Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Teaching to the Test in High Schools Is Creating a Generation That Cannot Read a Book...Period.

And then you have idiots like this one who boasts of his ignorance.
I do try to discuss positive news and articles here on Book Chase, I really do.  But, unfortunately, not everything happening in Book World is of a positive nature - as is clearly pointed out in this article by the University of Houston's Robert Zaretsky.  The article, entitled "Taught to pass tests, they don't know how to read books," has a lot to say about the state of education in this country and what the unintended consequences of "No Child Left Behind" are - and none of it, believe me, is encouraging.
 ...conversations with my brother-in-law, a bright and dedicated Houston-based high school English teacher, long ago revealed: Forced to teach to the test, he can no longer encourage students to reach for the texts as sources of wisdom and wonder.
My students’ encounter with Balzac is not exceptional in my recent teaching experience. Nor is it exceptional, from what colleagues tell me, in their classrooms. It is becoming the rule that students cannot, quite literally, read books from the literary canon. Not because they still hadn’t bought a copy — though this was the case for a few of them — or because the print was too small, but because they did not know how to read a book.  (emphasis mine)

My brother-in-law’s colleagues teach to the test, telling themselves that it is a job well done when their school performs well. Likewise, when I look at my syllabi and admire the classic works I've included, I pat myself on the back. After all, I’ve done my bit for the Great Conversation, of going out there and winning this one for the Gipper of Great Books. But have I? There are, inevitably, students who will come to treasure these books. No less inevitably, however, most of their peers will remain spectators to the act of reading. Thanks to bullet points and Spark Notes, they will know the names of the players, but will not have the slightest idea of what it means to be on the field and play the game. 

If it has not already happened, we are certainly well on our way to creating a whole generation (or two) that can no longer properly read a book because it's members have learned to get by with summaries, Cliff Notes-like pamphlets, three-minute reviews on YouTube,  and movies that play so free and easy with book plots that they only distort the author's real intent and story.  Teaching incoming freshmen to read a book should not be the responsibility of our universities.  But in great part due to good intentions gone bad, our high school teachers (if they are to keep their own jobs) are forced to "teach the test" well enough that their students can regurgitate what they hear in the classroom.  The students learn "facts," they do not learn how to read and appreciate an actual, you know...book.

I'm not feeling very positive today.

For easy reference, here's the link to the whole article.   Do read it.  I guarantee you that it is even more depressing than the snippets of it I've posted here.


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