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High school reading: Classics or contemporary?
Chicago Tribune ^ | 3/7/2014 | Duaa Eldeib

Posted on 03/07/2014 8:10:06 AM PST by Borges

Love it or loathe it, Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" has served as a rite of passage for high school students for generations.

In addition to the Bard, teachers have long relied on Socrates, Kafka, Steinbeck and a host of other authors whose works earned the distinction of being a classic — albeit rarely landed on teens' top 10 lists.

While few dare challenge the texts as exceptional literature, high school teachers throughout the Chicago area and beyond are swapping out the canon for the contemporary, arguing that their selections impart the same themes and skills, with one important caveat:

Students don't audibly groan when they whip out their books at the start of English class.

For the first time in decades, teachers in northwest suburban Township High School District 214 aren't teaching "Romeo and Juliet" this year to the majority of freshmen. "Hamlet" didn't make the cut in some classes in Glenbrook High Schools District 225. And some teachers at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire replaced Kafka with "Life of Pi," a novel written in (gasp) 2001.

(Excerpt) Read more at chicagotribune.com ...


TOPICS: Books/Literature
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1 posted on 03/07/2014 8:10:06 AM PST by Borges
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To: Borges

I disliked Shakespeare in general but I really loathed Chaucer. I prefer the likes of Melville, Milton, and Hawthorne.


2 posted on 03/07/2014 8:12:20 AM PST by Resolute Conservative
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To: Resolute Conservative

Shakespeare and Chaucer too bawdy for you?


3 posted on 03/07/2014 8:14:44 AM PST by Borges
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To: Borges

My own pet peeve...plays were meant to be acted out, not read. A few skilled actors can turn “boring” Shakespeare into “great” Shakespeare.


4 posted on 03/07/2014 8:19:08 AM PST by JoeDetweiler
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To: Borges

My son was reciting Shakespeare the other day for a class presentation.

I told him to use it to woo the babes. I think that it was the first time he had heard the term woo. But he got my point.

My wife looked at me as if I had worms crawling out of my ears. She still thinks of my son as a little baby.


5 posted on 03/07/2014 8:19:08 AM PST by dhs12345
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To: Borges

I found Chaucer a hard read and boring.


6 posted on 03/07/2014 8:29:04 AM PST by Resolute Conservative
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To: Resolute Conservative

Loved Cooleridge.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

PART I

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
May’st hear the merry din.’

He holds him with his skinny hand,
‘There was a ship,’ quoth he.
‘Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

He holds him with his glittering eye—
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years’ child:
The Mariner hath his will.

....

PART II

The Sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.

And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariner’s hollo!

And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work ‘em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow!

....

Complete poem....

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173253


7 posted on 03/07/2014 8:29:43 AM PST by dhs12345
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To: Borges
Lawrence Durrell was the last great writer in English Literature.

Great Art ended when the Renaissance ended. Everything else since then is mostly crap.

The reason kids groan is due to poor teachers, who do not know how to make literature exciting and interesting - Chaucer being a case in point.

Teach them how to draw the human form correctly, teach them how to write in Old and Middle English. Bring back Latin and Greek so they can read the originals by Aristotle and Julius Caesar. Hell, just teach them English, spelling, cursive writing, and grammar (as well as a good grounding in history, basic science, and basic math - without a calculator!).

Good teachers can make even the most putatively dull or boring subject matter interesting and exciting, making the kids want to learn.

Knowledge is power, ignorance merely makes a good socialist voter.

8 posted on 03/07/2014 8:36:20 AM PST by PIF (They came for me and mine ... now it is your turn ...)
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To: dhs12345
"They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise."


Flavor text for theScathe Zombies creature card across all editions of M:TG.
9 posted on 03/07/2014 8:37:06 AM PST by arderkrag (An Unreconstructed Georgian, STANDING WITH RAND.)
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To: Borges

i think all kids should be required to read harry potter and when they’re in junior high, 50 shades of gray...doesn’t everyone? /sarcasm

what they should be reading is ayn rand


10 posted on 03/07/2014 8:41:51 AM PST by camle (keep an open mind and someone will fill it full of something for you)
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To: camle

and let’s not forget walter the farting dog


11 posted on 03/07/2014 8:42:32 AM PST by camle (keep an open mind and someone will fill it full of something for you)
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To: dhs12345

My English teacher tried to introduce me (and the rest of class of course) to Cooleridge, didn’t stick. Then I discovered Iron Maiden and they taught me to appreciate Cooleridge. Which is probably when I started forming my opinion that the way we teach literature in high school actually teaches primarily teaches kids to hate literature.


12 posted on 03/07/2014 8:46:18 AM PST by discostu (I don't meme well.)
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To: Borges

Both. But make it clear that some are classics in the truest sense, while the others have potential but have not lived long enough to have established their bona fides.


13 posted on 03/07/2014 8:48:06 AM PST by IronJack
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To: discostu

There’s something to be said for the “Schoolhouse Rock” approach.


14 posted on 03/07/2014 8:48:53 AM PST by dfwgator
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To: JoeDetweiler

I once had a Newfie named Peeve. He was my pet, ... .


15 posted on 03/07/2014 8:50:35 AM PST by gasport (Will operate for food.)
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To: Borges
I suppose I wouldn't make a good English teacher, but the fact is that many of the great works are so because they were innovative, that is, Poe in mysteries, Melville in incorporating play dialogue format, that sort of thing. For a student without a context in literary history they prove not to be the best examples of their kind, and it isn't obvious to the student why they're so great if in fact somebody else developed the form better later.

Nearly all of my own appreciation of great pieces of literature came from "circling back", that is, considering the work after I'd built up a context and understood the language and the issues being addressed from my own life experience. Shakespeare was like that - "how sharper than a serpent's tooth / to have a thankless child" meant nothing to me at 12. Like a joke, it loses its punch if you have to have the references explained.

About the best thing you can do for an individual student is treat him or her as an individual, each at a different stage of understanding. That doesn't translate well to assembly-line classrooms. It does translate well to a tutor/pupil relationship, which is why the Brits enjoyed such success with that model. It isn't very economical, to be sure, but it's cheaper than failure.

16 posted on 03/07/2014 8:50:55 AM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Resolute Conservative

I’ve read bits of Chaucer and Milton, a couple, maybe three of Melville, but I just couldn’t stay concentrated with Hawthorne.

Give me Shakespeare.


17 posted on 03/07/2014 8:51:01 AM PST by Calvin Locke
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To: Borges
And some teachers at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire replaced Kafka with "Life of Pi," a novel written in (gasp) 2001.

Ugh. The Trial and The Castle are important books to read considering the current state of the world. Add 1984, Animal Farm, Atlas Shrugged, and Harrison Bergeron.

My kids are babies still, but they will be taught classic literature.
18 posted on 03/07/2014 8:54:27 AM PST by needmorePaine
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To: Borges

You need to be a registered user to read the article at that site.


19 posted on 03/07/2014 8:58:11 AM PST by verga
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To: dhs12345

I had my son memorize Lord Byron’s She walks in Beauty . It was for Mother’s Day but I told him women would positively melt at hearing those verses!


20 posted on 03/07/2014 9:02:25 AM PST by karatemom
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To: verga

That’s strange. I was able to without logging in.


21 posted on 03/07/2014 9:03:16 AM PST by Borges
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To: Borges

The best thing about Shakespeare is the universal themes. Change the costumes, location, and date and Romeo and Juliet becomes West Side Story. The Tempest becomes Forbidden planet. And if you really want a stretch Henry V becomes Seven Samurai, which becomes The Magnificent Seven.


22 posted on 03/07/2014 9:05:32 AM PST by verga
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To: Resolute Conservative
Hawthorne.

Love every creepy story he ever told.

23 posted on 03/07/2014 9:13:19 AM PST by Psalm 73 ("Gentlemen, you can't fight in here - this is the War Room".)
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To: arderkrag

Yes!


24 posted on 03/07/2014 9:22:34 AM PST by dhs12345
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To: discostu

Exactly.

I really enjoyed my Lit classes in College. Maybe because I had to read it in College, maybe because I was a little more mature.

However, I really didn’t enjoy literature in High School.


25 posted on 03/07/2014 9:25:10 AM PST by dhs12345
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To: dfwgator

It’s the entertainment vs chore aspect. When teachers present an epic they want you analyze the structure and what does this symbolize and what’s the moral and all these things that distract you from the fact that it’s actually a pretty cool poem with a neat story that somebody really needs to turn into a horror film (daSilva’s film is cool but a bit arthouse). When Maiden performs the song live Dickenson introduces it as what not to do when a bird #$%^s on you, instantly giving you permission to enjoy it, and that makes you listen to it over and over, and eventually you’ll read the liner notes and maybe look up the poem and you read that a few times. It’s really hard to appreciate something you don’t enjoy, especially when you’re young, but we try to teach appreciation without joy.


26 posted on 03/07/2014 9:25:40 AM PST by discostu (I don't meme well.)
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To: dhs12345

Just taught my Senior AP class Mariner (and other Romantic Poetry) last week, doing Frankenstein this week. I really enjoy Brit. Lit. Romantic and Victorian eras. Then, of course, there’s Hamlet...


27 posted on 03/07/2014 9:26:40 AM PST by MarDav
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To: karatemom

She Walks in Beauty
By Lord Byron (George Gordon)

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!


28 posted on 03/07/2014 9:28:46 AM PST by dhs12345
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To: dhs12345

Yeah....I want my son to have the type of girl who likes all that romance stuff! Just like the girl his daddy married! ;). Thanks for posting...and best wishes to your family!


29 posted on 03/07/2014 9:37:05 AM PST by karatemom
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To: MarDav

Agreed!

My Lit classes in College covered all of the greats. Although, we only read Shakespeare’s sonnets. So I haven’t read Hamlet.

At the time I was a bit annoyed with all of the reading. I was an engineering major and had my hands full with my technical classes. But then it grew on me and I really enjoyed my literature classes.

Philosphy, prose, poetry. Philosophy is where I was first exposed to The Communist Manifesto by Marx.

But I will never forget the Mariner.


30 posted on 03/07/2014 9:44:53 AM PST by dhs12345
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To: Borges

Why does reading have to be miserable? What teen girl wants to read Silas Marner? If you don’t have something to get kids engaged, what good does it do other than give kids a distaste for reading?


31 posted on 03/07/2014 9:49:22 AM PST by chae (I was anti-Obama before it was cool)
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To: karatemom

My son, too. I am my son’s father and he loves and respects his mother. So, I have great hope for him.


32 posted on 03/07/2014 9:52:14 AM PST by dhs12345
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To: verga
"The best thing about Shakespeare is the universal themes. Change the costumes, location, and date and..."

There's a great Hamlet with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1449175/?ref_=nv_sr_6
It's available from Netflix. Both my teens loved it (they are big Whovians and Trekkies), but that could be because they have watched and read much Shakespeare.

Audible.com has some great audio versions of Shakespeare called Shakespeare Understood--it's compete versions of the Bard's plays, acted out in audio format, but including additional narration that explains what's going on so listeners aren't lost. I feel it's a great compromise between reading a play (slower, gives more time for reflection and analysis) and watching a play (best for enjoyment, what it was meant for).

33 posted on 03/07/2014 9:56:42 AM PST by MWFsFreedom
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To: chae
I think that it has to do with maturity. Plus our quick fix, immediate gratification, culture.

One of the greatest things for me was to be “forced” to read literature in College. It was required for my degree. I disliked it at first but it grew on me and towards my senior year, I really enjoyed the lit classes.

34 posted on 03/07/2014 9:57:12 AM PST by dhs12345
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To: dhs12345

I took a Victorian Poetry course that blew me away and really put the bug in me for that era I love trying to get my students to appreciate the mounting “anxiety” of those poets (Tennyson, Arnold, Hopkins, etc.) as we trace through the historical movement toward the despair of modernism. It actually serves as a basis for understanding much of the narcissism and apathy of our world today.

But, hey, if you want to see something special, watch Kenneth Branagh’s film version of Hamlet. It presents the entire play (4 hours worth) and is visually enthralling. For the most part, his Hamlet is very well done, but his “O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I” soliloquy will bring chills to your spine...emotionally, spot on.


35 posted on 03/07/2014 10:10:13 AM PST by MarDav
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To: chae

A colleague of mine often told his classes that his job was not to cater to his students’ current taste but to enhance it through the study of, what those who read extensively have deemed, “great works.”

I used to tell my students that their opinions about books were simply not valid as they had not done enough reading to be able to fairly judge whether a book was “good” or not. Sounds smug, sure...but it’s also accurate (more smugness!)


36 posted on 03/07/2014 10:16:28 AM PST by MarDav
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To: MWFsFreedom

I am fortunate that we live in the city with the only re-creation of Shakespeare’s Black Friars Theater. They have 3-4 plays running at a time and we are ushers so we get to see them for free. The acting is top notch and they cycle through all the plays in about 5 years time. They have begun to add Marlow, Middleton, and others to the repertoire. In 7 years we have yet to see a bad performance.


37 posted on 03/07/2014 10:29:00 AM PST by verga
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To: MarDav

Wow. Sounds like a fun class. And High School, too. Introduce them early! For me, it was almost too late.

And thank you for the suggestion. My son might enjoy it too. I’ll look for it.

My son is reading a lot more than I did at his age. He is a junoior in high school. Right now he is reading book 1 of the Game of Thrones and the Shining. I was joking with him that he will start blending the two books.


38 posted on 03/07/2014 10:33:09 AM PST by dhs12345
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To: dhs12345

They’re reading those two books for class?


39 posted on 03/07/2014 10:48:32 AM PST by Borges
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To: chae

Part of the attraction of being a secondary teacher is to make your students suffer in revenge for their being young. I actually had a junior high school tell me that once with a straight face. He broke out into laughter when my jaw hit the floor. He was my favorite teacher, an unregenerate old socialist who didn’t proselytize, and that’s a good thing, because he’s a conservative now. :-)


40 posted on 03/07/2014 10:49:03 AM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Resolute Conservative

<I found Chaucer a hard read and boring.

It helps to read it out loud. Then you can really hear the beauty of the words and the sound, rather than the variable spelling, is what gets your attention, so that you can follow the story.


41 posted on 03/07/2014 10:50:00 AM PST by radiohead
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To: dhs12345

I prefer this version

http://youtu.be/HXSZk_EpDio


42 posted on 03/07/2014 11:22:26 AM PST by representativerepublic (...loose lips, sink ships)
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To: discostu

see post #42


43 posted on 03/07/2014 11:24:15 AM PST by representativerepublic (...loose lips, sink ships)
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To: representativerepublic

I wore out 1 cassette of Live After Death and 2 Power Slaves before finally getting them on CD.


44 posted on 03/07/2014 11:25:28 AM PST by discostu (I don't meme well.)
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To: Borges

No. Lol. Those books probably wouldn’t be allowed in high school. At least the Game of Thrones wouldn’t be.

For Christmas, we gave my son the Stephen King classics: The Shining, Salem’s Lot, Needful Things (my wife is a fan). He has been watching the Game of Thrones series on DVD and decided that he liked it so much that he bought the book. His friend recommended it.

The Shakespeare recitation was for school.

Funny story: my wife had never read “To Kill A Mockingbird” and she decided to read it after my son was done with it. She said it is one of the BEST books she had ever read. Lol.


45 posted on 03/07/2014 11:27:44 AM PST by dhs12345
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To: representativerepublic

Lol. Cool song!


46 posted on 03/07/2014 11:33:53 AM PST by dhs12345
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To: discostu

Up the Irons!


47 posted on 03/07/2014 12:04:58 PM PST by representativerepublic (...loose lips, sink ships)
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To: Borges

My son is a freshman in high school IB program and he is currently reading The Odyssey and they are reading Romeo & Juliet next.


48 posted on 03/07/2014 12:06:49 PM PST by representativerepublic (...loose lips, sink ships)
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To: Borges

Guess there’s really no point in studying the history and evolution of English in an English class.

If they want “the same themes”, why don’t they just read comic books.


49 posted on 03/07/2014 12:10:04 PM PST by Jack Hammer
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To: MarDav

I just don’t see how instilling a loathing of reading in young people and then lamenting the low information voter makes any sense at all.
I know a guy who had a teacher like that. He is proud of not having read a book since he graduated. And he votes like every other low info voter. I had a great teacher who encouraged reading even though she didn’t care for my choice of Sweet Valley High. Currently reading a biography of Reagan, just finished The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, which was fascinating.
Just different styles I guess, but I know which one I think was better.


50 posted on 03/07/2014 12:39:38 PM PST by chae (I was anti-Obama before it was cool)
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