The Bane (and Blessing?) of Assigned Reading

Parson

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@Cathbad .... Ah, yes.... I had the same experience in Geometry. I offered a theorem and I found it marked wrong. I to the teacher.... "But that's a true theorem right?" She, "Yes, but we don't know that yet. You were supposed to solve for it." SIGH!
 

Parson

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I don't know if you have grandchildren or if they come to you for assistance, but I can tell you that my grand kids are not told they mostly "don't have to show their work." The bad thing is I'm not at all convinced that they really know what they are doing or why. They suspect, and almost certainly correctly, that all of their work will be done with calculating devices and they won't have to be able to do these things anyway. --- I find that attitude very scary. Anyone who has read history, apocalyptic literature, or lived in a third world country, knows that these aids are not quite as certain as many suspect.

Another of my pet peeves is that they are not required to memorize the multiplication tables. They would have had to work very hard on 36 x 12 = 432. Sigh, I seriously considering bribing them to get them to memorize them.
 

hitmouse

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I don't know if you have grandchildren or if they come to you for assistance, but I can tell you that my grand kids are not told they mostly "don't have to show their work." The bad thing is I'm not at all convinced that they really know what they are doing or why. They suspect, and almost certainly correctly, that all of their work will be done with calculating devices and they won't have to be able to do these things anyway. --- I find that attitude very scary. Anyone who has read history, apocalyptic literature, or lived in a third world country, knows that these aids are not quite as certain as many suspect.

Another of my pet peeves is that they are not required to memorize the multiplication tables. They would have had to work very hard on 36 x 12 = 432. Sigh, I seriously considering bribing them to get them to memorize them.
Ha. Remember 4 figure tables? I had to memorise the first 2 columns of the log10 table. Impressive maybe but not as useful as basic multiplication.

My son is currently preparing for his gcse maths exams next week. He has both calculator and non- calculator papers. The non-calculator papers involve a lot of algebra, geometry, probabilty, and a fair amount of arithmetic. Fair to say that at 15 he is much more fluent in maths than I ever was.
 

psikeyhackr

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To a certain extent I do not think my attitude can be understood without knowing that I started reading science fiction in 4th grade.

So what I wanted from reading was pretty much determined by the time I got "English Literature" in high school. I got straight B's because it was so easy but I was nit impressed with what they gave us to read. Then they 'over analyzed' it as far as I was concerned, making a big deal out of trivia.

We did not read Dickens but did some of Canterbury Tales, The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Scarlet Letter, Animal Farm.

My only problem was with Catcher in the Rye. I refused to read it. I was not about to give a damn about some well to do White boy so stupid that he got himself kicked out of multiple prep schools when I was getting straight A's in math. :LOL:

psik
 

psikeyhackr

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Things are different now however. The "Classic Books" are available free as audiobooks at Librivox.

LibriVox

I walked 6 blocks to school every weekday morning. Took me about 25 minutes. So today I could use an MP3 player or smartphone to listen to most of the so called Great Literature today. Might be easier to get A's today than it was for me to get B's in the 60s.

psik
 

Connavar

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This is really an important question that I have often thought about.

I was 13-14 years old, my Swedish language teacher played such an imporant role in that she is the only teacher I remember of all my teachers before Uni. I was a typical boy who didn't like to read books, old language classics or new ones. It was far from blessing to me until my teacher, she was clever as Soulsinging said in page 1 it's about knowing your audience/students, and finding things they can relate to. She kept persuading me to read what she knew a boy in my age would like, she could have not cared to challenge me as some other teachers gave you easier reading but she gave me The Count of Monte Cristo(not the 1000 page version) but children shortened version. It changed everything for me the first book i loved reading , made reading fun even when it was assigned. Old Swedish language is not easy to even adventure classic when you didn't read before.
That teacher is special to me because without her maybe i wouldn't be among you, I wouldn't have read most western,Arabic classic literature for my own interest and I have read them for lit classes in Uni in Swedish,English, Arabic language courses.

I'm envious of the posts talking about 17 years olds reading Shakespeare,Poe,Dickens etc because somehow here we didn't read much of those old greats in high school and because of that I lost the reading interest for few years.
But in middle school we read most of Poe,Jack London etc and the European classics. . Remembering i liked the dark poetry of Poe , Shakespeare dominated English classes but it was most listening to tapes of his plays. High school they gave up on assigned reading homework in my school.

It's interesting to see your self as different people because teenage me wouldn't understand the version of me in me 20-30s who sees Poe,Goethe, Euripides for few examples as living authors I read as easy as fast paced crime book. Right now a really important question I think about for days is why isn't Christopher Marlowe much more famous, despite his short life, wasn't as prolific as Shakespeare?? I read Tamburlaine the great and was mesmerized. Right now I'm reading his play Dido, Queen Carthage.

I think it's important to remember the different ways we grow up. I know some the regular SFF chrons grew up reading, in a family of readers. I grew in a family where no one reads for pleasure and in a civil war.

In my world it's so important that children are made to read literature they don't know anything about. For every kid growing up disliking books they felt forced to read , there are others who come to see the importance of reading.
 
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Kitkatz

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I sat at my typewrite with Shakespeare book in hand attempting to understand just what in the heck this guy was trying to say. I literally had to take it line by line, page by page as a teenager to understand it. When I was done with the two plays I had to read and write about for class, I liked the stories he told, just not the hard reading it took.
 

Extollager

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No activity here for 14 months, but some new members are on board and might like to comment, and some established people might have further reflections, anecdotes, etc.
 

Boaz

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Well, Extollager, I'll chime in.

Of all the required reading I've undertaken from seventh grade through graduate school, my absolute favorite was The Count of Monte Cristo. After Dickens, Hardy, Knowles, Browning, Boethius, and St. Augustine for required reading, my fourteen year old brain was able to really get past the dated language and grown up themes to the thrills of villains, imprisonment, and revenge. The Count is probably not as important (in prose and cultural mores) as the works of Dickens, Dostoevsky, and Shakespeare, but it changed my attitude. After The Count, I really tried to give required books a chance to speak to me. So I have fonder memories of Orwell, Poe, Chaucer, Burns, Twain, Bunyan, and More :rolleyes: because of The Count. And this has also led me to be open to participating in book clubs and really giving each book a chance to speak.
 

Extollager

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It's such a good thing when a young reader first tackles a big, true-classic novel and realizes: I can do this; I can read -- and enjoy! -- a big grownups' book; I won't be afraid to try another one; I won't think such things are not for me.

I hope that still happens in schools.
 

Parson

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It's such a good thing when a young reader first tackles a big, true-classic novel and realizes: I can do this; I can read -- and enjoy! -- a big grownups' book; I won't be afraid to try another one; I won't think such things are not for me.

I hope that still happens in schools.
I believe it does.
 

Guttersnipe

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I'd say that it was mostly a blessing. We read classics such as Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Flowers for Algernon. I'm not sure I would've even picked up the first two. But it did help me in my writing and growing ambition to be a good writer and help inspire my love for words. Since then I've gone on to read The Scarlet Letter, The Lord of the Flies, The Catcher in the Rye, The Three Musketeers, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, all, regrettably, not part of our curriculum.
 

Danny McG

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One that comes to mind is having to read and analyse Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee.

Teacher: "You'll find this a lot more modern and relevant, it was only published a decade ago"
True, but we were near teens in late 1969, (the Swinging Sixties), going home to play the Rolling Stones on a stereo, all learning to be factory fodder for the local chemical works or coalmines.

There was simply no common ground between our life and these people in a farming village in the early twenties, and they all talked funny!
 

Extollager

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I've read some of that book, Danny, and it seems to me something much more likely to appeal to adults than to youngsters, who typically want a strong sense of a story to be told.
 

Don

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Many, if not most, of the stories mentioned in this thread were mandatory reading for me back in school. Poe was always heads and shoulders above the others, or at least the Frogpondians. Every single sentence of Poe made perfect sense to me. Some of the others wrote word salad, plain and simple. It took me a lifetime to discover how poorly other mandated authors wrote. Poe nails it better than me:

The “Frog Pond” is still a feature of Boston Common. Poe called Boston “Frogpondium” and Bostonians “Frogpondians.” Such jokes were commonplace. Isaac Starr Clason wrote “Young Boston Bards croak worse than Boston waites” and added a note “ ‘Boston-waites’ is an old nickname for frogs.”

It has been well said of the French orator, Dupin, that “he spoke, as nobody else, the language of everybody;” and thus his manner seems to be exactly conversed in that of the Frogpondian Euphuists, who, on account of the familiar tone in which they lisp their outré phrases, may be said to speak, as everybody, the language of nobody — that is to say, a language emphatically their own.

In no literary circle out of BOSTON — or, indeed, out of the small coterie of abolitionists, transcendentalists and fanatics in general, which is the Longfellow junto — have we heard a seriously dissenting voice on this point. It is universally, in private conversation — out of the knot of rogues and madmen aforesaid — admitted that the poetical claims of Mr. LONGFELLOW have been vastly overrated, and that the individual himself would be esteemed little without the accessaries of wealth and position."

"
 
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