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Tom Hoffman

Sometimes it feels like there are two kinds of schools in the US: strictly traditional ones, and ones where some half-baked progressive ideas have been rigidly imposed by an administrator who just came back from a conference. Here's to flexibility.


Besides that fact that knowledge of these canonical texts makes them seem more "intelligent," the texts themselves have inherent value (after all, isn't that why they are classic?) and kids always benefit from reading language that is unfamiliar to them, as well as being exposed to subject matter/experiences outside their little world.


I've been following your thoughts about teacher-versus-student-chosen literary works to study. What strikes me is that there is a difference between a class which focuses on skills and one which focuses on a body of knowledge. My freshmen are still learning skills,and so the selection of novels is pretty broad, however a course such as American Literature would be a lot more limited to works which exemplify American thought and character during specific American eras. How would you go about student choice for a body of knowledge course such as American Lit?

There is a sort of compromise possible between teacher-chosen-lockstep and student-chosen-chaos -- I was lucky to have some amazing kids last year, and we worked out a method. I just posted some background at Today's Homework and pulished a generic Novel Plan at msaenglish[dot]pbwiki[dot]com.

I'd be very interested in your reaction.

Best wishes for the holidays.


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It is an elitist notion that students have to "know" certain books in order to succed in life. But, it is somewhat true.

"BUT" it's true? Not "AND" it's true? You doubt the truth based on the elitism? Why?

Tim Fredrick

It is true BECAUSE of elitism.

In the whole scheme of things, reading a particular book is important.

It only becomes "important" when the people who hold the power (and in this world, it is the rich, straight, Christian, white men who hold the power) say it is. Not odd then when those rich, straight, Christian, white men say that books written by rich, straight, Christian, white men are what's "important". Therefore, if you want to be accepted in a world dominated by those in power, you need to read those books they think are "important" in order for them to think you are well-educated.

But, if you don't care about being accepted by the people in power, it is not important to you.

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