Monday, April 02, 2007

Street Literature - Bologna

Will instituting contemporary, or “street,” literature into classroom curricula hurt students’ learning?

Experts on one side say that this growing trend makes reading more relevant. They are pleased with the possibility of getting students engaged and excited about reading rather than stressing about exposing them to “high literature.” These experts argue that there is room for both in the curriculum, and teachers don’t have to sacrifice quality to incorporate newer texts. Sounds reasonable.

Traditionalists fear that this will not only dumb down the curriculum but also that the themes evident in some selections are controversial in nature. Controversial topics intended for mature audiences only include: violence, death, profanity, sex, abuse, and “protagonists who purposely hurt themselves.”


“The jury is still out on whether exposing children to these ideas gives them ideas or helps them think through things they or their friends are experiencing. Is reading about a girl cutting herself likely to prompt more girls into doing this to themselves or to get help for themselves or their friends?”


This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard…today. High-school students reading literature that includes this “mature” content is by no means worse than them watching MTV, VH1, the Family Guy, or good Lord – name a box-office hit.

I read “Romeo and Juliet” and, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the crux of that play is that they killed themselves after being involved in a sordid love affair. It didn’t make me want to be in a sordid love affair with a family enemy…nor did it make me want to kill myself…either with poison or a knife.

On the other side:

Not every book has to end happy. Maybe we can relate to books more if they are about the real things we are dealing with, or maybe they will stretch our minds so that we can understand other people’s problems more.

In my humble opinion, it is high past time that high-school English curriculum become more applicable and appealing – engaging young readers.

On the latest 12th grade NAEP:

One-fourth of students tested could not demonstrate even basic skills on the test of reading comprehension and text analysis.

The voice of reason states:

“Our job is not simply to dispense books that kids will read and love. We need to help them tackle books that are hard for them, … help them negotiate challenging texts.”

I can just picture what this lady looks like...stern face, wrought with wrinkles. Her hair's in a bun...held tightly in place with bobby pins and extra-firm hair spray. She wears a white collared shirt - buttoned to the top-most button - and a black skirt fit high on her waist...not too tight.

And, of course, she has a ruler...Ohh, ohhh! And a red pen...ready to spill blood on your next paper!

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