Is Jane Austen being pushed aside by Jodi Picoult? And isn’t it time to refresh school reading lists?

My two oldest children saw the 1993 novel “The Giver” on their school reading lists in fifth through ninth grade. It showed up so often that I began to wonder if the school system earned a percentage of the sales.

In talking about it with a teacher friend, she maintained there’s  nothing wrong with students reading a book in multiple classes over the years as they likely gain a more a nuanced understanding with each reading. I countered that it didn’t matter how many more layers students could uncover, there’s a boredom factor in revisiting the same book in several classes.

I wonder how schools set their reading lists and whether teachers compare note. Do middle school and high school teachers confer on reading lists?  (I do appreciate that “The Giver” is a current title and that it resonates with young readers.)

Is it time to update school reading lists with modern fiction or should be stick with Jane Austen?

Is it time to update school reading lists with modern fiction or should we stick with Jane Austen?

I think we lose kids by foisting dusty tomes on them that don’t speak to their world experiences. Here is a story from the Record in Bergen, N.J.,  — thanks to Peter  for pointing it out to me — that addresses how some systems in the country are refreshing their reading lists with new titles:

A boy walked into her English class with a confession. He cried the previous night, cried while reading one of the books Joan Maffetone assigned to her students.

“You usually don’t have teenage boys telling you that,” said Maffetone, an English teacher at Dwight-Englewood School. “And he said it in front of class.”

It takes a powerful book to trigger tears. So what book resonated so deeply with this student – and with so many of Maffetone’s other students?

“The Great Gatsby”? “The Scarlet Letter”? “Of Mice and Men”?

The book that inspired such vibrant emotion is “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” Written by Jonathan Safran Foer, published in 2005, it is absent from many of the traditional, prim-and-proper high school reading lists.

Using modern novels as a gateway drug is proving more and more popular. At Clifton High School, this year’s students might read J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” or Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper.” Students at Bergen Catholic will find Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” on their reading lists. At Hackensack High School, it’s Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Secret Life of Bees” and Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” At Paramus High School, students read excerpts from Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.”

“We’re competing with so many things – Facebook, the Internet and sports,” said Evangelia Papamichael, an English teacher at Hackensack. “And we want our students to read.”

Modern novels, Papamichael said, offer different styles. And those styles are inviting to students who struggle with traditional texts. Six years ago she introduced Erik Larson’s “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.”

“The summer before I taught it, I was reading it on the beach,” Papamichael said. “The principal gave it to me.”

Larson’s 2003 non-fiction work is a little meatier than most beach reads. It weaves together two stories, following an architect and a serial killer, as their paths converge on the World’s Fair in Chicago.

Several North Jersey teachers are fans of O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” a collection of fiction set in the heart of the Vietnam War. Sean Adams, a supervisor of secondary education for Paramus public schools, was part of a committee that elected to include O’Brien’s work in the curriculum.

No teachers are giving up on the classics. And Dr. Christopher de Vinck, a supervisor of language arts at Clifton High School, cautions that with many modern adolescent novels, “kids certainly eat them up, but they’re poorly written.”

“We’re very careful about putting in books that are not … very well written and [do not] have things of value,” de Vinck said.

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Angela

October 24th, 2010
1:46 pm

I am still amazed that education and teachers are still the hottest topic of ridicule. Educators promote reading. Are we really going to make an issue out of what is on the reading list from year to year? If you don’t want your child to read a certain book take them to the book store and select a book together. Better yet why not read the book together with your child.

As for the comment regarding kick-backs, there are many book stores that are partners with schools and school systems. Perhaps, in many cases these maybe books that the book stores offer from year to year for either free or at a discount. There are also, some other reasons such as if students buy so many books that the school gets a percentage of the sales. If that is called a kick-back well then so be it. Those kick-backs help with those supplies that are needed in many of the schools and school systems.

Teachers seem to do sooooo much wrong however, there is not one person in this entire world that did not have a teacher that taught them how to perform the 3 R’s – excluding those few parents that have already taught their child the three R’s prior to entering school (ha). Yet, we are very poor excused for education. Go figure!

AJinCobb

October 24th, 2010
1:54 pm

The books mentioned in the article are popular with teachers locally, not just in New Jersey. My high school junior is taking AP Language at a Cobb County school. Works read by the class this school year so far include “The Devil in the White City” and “The Things They Carried.” In fact, some Vietnam war veterans visited the school just last week to talk about their experiences in the context of the latter book. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is on the list for later in the year.

aqua budah

October 24th, 2010
2:04 pm

what most are missing is the what do students like to read? what is thought provoking? and what could lead to students wanting more or actually wanting to learn more about historical events.

Graphic Novels have been around for some time now and not gained traction in the old school literary world because they are considered “comic books”. Alan Moore’s contribution to modern day thought has been limited by many in the “book” world; but, Hollywood and others throughout the world already know his name.

Maybe you have heard of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta, The Watchmen.

Frank Millers take on the Dark Knight, 300. These have been box offices hits and not one English teacher at the school i work for knew any of them.

Teachers must change and bring into the class room books, movies, etc… that would want the student to learn more and provide thought provoking conversations.

APS Teacher

October 24th, 2010
2:12 pm

There is a body of contemporary, new literature that is in fact high quality literature that deserves to be included in curriculum. I would put Jonathan Safran Foer’s novels in that category. However- Jodi Piccoult? Give me a break. Her books are fluffy beach reads, barely one step up from chick-lit. Want to read them in your free time as pleasure reading? Great, go for it. Replace classic, quality literature with them in an English class because they are “relevant”? Please- no. You don’t have to like everything you read. There is value in reading things you don’t enjoy. There is value in doing things that are not “fun.” There is a reason that highly competitive colleges and universities off a classical liberal arts education- because there is a body of knowledge educated people should have. And I don’t think you can make an argue that Jodi Piccoult is as important to literature as Austen, Bronte, Fitzgerald, etc.

northatlantateacher

October 24th, 2010
2:23 pm

Thank you, APS Teacher. And I would add Harry Potter has no place on a high school reading list. I am so tired of the expectation that I am to teach a novel/short story/poem that will entertain all 160 of my students. We have to educate the masses, so it’s pretty much impossible to find something every student will enjoy. And yes, there is value in reading something one doesn’t like.
Also – kickbacks from book companies? Please, if you want to check out that angle, look at counties who spend a lot on technology – the vast majority of which goes unused. I’ve always been curious why so much is spent on something that is used so little.

high school teacher

October 24th, 2010
2:37 pm

I struggle with this issue as I want to prepare my students for college (a goal that is becoming antiquated by our GPS), so I feel the need to teach the classics. However, what I have done this year is to allow students to select their own reading books. I require that they read two books each 9 week grading period. They have an assignment that they complete with each book. Then we study the classics together in the classroom. We do one major work of literature each semester (in addition to the genre studies in 9th grade).

One reason that many schools stick to the classics is simply that we have enough copies of them. Money is limited for purchasing multiple copies, and we cannot make students purchase their own copies (I teach in a system with a 60% free/reduced lunch rate).

high school teacher

October 24th, 2010
2:40 pm

…and to echo the sentiments of APS Teacher and northatlantateacher, Jodi Piccault’s My Sister’s Keeper is a 5.3 book level according to the Accelerated Reader program. The Twilight novels are also a 5th grade reading level, but don’t think for a minute that I would hand them to a 5th grader.

Dekalbite

October 24th, 2010
2:42 pm

When I was in high school, I used to cruise the library for good books to read. I loved the classics and Russian writers in particular – Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy – and read most of their novels. There was always the twins of good and evil in their characters, and I learned to appreciate the shades of gray in human nature. I would maintain that is the nature of the classics. They are timeless and teach us so much about our own foibles and frailty. They make us think.

Hey Teacher

October 24th, 2010
2:44 pm

There is a place for both traditional selections (I don’t think students should get out of high school without reading The Great Gatsby for example) and more contemporary choices, too. Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild works well as a companion piece when studying Transcendentalism. The problem I have is finding contemporary literature that is appropriate to teach — contemporary novels often contain language that make Catcher in the Rye look tame. The other problem is that my book budget is small — and in my district, I can’t ask students to buy their own books. I try to update each year, but have to be careful with what I choose so that it doesn’t go out of style in a year and unused.

Mike

October 24th, 2010
2:53 pm

I’m not a teacher, but I am an avid reader. I’ll often finish a novel in one evening, provided it’s not incredibly long. I enjoyed both “The Devil in the White City” and the Harry Potter series.

While students are less likely to pick up “Pride and Prejudice” or “Ethan Frome” without them being required reading, I find it hard to believe that APS Teacher had to go back so far to find authors worthy of praise. F. Scott Fitzgerald died seventy years ago this December.

How about John Kennedy Toole’s “Confederacy of Dunces,” or John Knowles “A Separate Peace?” They were a bit hackneyed when I was in school, but they’re much more recent and relevant than Fitzgerald.

For me, the “Harry Potter” series isn’t appropriate for school projects not because of its magical theme, but because it’s a seven-volume bildungsroman that would take a whole year to study.

Hey Teacher

October 24th, 2010
3:05 pm

Mike — one of the problems as previous posters have mentioned is money. The classics are often available for almost nothing — when you need 150 copies of a book, it gets expensive. A Separate Peace is still taught at our school in 10th grade. I think the AP class has Dunces on the reading list. Great suggestions.

Any of the high school teachers out there have success with a particular contemporary novel? I’m always looking for new ideas (not that I have the money to buy them but one can dream :)

Angela

October 24th, 2010
3:29 pm

@ high school teacher

I struggle with this issue as I want to prepare my students for college (a goal that is becoming antiquated by our GPS).
*************************************************************************************************************
I totally agree that the GPS is not setting learning goals that will prepare students for college.
I am complaining and not completely following directions because of the math standards.
I am not sure if DCSS is setting the curriculum at the elementary level at a step by step focus according to the GPS or setting them to suit what they feel is needed. However, in math I am having a strong problem with students being taught graphs, money, etc. but they have not been taught how to add, subtract, multiply and do basic division. How can you spend money if you cannot add or subtract. You cannot understand debit and credit if you can’t add and subtract.

During the first six weeks in DCSS the math curriculum began with graphs and money. My students can’t understand how to regroup. Yet, for the next six weeks we are on length, time, etc. Is this the reason that Georgia is so behind in math and it now seems to me that we might just have some reading issues too.

Years ago when I was teaching grades four and five I always wondered why my students were not doing well on reading test and that they would finish so fast. Well, I found out by chance from a third grade teacher that she would tell her students to skim through literture especially when taking a test. I wonder how many other educators are telling students this. There is a saying that if you put it in a book – well we should never teach any student to skim. You cannot appreciate any literature if you don’t spend time reading the entire book word for word. I also, think that each teacher teaching reading might be the better judge of selecting literture for her students to read. This would be based upon levels, environment, funding, etc. In high school is War and Peace on the list?

Quick Comment

October 24th, 2010
3:32 pm

Several of the works mentioned are NOT novels: Krakauer’s Into The Wild, Gladwell’s Outliers, and Larson’s Devil in the White City. As non-fiction works they are interesting, thought-provoking, and discussion inducing. As someone who loves non-fiction, and sees its value in expanding a young adult’s world view, I welcome their addition to reading lists (my son read Into the Wild in 10th grade as part of the required reading list – we already owned it because I love Krakauer’s work). Too often I find that the things that made the classics “classic” are no longer relevant – story twists that have now become cliche and word choices that are archaic are two main complaints. That being said, I still love Shakespeare, and think that every high schooler should have at least a semester devoted to studying 4 or 5 plays as I did my junior year.

Atlanta mom

October 24th, 2010
3:33 pm

I like High School Teacher’s methodology of “I require that they read two books each 9 week grading period. They have an assignment that they complete with each book.” Not only are the students reading, but they are also learning about time management and long term planning. I would wish that the books had to be selected from a reading list. The list could control the quality of the selections and hopefully the school or public library would have them.

schlmarm

October 24th, 2010
3:36 pm

There should be a balance of “old classics” and “new classics” on school reading lists. Just no trendy junk, please.

td

October 24th, 2010
3:39 pm

If we do not teach the classics then how are our children ever going to have the same base of information? I am all for doing whatever it take to make children want to read but we must also give them the same back ground of knowledge. I hated reading Shakespeare, Poe and others in HS but I know understand I needed that background to give me a well rounded experience.

APS Teacher

October 24th, 2010
3:40 pm

@ Mike- I didn’t have to go back to Austen, Bronte, or Fitzgerald yo find an author worthy of praise. In fact, I specifically said that I believe Foer’s novels are quality literature (and he is alive and well). I used Austen, Bronte, and Fitzgerald as examples of classics.

schlmarm

October 24th, 2010
3:40 pm

Oh, and as far as ditching some classics because they are no longer relevant, I would have to disagree with that. They reflect the history, social customs, beliefs, etc. of their times, and we certainly aren’t going to eliminate the teaching of History as a required subject because we don’t find it relevant to modern times, are we?

Attentive Parent

October 24th, 2010
3:55 pm

I have a question for the teachers-

How do you best prepare students today for more difficult syntax if schools and teachers do not teach increasingly more difficult ideas and language from grade to grade?

Are we trying to have too few tracks in high school so that we rarely get beyond middle school level difficulty so the book remains accessible to all?

I develop my own reading list in high school to get around these problems and make a joke out of it for my own kids-”Mom’s College Prep Reading List”.

Are even AP English students these days reading sufficiently difficult books to prepare them for competitive college programs?

It is so sad to me to keep hearing of A students who get accepted into prestigious schools only to discover their set of skills only qualifies them to do C+ work.

Any explanations on why this seems so common?

Attentive Parent

October 24th, 2010
3:58 pm

That should be failing to read sufficiently difficult books.

Chester Gillette

October 24th, 2010
4:05 pm

There are so many great books that teach so much other than the good read you get. Giants In the Earth by Ole Rolvaag should still be on lists and maybe it still is in the upper midwest. How about Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology? Steinbeck’s got two or three great ones other than the shortest one. But, speaking of short ones, Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome is a wonderful enticement to read her other works. As far as long ones, Dreiser’s An American Tragedy tells a timeless American tale. Another timeless tale here in America is Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt since we live in a nation full of these people. A Separate Peace is just the kind of thing that can be replaced by something else that might not stand the test of time. Get rid of marginal books like that and throw a newer one in there if you’d like. The individual teacher’s passion should be exploited since teacher enthusiasm often adds to the experience. That is, until the teacher exploits too much of his/her own weirdness. BTW, re: Mike’s comment, it’s worth going back 70-90 years to read Scott Fitzgerald’s beautiful writing in itself. Try Tender Is the Night, his very best. I think all of his books are relevant, as is the tragic life story of the author. p.s. – did I mention Look Homeward Angel? You could probably substitute another self-indulgent spewer like Pat Conroy for Wolfe. Both great writers, however.

Matt

October 24th, 2010
4:42 pm

Mike–

Are you trying to make the argument that since Fitzgerald has been dead for 70 years that his works are no longer relevant? After the last couple of years I’d say the Great Gatsby would resonate with readers even more.

What about Dickens? He’s been dead for even longer.

oldtimer

October 24th, 2010
4:47 pm

I am an avid reader and love both classics and older pieces. Well educated young people need all….Just don’t make them read Billy Bud. I was assigned this book in 3 different classes and hated it everytime !!

V for Vendetta

October 24th, 2010
5:31 pm

Whew. This is a tough one. Though I have often lamented our reading lists that seem mired in the past with no intention of modernizing whatsoever, I can also understand the need for students to be exposed to universal themes as they appeared thousands of years ago. The real question I suppose, is whether or not this argument is a moot point. After all, we have quite a few novels and short stories in the canon that have been written after the turn of the twentieth century–many of them quite entertaining. I would hate to think that we would be depriving students of Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Harper Lee at the expense of popularity.

That having been said, I can still understand making a compromise. I never resonated with Melville in any capacity, and I also harbored no real affection for Dickens. I will steadfastly cling to The Odyssey, but I will willingly give up The Illiad (which always seemed a bit more bloated, in my opinion). Shakespeare is a must, as is Dante. Twain is a given, but we could live without Fenimore Cooper. London, Fitzgerald and Lee stay. So does Golding and Orwell. And I’m not about to leave out Ayn Rand . . . :-)

Oh, was I supposed to leave room for some recent works? Oops.

V for Vendetta

October 24th, 2010
5:33 pm

Excuse the typos. Yuck.

ChristieS.

October 24th, 2010
7:05 pm

@oldtimer…”Just don’t make them read Billy Bud. I was assigned this book in 3 different classes and hated it everytime !!”

Oh, man…I did too. Blech. It was required in 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. I ditched reading it the second and third times. Wouldn’t you know it, that was the book on the AP constructed response test that year. :X

high school teacher

October 24th, 2010
8:18 pm

V, when do you teach The Odyssey? We used to teach it in the 9th grade, but mythology went away with GPS. Do you teach it in World Lit? Also, To Kill a Mockingbird will always be a staple in my room! When I have kids who had an inappropriate exposure to it in the 8th grade and they say that they don’t like it, I always reply, “You haven’t read it with me!” :)

ScienceTeacher671

October 24th, 2010
9:30 pm

Although I was a voracious reader, there are classics I would havve never slogged through had I not been required to do so in literature class – and I’d have been the poorer for it.

As has been said, classics are classic because they address timeless issues. That’s not to say that newer books can’t have value as well, but the classics should be kept at the very least because they help transmit cultural literacy.

schlmarm

October 24th, 2010
10:40 pm

The classics have endured all these years. Doesn’t that say something to those who want to dumb down reading lists?

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Michael

October 25th, 2010
8:14 am

I would argue that Gatsby’s lost this bid to be in many high schools through no fault of his own. Gatsby, Huck, Pip, Hamlet, Ahab, Guy Montag, Winston Smith, Hester and Dimmesdale, and so on have fallen victim to their race, sex and time. Many teachers (not students) no longer really read these novels. A good teacher could easily persuade any student of any race that indeed you do know Jay Gatsby and his “entourage.” You’ve got Gatsbys in every school and every community. You’ve got wannabe players like Nick Carraway in every culture and the Jordan Bakers flow into the Dead Sea of every community. If you don’t think that Gatsby isn’t relative to Goldman Sachs, think again. Am I being told that Huck Finn only exists in Mark Twain’s book or that obsession is relative only to Ahab and a white whale? Of course it is easily argued that young adult literature does the same thing, but we are back to quality. Kids are going to read the Hunger Games on their own time. We don’t need it in schools for a class discussion on dystopian societies when Winston Smith can do it so much better.

V for Vendetta

October 25th, 2010
8:40 am

high school teacher,

We still do The Odyssey in ninth grade. It is imperative that they understand the foundations of mythology and the Hero’s Journey–GPS be damned. My district normally considers itself above the GPSs anyway, which probably divulges more about my location than I typically like.

Michael,

I agree with what you’re saying, but I think there’s a place for books like The Hunger Games trilogy. I have heard nothing but rave reviews about those books. To me, they seem to be precisely the types of books we need to bridge the gap between middle school literature and the “classic” dystopian tales students read in high school–e.g., Anthem, 1984, Brave New World, etc.

lyncoln

October 25th, 2010
9:44 am

I’ll play Devil’s Advocate for a little while.

One reason to avoid the classics is the availability of study guides like Cliff’s Notes, SparkNotes, and the Internet in general. The classics (by virtue of being classics) have been discused on the internet for years. Any modern student can use a quick google search to learn everything needed about the themes, symbolism, and other details of any standard great works. Some students will read the classics because they are assigned. Others will use their favorite search engine and get the exact same information about the work with less suffering. Why not select more modern or less discussed works? If they provide the same themes, symbolism, etc., the student’s will still learn the literary techniques required to understand great literature, but won’t be as able to take shortcuts of the internet to get the information.

Further, many times people have pointed to using the classics to teach a theme or story that should be widely known. If the purpose is to teach the theme/story, why not use a more modern work with the same theme/storytype? Instead of The Great Gatsby, why not Jake, Reinvented? It’s basically The Great Gatsby told in a modern high school romance setting. Sure, it’s got a few horomally charged scenes that push it to high school level readers, but at least no one dies.

If the purpose of so many of these works is to introduce classic themes and ideas to students, why would a more modern work having the same themes and ideas be any worse or less acceptable? If the purpose of the work is to show complex syntax and word usage, why do you need to read the whole work? Wouldn’t excerpts highlighting the difficult passages and usages for classroom discussion and consideration provide the same result? Maybe we just use the classic works because all the hard work of deciphering the text has already been done?

And not as Devil’s Advocate: I too hated Billy Budd.

Fred

October 25th, 2010
10:02 am

Ayn Rand? Yuck. An arrogant twit with bad ideas who was too fond of her own pen. She repeats her dogma ad nauseam. If you read the first hundred pages of Atlas Shrugged, you can safely skip the following six million pages.

With her “I’m right and anyone who doesn’t agree is stupid” attitude, she should have been a Baptist preacher.

LOL I never liked Dickens either and have the same opinion as you on Homer. I also don’t think too highly of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Good old Sherlock always solves the crime in the end with some “obvious if you are smart enough to look for it” evidence that the reader is never privy too……….

When I was in school,I never encountered a book on a reading list that I hadn’t already read.

SE GA Teacher

October 25th, 2010
10:16 am

My 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students absolutely loved Where the Red Fern Grows, and many said it was their favorite book. My lower group of 7th grade boys could not put it down.

Batgirl

October 25th, 2010
11:34 am

@SE GA Teachers, our kids, especially boys, also love Where the Red Fern Grows as do I. I even cry at the beginning.

Maureen asked if teachers got together to discuss their reading lists, and as far as I know, in my system and others I know of, they do not but should. It’s really annoying to try to teach a book with themes that are appropriate for middle school only to find out that the students read it in 4th or 5th grade. I know many high school teachers who have dealt with the same problem with middle school teachers who assign high school level books.

@aqua budah, have you actually read those graphic novels? I don’t know about V for Vendetta or The Watchmen, but I bought The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen when I was going through my master’s program. It was truly graphic and probably would not even be allowed in a high school library, much less a classroom. That said, there are some graphic novels that are appropriate although they rarely fly off the shelves here at my school.

SDK

October 25th, 2010
12:13 pm

I’m not a reading teacher, and I am not that fond of reading. So, I leave the discussion of the worthiness of the classics to others. However, the issue of the same book repeatedly on the reading lists in different grades, the argument of “they (students) likely gain a more a nuanced understanding with each reading” only works IF (and this is really a big IF) teachers across grades talk about the points of having a specific material in different grades.

Unfortunately, our schools are still pretty much “close your door and you are the king/queen of the room.” Teachers don’t talk anything significant (currciulum wise) with other teachers teaching the same grade level, let alone across grades. Middle school teachers talking with HS (or ES) teachers? No way.

A part of the problem is that teachers are just too busy. Their contracts will not incorporate times that are needed to engage in professional discussion. Even if time is available, many teachers consider that work as “extra” and “useless” because they aren’t given enough time to engage in the work that is directly related to teaching (planning, grading papers, etc.).

V for Vendetta

October 25th, 2010
1:29 pm

Fred,

I’m sorry Ayn Rand was beyond your obviously limited level. No need to throw stones, eh?

V for Vendetta

October 25th, 2010
1:31 pm

Batgirl,

We have Watchmen in our school library. We also have V for Vendetta. I think Watchmen is one of the great novels of the late twentieth century, and I quite often recommend it.

JATL

October 25th, 2010
2:22 pm

As a former English teacher, I DESPERATELY want our reading lists to be updated! In so many of our schools, we just want the kids to read. When I taught I would have let them read almost anything, if it got them to read. I tried to pick the novels I assigned that would be the most relevant and interesting to them, but it was hard. I believe we need a mixture. Yes, still bring in some “Ethan Frome” or “Great Gatsby,” but we should have current novels that students would really enjoy on there. Some kids have never read an entire book. All it takes is one time reading an enjoyable novel, and then they will seek more!

@Mike -I think “Confederacy of Dunces” should be on ALL high school reading lists! Not only is it an incredibly novel ripe for so many teaching topics, but it’s a wonderful comparison to “Don Quixote.” It’s incredibly teachable, laughable and enjoyable! I actually offered a sophomore class of mine the option one year of reading “CoD” and “Don Quixote” and writing a comparison/contrast paper on the two. It would have to be a deep exploration that I would help them with and oversee, but I guaranteed anyone who took it on and adhered to the guidelines an “A” in my class. I didn’t have one student interested. A couple of parents asked me about it, and after explaining it to them, they didn’t want their kids to have to “deal” with it. Funny, they all wanted their kids romping off to college in two years. I’m not sure what they thought they would be doing there!

One problem with the updating of the book lists that most school boards foresee and don’t want to deal with -ALL of the complaints over curse words, any sexual content, etc. Too many parents still don’t want their 15-18 year old kids to read ANYTHING with more than a mild “damn” in it or anything that contains sexual material or other “adult” topics. These are usually the same parents who let their kids watch every “R” rated action flick out there and have been since the kids were 10.

Fred

October 25th, 2010
2:22 pm

Bite me V. It wasnt’ beyond my level in the 8th grade when I first read it, nor is it beyond my level now, more than 40 years later. I’m sorry that you have to have things repeated ad nauseam to finally have them sink in, but I get them the first time. By 100 pages in that book, she has already begun to repeat herself.

Her ideas ARE as twisted and as unrealistic as the ideas of the communist country she left and spent her life railing about. The only absolute is that there ARE no absolutes.

A much “purer” form of capitalism than we have today is what gave us the child labor of the early 1900’s, slave labor in all but name. It was “imported” from the British who used it in Ireland for generations. It’s the same thought process that virtually denuded the swamps of Cypress trees and gave us such wonders as strip mining and toxic waste sites. In short, I doubt you really understand her concepts or else you would not be espousing them so readily. You sound like some of those morons I saw at one of those tea party thingies who were holding up ludicrous signs with mindless slogans like: Keep your Gov’t hands off my Medicare, and Keep your Gov’t hands off my Social Security. It’s the hypocrisy and blind ignorance one expects from a Baptist, hence my earlier reference. In her personal life she had no morals other than greed and utter selfishness. She was what we would these days call a meth head, (perhaps you prefer wacked out druggies amped up on crank, but I look at them with contempt). I find her belief in her superiority to all others to be contemptible.

Obviously you subscribe to her viewpoint that any who reject her notions and her wacky cult of Objectivisim to be some how flawed (another Baptist trait). We just aren’t as advanced as you right? While you may worship stagnation and closed mindedness, I don’t nor do I find to be a trait of truly intelligent people. Affectations of intelligence by people such as yourself leave me unmoved. I’m sorry I “offended” you by whizzing on your clay Goddess Ayn Rand and her nutcase philosophy. Unfortunately though, I DO understand quite well her ideas and find them to be more of those of the meth-head she was than the “enlightened philosopher” that those of you who worship at her alter pretend she was.

But then again, even Jim Jones and David Koresh found worshipers as ardent to defend them as you are to defend little Alisa Rosembaum, I mean Ayn Rand…………… I’ll bet they thought they were “superior’ to all others too didn’t they?

Fred

October 25th, 2010
2:24 pm

or worship at her alter altar lol.

money

October 25th, 2010
2:29 pm

What about the topic of the “new” Math in GA? I have read several emails sent to me about a conference last week in ATL where the state legislature told the DOE to fix it or they would fix it for them. It also said in the writings about how they may just do a name change; or students will only need to complete Math I and II with supports to finish the 4 math credits the state requires.

money

October 25th, 2010
2:38 pm

i think it was GSSA

high school librarian

October 25th, 2010
3:39 pm

Kick backs? Really? Don’t you think it’s really more about school book budgets being cut? Once the school has acquaired a classroom set of 32 books (however, 37 is the current pupil count, due to the latest budget constraints, which means 5 kids will be out of luck), then the school is going to keep using that classroom set of books until they have all fallen apart or gotten lost. The Giver was a big hit when it first came out…15-ish years ago…so many schools purchased classroom sets. And guess what? The schools are still using those same classroom sets of The Giver because that’s all they have.

In my high school, the required reading lists for each grade level had an A list and a B list. Students were required to read one book from the A list, which included classics: Of Mice & Men, The Great Gatsby, the Scarlet Letter, Shakespeare, Austen, etc. Then, the students could choose to read either another book from the A list, or a book from the B list. The B list included current novels, including most of what you’ve mentioned in your article: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Things They Carried, My Sister’s Keeper, The Secret Life of Bees, Ella Minnow Pea, A long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier, and more. Even Twilight made the cut. And while we made an effort to purchase a minimum of 3 copies of each title for the library, the school was unable to purchase a classroom set of any of those titles because we simply don’t have the money.

So, now that I’ve gotten your attention about money, let me point out that many of our state legislators don’t think that high schools really need a lot of money to buy books. They think our students should do research on Google & Wikipedia, while our state colleges & universities complain that students do not know how to research using books & subscription databases (GALILEO). When Roy Barnes was governor, his “austerity cuts” slashed library budgets in half. During Perdue’s tenure, the budgets have increased, but we are still not at the pre-austerity cut level. Elementary schools have seen the greatest increase, while high schools have seen the slightest increase. Our state legislatures used Google & Wikipedia as their reason to keep high school budgets so low. Swear to God. It was in print in the AJC a few years ago. Search the archives (assuming you know how to perform a quality Boolean search).

Our library budgets purchase books for our students, obviously, but they also purchase subscription databases, such as SIRS Researcher, ProQuest, CultureGrams, Congressional Digest Online, and more. Those databases are expensive, but they are essential in teaching our kids the content, as well as teaching them how to perform quality searches in subscription databases, which they will be required to do in college.

So, Maureen, instead of making your ridiculous claim about “kick backs,” how about doing a little research on the real issue: schools are woefully underfunded for the basics, like books.

Maureen Downey

October 25th, 2010
3:47 pm

@high school librarian, My comment about schools sharing in the profits from “The Giver” since it appears on so many reading lists was a joke. I may have to break down and use those smiley face icons.
Maureen

high school librarian

October 25th, 2010
3:48 pm

Oh — Persepolis & Maus were also on the B list. Maus for 10th grade (when World History covers WWII & World Lit usually reads Night by Wiesel), and Persepolis for 12th grade.

And yes, the county has a suggested reading list for all grades, and while there may be some overlap, I can’t imagine that The Giver is literally on there every single year from 5th grade on. However, the A list/B list was unique to my school.

One of the reasons we did the A list/B list was to ensure that students are exposed to the classics, but to also allow those students who just really aren’t that into the classics something else of quality to read. Parents also had a great deal of input. Some parents only want their kids to read the classics, which is an option. Some parents feel that the newer books are more relevant. The teens themselves have similar opinions. Some would rather read Jane Austen than Stephenie Meyers, believe it or not.

high school teacher

October 25th, 2010
5:49 pm

Wow, V, we are the polar opposite at my school. If it’s not in the standards, then we shouldn’t teach it. Administrators come to our classrooms at least once a week for walkthroughs, and if students cannot parrot to them the standard that we are covering that day, then we are “not evident” in instruction. Knowing the standard has become more important than knowing the content which the standard addresses.

Fred

October 25th, 2010
6:53 pm

I’m glad you addressed that Maureen. I did not for one nano-second think that your comment about the “kickbacks” was anything OTHER than a joke. Sadly though, I was not surprised that so many people took it as a “charge.” I have found that in today’s society, and especially on blogs, the evidence that reading comprehension skills are very low.

Do you reckon it has anything to do with the intelligence level of folks?