Saturday, February 06, 2016

What Should You Be Reading in High School?

Two interesting thoughts for discussion.

One was this post from Diane Ravitch's blog, A Father Learns about Common Core.  (Readers point out that this dad may be confusing AP Language and Composition for AP Literature and Composition - I don't know.)  He's a little sad over the reading list which, according CC standards, is more non-fiction based than fiction.  Here's some of the works (which he also says seem short):
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebbecca Skloot
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Short pieces such as:

Fish Cheeks by Amy Tan
“How Fetal Tissue is Used in Medical Research” The Week
“Ten Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day” by Lana Winter-Herbert for
“The Ugly Truth About Beauty” by Dave Berry
“Fly the Partisan Skies” by David Brooks

He goes onto say his daughter likes her teacher but there is too much about death and cadavers.   I would agree that there does seem to be a theme there and maybe not so much on the dead bodies.

Here's a link to the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts.

The other cross-article is from the Washington Post entitled What Ivy League Students are Reading that You Aren't.
That became easier recently with the release of the Open Syllabus Explorer, an online database of books assigned in over 1 million college courses over the past decade or so.
As the group behind the project explains: There's an "intellectual judgment embedded" in the lists of books college students are required to read. The most frequently-assigned books at the nation's universities are essentially our canon: the body of literature that society's leaders are expected to be familiar with. So what does that canon look like?
I had to smile because I recognized many of these texts and I LOVE that The Elements of Style by White and Strunk - the tiny bible of writing - is still hanging in there.  Want to give a great graduation present? Get that (or better yet, buy it for your kid now.)

And I confess I like the "all schools" list of English books more than the Ivy League (but I also confess - I never read Canterbury Tales or Paradise Lost.  But then, I didn't go to an Ivy League school.)

As an aside, one of my favorite stories about college that I ever heard was this one about Justice Scalia.  Apparently, it is common practice at the U.S. Supreme Court that when justice dies or retires, the other justices take in that departing justice's clerks.  So when Chief Justice Rehnquist died in 2005, all his clerks, if they wanted to stay, got sent to various justices.

So the story goes that Scalia was not happy that his clerk had not attended an Ivy League law school.  He had insisted that the best prepared lawyers come out of Stanford or Harvard or Princeton.  To his surprise, his clerk turned out to be - by Scalia's own measure - the best he ever had.  The quote I recall was Scalia saying, "And he came from Ohio State, for god's sake."

So I take a lot of that "Ivies" talk at face value.


Jet City mom said...

Middle school books are pretty dark. Bridge to Teribithia, Speak, Cut...
However it can facilitate discussion on these topics which is sorely needed, but parents should always be given an annotated book list.
One book that high schools should read is Uncle Toms Cabin.

0taqueen said...

Admissions at "the Ivies" is as much about creating networks with the people who will help cushion the transition from college to the work world, I think; this short comic has changed the minds of more than a few of my FB bootstrapper friends, and is well worth the look:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this interesting post. I am very surprised by the seeming lack of substance in the high school list. But then, I read both Canterbury Tales and Paradise Lost as a senior in a public high school (decades ago in 1972).


Allen jeley said...

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