Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Reading Books You Don't Like In School

Cracked Columnist Christina H has a new article up today called "4 Ways High School Makes You Hate Reading". I haven't finished reading it yet, because one of her points made me think "Blog Post!"

Disagreement is a touchy topic. I remember having to read a lot of books in school. I liked some of them. Others I'm not so sure about. In 8th grade, we had to read a book that centered on some 13 year old girl entering puberty and having to grow out of being a tomboy. I did not care one crap about most of the story.

I've read in many places that the reason most men don't like to read is because in school, we're forced to read books targeted to girls. I don't know that my education had a lot of that. I remember reading books like "Fahrenheit 451". I don't remember being encouraged to not like a book though. That's something Christina H touches on:

There are very few classrooms where you are encouraged to express this point of view, because I think a lot of teachers feel like if you admit to the book not being that great, then you open yourself up to the kids arguing they shouldn't have to read it. I don't think it has to go there. I think teaching well-reasoned smack talk has a lot of value.
I notice on Amazon, when you write a negative review, people eviscerate you. I've written negative reviews. I try to be objective. If I don't like a book, I try to offer more than "This sucks; don't buy it!" People don't seem to want to accept that we won't all like the same things. I kept hearing about how great that movie "Pulp Fiction" was. I finally broke down and watched it, because everybody I knew had been telling me for years how great the movie was. I hated it. I wrote a review explaining that I didn't like the movie. I got comments back like "Uhm, you're missing something..." No, I did not like the movie. Sure, I loved the piece of dialog about the "Royale wit Cheese", but other than that, I didn't like the movie.

I think it's great to have students read books. I also think it's a decent idea to expose students to a wide variety of literature. But they should be allowed to not like the books. If anything, I think it's a better education to force them to define why they didn't like the book.

Note: I read Canturbery Tales. I hated it. I also hated Beowulf. Just couldn't get into it. I don't care if both books are classics. Just because a book is a classic doesn't mean it's going to be universally loved. I'm glad I was exposed to them, but neither will make it onto my "I'm going to read this because I want to read something I'll love" list.

She covers that point too:

So of course you don't want to let the kids get away with writing an essay about an assigned book saying, "It sucks, it was boring, Heathcliff and Catherine were stupid and annoying," even if you admit that Wuthering Heights is a piece of shit. But what if you let them write an essay that goes negative on the book as long as they make reasoned, intelligent points that show they understood the author's intentions and the methods they used to achieve them, and then explain why they think the author failed at this?
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