Should we revise how English is taught?
I don’t know about you guys, but I grew up in an area that’s well know for its education. Something like… 98% of graduates from my high school went on to college and, if parents were given the option to send their child to a different school in the area, they ended up in my school. And yet, I can’t honestly say that it was the best education in the world. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good education. It was! But I can’t deny that the structure of English classes killed my desire to read.
Now, I wasn’t a big reader to begin with. When I was young, I was more interested in running around outside and making friends than reading, and it wasn’t until I was well out of high school that I realized how much I actually enjoy reading. And my education in middle and high school didn’t help with that. The structure for these classes was simple:
“what book is severely outdated and uninteresting to children of the modern age? That one? Great! Now, let’s pair them off with the students they don’t get along with and force them to discuss why the author made character B’s shirt blue.”
The sad part is, I wish I was kidding. This actually was the way education was set up for middle and high school English classes where I come from. Sometimes we’d have a choice of four pre-selected, teacher-approved books: enough for a group of five students per book. By some miracle, some of those books sounded less boring than others and therefore were popular. Unfortunately, if you’re that unlucky kid (or disliked by teacher, as I often was), you get kicked to the bottom of your ‘wishlist’ for books. In other words, you get stuck with the most boring of the four book options and then you’re forced to read it and discuss it with the other kids in the class that the teacher dislikes.
Or perhaps there’s just one book that the entire class has to read because it’s considered ‘classic’ like George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm‘. A little grotesque for pre-teens don’t you think? Or perhaps Anthony Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’. No, that book couldn’t possibly be inappropriate or scarring for young people. Or maybe Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World‘. (All of which I read in middle school, thank you.) And why not? These all seem like appropriate literature for pre-high school young minds, don’t you think? (sarcasm)
Even if the books we got to read had been remotely interesting to a young teenager, the way the teachers approached reading and discussing was the worst way possible. Everything in the book had a ‘reason’. Every word and phrase had a ‘secret meaning’. Every color, foreshadowing, scene had something that was meant to be deciphered by the reader. So, when it came right down to it: we weren’t even reading the books. We were translating them. (Even though they were already written in English.)
Honestly, looking back on my grade school education for English, it’s a miracle I want to write or read ever again. Yet, somehow, on my own, after being choked on endless question sheets for books, I managed to find good books that draw me in and keep my attention all the way through. Oddly enough, my favorite genre happens to be dystopians, which were the exact things I detested in grade school. That, ladies and gentleman, is what we call irony.
But enough about me, what about you? What was your English education like in school? Did it make you love or hate reading and, if it made you hate it, how did you find your love for reading later in life? Leave me your experiences in the comments below! I hope to hear from you! ^.^
And check out my discussion from last week:
“Skin Color Portrayal in YA“