Friday, January 02, 2009

One of the problems with being a popular author

I've written about how public schools destroys children's love for reading. Susan Hill agrees. From the UK - Poor teachers fuelling 'loathing of books':

Susan Hill, who wrote The Woman in Black, Strange Meeting and I'm the King of the Castle, told how she has been flooded with "desperate" emails from pupils struggling to understand her novels.
Many of her most famous works are featured in GCSE and A-level syllabuses.
But she claimed they were taught "so badly, so dully and so mechanically" that many children were being turned off literature altogether.


This is exactly the point I've made. My daughters love to read. Going to the library is one of the highlights of the week. For Christmas one of the best presents is books. Yet all of their friends in public schools see reading as a chore, something they have to do. None of their friends read for fun.

Here are some of the letters Susan's gotten from students asking for help:

"Hi Sue, I'm doing your book, we have to read it and just wanna say it's the most boring crap book I ever read, so thanks a lot for ruining my life. Cheers."

"Hi Susan, we're doing your book, I've gotta do coursework only I don't understand about context, what is it, and I don't no any other gothic writers and we've got to compare you, what's gothic anyway. Pleeeeze reply asap."

"Hi. I've got this essay to do for tomoz, it's about I'm the king of the castle and does the setting play an important part in the story. Can you reply tonight and do it in bullet points so I can copy and paste it straight in. thanks you're a star in advance, cheers..."

"Hi, we have to do this essay on context with your book, and cultural context so what are those please, please explain carefully, I don't get it."

I wonder if any of these students will ever be successful in life?

Technorati tags: government schools, children, public school, public education, education


Amy said...

Okay, this made me laugh. I can remember being assigned "A Tale of Two Cities" in AP English and thought at the time that it had to be one of the most boring books that I had ever read. When I chose to read it for myself 10 years later, I loved it!

It is still so clear in my mind when our teacher asked, "So, what is the symbolism behind the wine barrels breaking on the streets." We gave her blank looks. How were we suppose to know? Her exasperation with the entire class for not knowing that it represented the blood shed during the French Revolution still boggles my mind today. And I'd be willing to lay down money that she didn't know until someone told her.

Excuse a bunch of teenagers that grew up during the 1980's for not knowing about something that had happened nearly 200 years before their birth.

gary said...

That's a great post Henry.
I too am so glad my kids love to read. They always have at least one book in progress and stay up reading way too late.
One son has been writing his own novel since age 7. (He's 12 now.) My oldest just started a writing a gaming guide. This is all outside of homeschool time.

Henry Cate said...

Amy - teachers like that can take the joy out of learning. A more appropriate question might have been "What might the breaking of the wine barrels represent?" That the students can be creative and think. As it was asked all the students can do is try to read the teacher's mind.

Gary - yes, having children who love to read is a great thing. Best of luck to your sons and their publishing.