in American schools.
Three-Puppet Saluter
Good catch! *flexes Amazon Prime membership*
Hail Martin Septim!
453 Deboss26th Apr 2012 01:26:22 AM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
Did you have to read entire books/plays?

For the most part, yes. At least in high school. Don't remember elementary, middle school took place somewhere else and I actually got to opt out of it and take another class.

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.

Part of my point.

but my agreement with Deboss ends there.

So, we're in a fundamental state of agreement of what should be done over all, but disagree on specific curriculum? Eh, that's par for the course.

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.

From what I can tell, this is still true in the local high school, as my brother pointed out to me. However, I believe the local lower level schools have a separated into ELA and Reading*. I support separating them because that's pretty much how I was exposed to it in college. College English focused entirely on rhetoric and construction of essays and had no literature component. I've already covered why I think separating formal logic from english is a good idea.

My stance on literature in education is that it's a tool for trying to get students to grow their vocabulary and grammar skills through practice. While talking too each other works on part of it, it doesn't help literacy, which is the goal of such. Using schools to try to influence the personal taste* of students and preserve knowledge of literary classics as something to appreciate beyond their enjoyability is what I consider something to throw into a fire.

teachers shouldn't make you feel morally obliged to like him

I don't think the main body of English teachers are capable of doing so, hence why I feel the need to take it away as an option. Honestly, a rolling option might be worth considering, you can only use a book for five years, and then you have to get a different one. The primary target here are teachers who can't resist the urge to use their class as a chance to recruit for their fandom.

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.

And you dare to use it without knowing its history! /emphasizing point
Honestly, a rolling option might be worth considering, you can only use a book for five years, and then you have to get a different one. The primary target here are teachers who can't resist the urge to use their class as a chance to recruit for their fandom.

A rolling option won't stop that. If you leave the choice of books up to the teachers, they'll pick books they like and point out why they consider them to be great.

edited 26th Apr '12 8:09:19 AM by Fresison

455 Deboss26th Apr 2012 10:52:42 PM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
True, but they can't just use the same books over and over. I suppose we could go with a rolling option of the highest selling books, those are obviously appealing to people. It also prevents instances of information contamination.
What's it with all that hatred towards teachers liking what they teach? I mean, I can understand if you had that one English teacher who'd throw a hissy fit if you didn't like X, but most teachers aren't like that. People whose Karma gets out of balance from something a 15-year-old punk says shouldn't be teaching anyway.

edited 27th Apr '12 3:02:51 AM by Fresison

457 Deboss27th Apr 2012 10:48:10 PM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
Eh, I had almost nothing but those kind of teachers. And losing your shit because others don't have the same taste as you is definitely something that should be tested for. Failure will, of course, result in a black list mark preventing you from working at any school.
458 SKJAM28th Apr 2012 04:20:04 AM , Relationship Status: Baby don't hurt me!
@Deboss: I'm sorry to hear that you never had a teacher who could lead you to enjoy the great books and plays of the past. My own life would have been far poorer without such. (I read Shakespeare and the Bible and Aristophanes and John Bunyan in elementary school for fun, though, so I might be an outlier.)

Certainly I think that a policy of deliberate cultural amnesia would be a horrible idea. And relying on the current bestsellers list...not a good indicator of lasting quality.

For example, the book I'm liveblogging currently, Varney the Vampire, sold like hotcakes in the 1840s. It was freaking huge. And it is a fun read for anyone who can handle the antiquated style. But it's also a lowest common denominator potboiler written in haste with little thought to continuity, characterization or coherent plot logic. I'd never suggest it for School Study Media.
459 czhang29th Apr 2012 11:41:57 AM from Canada , Relationship Status: THIS CONCEPT OF 'WUV' CONFUSES AND INFURIATES US!
I like the English curriculum the way it is here, actually (English is not separate from Literature here, by the way; we do have Creative Writing and Media Studies which sound sort of like it). Each grade did different works, and the basic outline was something like this:

The rest of the year is left up to the individual teachers. Some focus more on grammar, some do a lot of modern pop culture (we watched Firefly, Community and Doctor Who this year in English), some do more classics, some do short stories.

For grade 9 and 10, the novel had to be teacher-approved, but all the teachers were really lax about what qualified and what didn't. In grade 10 I did A Study in Emerald (detective fiction) and my teacher was cool with it, and even gave me some good tips. Another girl I know did The Penelopiad (historical fiction).

In grade 11, we had to pick books from the list, but it was a really good list. I read Will Ferguson's Happiness, and there were books from all genres. I don't know what goes on in Grade 12, though - haven't gotten there yet tongue

I didn't hate reading Shakespeare (or the novels we read in class) since the teachers were good at teaching. We did read through the whole play, but we'd read aloud in class or would listen to recordings or watch sections from live tapes. And we studied a lot of adaptations, too - this year for Macbeth we also watched the BBC's version from Shakespeare Retold.

I thought it struck a good balance between studying older stuff and still letting students do more modern, interesting works.
Everything is perfect / it's falling into place / I just can't wipe this smile off my face
460 Exelixi29th Apr 2012 11:52:16 AM from Alchemist's workshop , Relationship Status: Armed with the Power of Love
Hm. I'd include some fantasy and SF, balanced with more "serious" stuff; an emphasis on well-written books, rather than authors: and a hearty mix of old and new stuff. I'd also make unusual activities mandatory- the best way to inspire a love of books in children is to show them that books are fun.
Mura: -flips the bird to veterinary science with one hand and Euclidean geometry with the other-
461 Deboss29th Apr 2012 09:35:20 PM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
Certainly I think that a policy of deliberate cultural amnesia would be a horrible idea. And relying on the current bestsellers list...not a good indicator of lasting quality.

I disagree on both counts. It's not deliberate, although that's not a bad goal. It's just totally unassisted in any way. What gets remembered through pop cultural osmosis and pop culture recommendations is okay, what doesn't dies. Lasting quality isn't the issue, it's trying to get people interested in reading. Books on the best sellers list, are books that people are interested in, hence being on the best sellers list. Well, provided they haven't been contaminated with being made mandatory or recommended across the board by someone like Oprah.
Three-Puppet Saluter
It's not just important to read in general, although that's the first priority. It's also important to read, say, John Locke. And you can't fully understand him at the Stephen King reading level.

edited 30th Apr '12 6:36:17 AM by DomaDoma

Hail Martin Septim!
463 Jhimmibhob30th Apr 2012 10:12:59 AM from Where the tea is sweet, and the cornbread ain't , Relationship Status: My own grandpa
It would be interesting if the reading curriculum broadly paralleled the English language's history, not just political history. In other words, a curriculum where the works represent important milestones in English expression—literary value would also be important, but secondary to the former criterion.

Start with Beowulf in modern translation, but touch lightly on pre-Conquest Anglo-Saxon and let students get a feel for its music. Teach Chaucer, but also include some of the weirdly different Middle English dialects that could have influenced on Modern English and didn't—roads not taken, as it were. William Dunbar's poems, for example.

Really lean on the rhetorical and musical transition from the Elizabethans to the Jacobean/Restoration poets. The Two Noble Kinsmen is an inferior Shakespeare play, but the stylistic differences between the aging Bard's acts and John Fletcher's are uncanny and instructive.

Go into areas that most lit classes don't—for example, the huge rhetorical divide between pre-20th century and modern novels. WWI was a shift point after which the accepted "literary" language of the novel seemed to become impossible to use. Explore some examples—H. James vs. Fitzgerald, maybe.

And what might be the characteristics of a future literary English? No A Clockwork Orange nonsense—have some fun with the real possibilities.
"She was the kind of dame they write similes about." —Pterodactyl Jones
Little fellow
Hell, I'm thinking this entire thread needs to be heavily analysed and discussed in Lit classes around the world.

Haven't read anything this unique, entertaining, amusing or downright fucking bizarre in... some time, now. And I'm currently reading Burroughs.

edited 7th May '12 10:20:38 AM by Spackeradder

The first Cosmic Horror in the form of a mortal bean
465 JHM7th May 2012 02:00:15 PM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up][up] I wholeheartedly agree with this notion.

[up] I take very, very little credit for this, but I will give a little bow of gratitude. Or maybe an extremely manly curtsy.

edited 7th May '12 2:01:44 PM by JHM

466 Jhimmibhob7th May 2012 06:44:31 PM from Where the tea is sweet, and the cornbread ain't , Relationship Status: My own grandpa
[up]I have no pride. [Curtsy, followed by flounce]
"She was the kind of dame they write similes about." —Pterodactyl Jones
467 TamH707th May 2012 07:39:46 PM , Relationship Status: Faithful to 2D
[up][up][up]Seeing as how nothing I wrote in the thread would fit any of those descriptions of it so far, I am so neutral that I am frozen solid.

/Is own harshest critic.
The teachers of the future will probs add boks like Harry Potter and Hunger Games. L Ike my french teacher added Bionicle to our list of book studies, in french.
Three-Puppet Saluter
I really, really don't want to see Harry Potter in the hands of your typical English teacher. The one teacher who was able to venture out of the Freud-and/or-Diversity-Studies wing of the ol' mind palace would do a fine job with it - though still not as fine as the free-reading experience; Rowling's greatest strength is subtly foreshadowing the plot, which is best noticed on a reread - but he was far in the minority.

As far as Bionicle goes, it's a relatively easy reader and it presumably has a lot of exciting words that high schoolers are invested in learning. I know my French class spent a lot more time on words like "tuer" and "echapper" than was probably warranted.
Hail Martin Septim!
470 Matues24th Sep 2012 02:01:53 PM from eye on the horizon , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
Terry Pratchett. Terry Pratchett. Terry Pratchett.
471 Zendervai2nd Oct 2012 12:56:21 PM from St. Catharines , Relationship Status: Wishing you were here
Eccentric Dreamer
[up] Oh, most definitely. There are a ton of reviews calling Pratchett a 'modern Chaucer' and most schools just ignore his books. When I was in the International Baccalaureate, I asked why there were no Terry Pratchett books on the list of books the teachers could choose from, and apparently it was because it was fantasy. When the 'His Dark Materials' books were on there.
"Whatever is best selling at the moment" is a horrible idea. Putting aside whether 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight are appropriate for kids, are they really what's going to get kids excited about reading?
The English curriculum should really be linked up with the rest of what children are being taught - especially history. Teach Tudor England in history —> Shakespeare in English; teach WW1 —> Wilfred Owen etc.

Obviously you would need to tailor this to your country's history. In America, the Depression could be taught in history, while the likes of Grapes of Wrath could be taught in English.

Unfortunately this wouldn't be applicable to all periods of history, but it would enrich the texts with a greater understanding of the context in which they were written.
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
474 Deboss3rd Oct 2012 07:01:55 PM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
They stand a better chance than most of the current curriculum. As long as it's not just whatever the administration at the time is fans of, it stands at least a chance of being amusing. A general vote among the students would probably be best.
A poll among the students kind of defeats the point of exposing them to something new. It also has the same problem with picking from the top of the NY Best Seller's list- you can have the #1 book in the country even if most people would think that your book is crap; you just have to have a larger minority buying your book than anybody else's. Your book only has to be highly successful with some niche, even if the very things that make it successful there make it intolerable to everybody else.

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