The Elimination of Literature

E. John Winner

Every now and then, I’ll be walking down a street and come upon a box of books being set out for trash, and if they’re in good condition, I’ll look through them for anything of interest.  Some time ago, I found a massive High School English text-book, which I took to be an anthology of literature, and since I thought I might find something in it I may have overlooked in the past, I brought it home.  Gave it a quick browse and set it aside for future consideration.

Recently wrestling with a writer’s block, I dug it out, thinking I might find some inspiration.  Little did I know I would instead confront the devil’s spawn.

Elements of Literature was published in 2007 [1].  It was put together by “Program Authors” Kylene Beers (literacy specialist) and composition theorist Lee Odell.  The edition I have at hand was specifically designed as student preparation for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test (PSSA).  It’s 1500 7″x10″ glossy pages long.  It’s also a mess.

Given its title and subtitle (“Essentials of British and World literature”), one would assume that the main function of the book would be to introduce students to literature,  It’s not.  In place of an introduction extolling the delights one can find reading interesting or difficult texts that have through history contributed to our culture (what we commonly mean by ‘literature’), the book opens with instructions to the student on how to meet Pennsylvania’s “Language Arts Standards” and how to succeed at taking the PSSA.   Two of its 32 pages relate to the reading of literature.

The anthology itself is structured chronologically: 449 CE to “the Present.”  This would seem to suggest that the civilizations BCE had little to contribute to literature, but, classicists take heart!  This announced periodization is repeatedly violated throughout the book.  So, in the first part, after readings from Beowulf, Gilgamesh and then the Iliad (selections, of course) appear, with the Iliad supported by an essay about Schliemann’s 19th century excavations in search of Priam’s gold.  Throughout these presentations, the text is interspersed with sidebars and whole pages explaining the background of the selections, vocabulary, critical commonplaces, attempts to make the material of contemporary interest (apparently the spirit of the epic lives on … in comic books), as well as writing suggestions.  One such suggestion includes a sample student essay basically re-writing Hector’s experience of battle so he can overcome his fears and be “again the awesome, heroic ‘noble Hector’.”  (I mean, a totally awesome dude! [2])   After a small selection of shorter texts of the given period, a sample test completes the section.

A lot of this seems to make sense (students certainly need help with difficult vocabulary), but the presentation is just wretched.  None of the material is allowed to speak for itself.  The decision to use selections rather than whole texts robs the originals of their immediacy.  I think John Gardner’s Grendel is a wonderful book, but does the student need Beowulf interrupted by selections from it? or by an essay on “Life in 999?”

This is basically the strategy for presentation throughout the book, except that it gets worse the closer we get to the present era, since of course feminism and multicultural concerns must be accounted for.  Fair enough, there are some wonderful texts written by all genders and every ethnicity.  But the bias in selection is primarily academic — texts from writers who sell best in university towns.  And the presentation strategy becomes ever more confused, as justification for considering recent writing as somehow of equivalent value with long-enduring texts has never been strong since the practice started a hundred or so years ago [3].  By the time we get to a selection of recent speeches by international political leaders, it’s hard to see what “elements of literature” we actually are dealing with here.

It must be said that the very size of the book, its large glossy pages, its visual design (a weird hybrid of old style double-column print and Internet flavored graphics), all mitigate against a student’s taking interest in it.  One could easily get the impression that the “elements of literature” are comprised of everything ever written or said, heard or seen.  The student is recurrently encouraged to see movie versions of the texts or just movies; although, blessedly, there’s nothing about television here.  (I wonder how the ”program authors” missed that?)  Research emphasis is on the Internet, of course.

The last literary texts to appear in the book (actually presented as part of a practice test, calling for a comparison between the two), are the poems The Lorelei by Heinrich Heine and Margaret Atwood’s Siren Song.  Not bad selections for a practice test.  Yet a strange way to say farewell to literature, to bemoan the dangers of song leading listeners to destruction.

Let’s talk about the specific moment, when I realized that what I held in my hands was a petty educational system bureaucrat’s parody of what an introduction to literature ought to look like.  Page 316 presents Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30.  [4]  It begins with an Introduction stressing that the student is expected to look for metaphors — “comparisons of two unlike things” (which is not a very good definition of metaphor) — and closes with a series of questions emphasizing what metaphors the student was expected to look for.  One of the more amusing questions: “What thoughts cheer (the speaker) up?”  So, to be clear, this is now a poem about the speaker’s efforts to lighten up and quit that gloomy “fore bemoaned moan” — look on the bright side of life!

The side-bar really catches one’s eye, although it’s easy to miss at first glance.  I don’t mean the vocabulary clarifications.  (Although clarifying “my dear time’s waste” as “the damages that time has done to things dear to me” is a reductive paraphrase that damages a student’s possible interpretations of connotations of the word ‘waste,’ all of which were known to Shakespeare.  Shakespeare’s line is thus stripped of the potential power of its ambiguous phrasing.)

But disappointment with oversimplification aside, the real problem with the side bar is an accompanying photograph, meant as some sort of illustration, but of what I am not sure.

It’s a photograph, depicting a middle-aged couple, man and woman, of Asiatic descent, standing close, their tilted heads touching, both wearing glasses, and smiling broadly, showing sets of perfect teeth.  They are somewhat plump and seem quite content.  They stand, in what appears to be a summer’s garden, above a bouquet of yellow flowers of uncertain variety (the photograph has that old Kodak gloss, yet lacks detail in the focus).  The couple are clearly from the late 20th or early 21st century — there’s no attempt to dress them in Elizabethan drag.  There is no caption beneath the photograph explaining who they are or what their appearance might possibly have to do with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30.

So why are they here?  Putting on my semiotician’s cap, let me try to give it a read.  Bear in mind that with that cap on, I must consider the significance of the whole page, from introduction to final questions at the bottom.

The first thing we notice is that the focus of the poem is a text by William Shakespeare.  If we juxtapose that with an image of a contemporary Asiatic couple, one of the first notions that can occur to us is to remember the legendary resilience and wide-spread appeal with which, in this culture, we are expected to associate with Shakespeare.  How better to emphasize that Shakespeare has a ‘timeless’ appeal to all peoples than with a picture of cheerfully receptive people not of his time nor of his culture.  (Actually, there are many better ways to do this, but one admits the cleverness here — the designer of the page makes this emphasis without words needing to express it.)

Since the couple are standing so close together, one easily recognizes them as ‘friends.’  Surely then they represent the kind of social connectivity Shakespeare reveals in the last two lines of his poem?  Aren’t friends good to have?  Look how cheerful being friends makes this couple.  Not only do “sorrows end,” they’re nowhere to be found.  As R. Kelly recently sang on Happy People, “Put a smile on your face/ And make a friend.”  It’s nice to discover that great poets from such different backgrounds can express the same thought in different words.

Which leads me to the big idea that I think this page is trying to convey: some variant of the notion that Shakespeare, so feared among the young for the difficulties of his texts, is really as understandable (and as harmless) as a common greeting card.  Because take away the Introduction, the notes, the final question, and that’s pretty much what we have here.    And the Introduction, the notes, the final questions, rather than challenge that notion, are clearly intended to support it.  Not by simply coming out and saying it, of course.  The pandering, the over-simplification, the banality would be much too obvious.  So the words instead strip the text of its latent power, its ambiguity in phrasing, the emotional resonance of its final lines, and let the designer’s photograph do the rest.

Am I being too hard on those involved?  I’ll begin to consider that when I get a cogent and reasonable explanation of what that picture is doing there.  Because even if the above was not the intended message, that is surely one possible — indeed, one probable — message one can get from the signs on the page.

It can also be argued (and I think the authors here would argue) that I fail to recognize the appeal to readers who have differing levels of competence in reading at the high school level.  I understand that we have at last realized that the different needs of different readers have to be addressed.  What I don’t see, however, is why this needs to be done with a sonnet by Shakespeare.    Are we trying to sneak Shakespeare in through the back door, leading students to believe they are reading Shakespeare when what they have is something that only exists as constructed by the authors of the notes and designer of the page with that dreadful photograph?  Or are they really reassuring the student that, once they grasp the fundamentals of literacy, they need think no more on Shakespeare than they do on a greeting card?

I think that’s really what’s going on here.  Elements of Literature, from stem to stern, reassures its intended student audience  that the primary purpose of literature is its use as a tool for mastering skills — e.g., for learning how to write a resume, give a speech in public, or justify one’s movie choices.   And of course, to pass tests.  There is little in this book that truly suggests that reading literature can be a pleasure; that it can enrich one’s experience; that it carries cultural codes from generation to generation, commenting on the human condition as it changes across time.  It’s a big, heavy book that tells students that literature is hard work, but once they get through it, they will have developed skills, after which they won’t have to bother with it again.   What they have read, they can then forget.

Because certainly, if I had to work my way through this book as a student, assuming I’d had little experience with literature previously, there’s no doubt that I would simply read the cues as to what I am expected to write on the exams, and completely forget any of the morass of literary texts presented.  Trying to remember particular texts from the book would be like trying to remember the differing doors of a house flying by in a tornado.   It’s a jumbled mess of words, images, history, unexamined ideas and lost opportunities for richer, more edifying discussion, anchored only by the ruthlessly repetitive instructions on how to pass the PSSA.

I admit it’s likely that the book was offered to school districts as a resource, with individual teachers allowed to assign what sections they wished (as long as the majority of their students continued to pass the PSSA).  But that misses my point.  The very size and shape of the book, its design, the repetitive instructions on how to pass the test, all contribute to its essential message.  It would be very difficult to read anything in this book and learn to love it, or even become interested in it,  Opening the enormous tome and looking down at the glare of its glossy pages is physically stressful.

It is true that I came to literature quite young; when I was twelve I read through The Deerslayer, the Iliad and the Odyssey (Rouse translations), and Goldfinger (well, okay, we all have our guilty pleasures).  But it is also true that in my junior high school, while students clearly read at different levels, the books provided at the differing levels were still identifiably literary in quality.  The Honors class got to read Catcher in the Rye, the Basics class got Herman Wouk’s City Boy.  By 9th grade Social Studies, we were reading Plato, Volatire, Hardy, Orwell, Steinbeck; most students had read a Shakespearean play or seen one performed.   (In 1968, Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet had proven quite popular among young people.)

It is also true that the literature anthologies I knew in my youth, even those available in freshman college English, could be imposingly large, with editorial material and commentary that were dreadfully dull, even stultifying.  But they were just text, on plain paper, with many complete works that were clearly literary in quality and with an identifiable time line and cultural narrative.  And no pictures of smiling couples.  They were real books containing texts from other books and existed therefore in the realm of books; in a culture that valued books.

I don’t know at which grade level Elements of Literature is targeted, but at one point, the students are reminded that “You probably have been taking standardized tests throughout your school career,” and they should be thinking about going to college.  Again, this book is from 2007.  I tried to verify whether it is still being used in Pennsylvania, but the Pennsylvania government and education websites are difficult to navigate or search. [5]  What I did find out is that the PSSA is currently only administered in grades 3 through 8, with a follow-up in the 11th grade.   I also sampled some curricula from Pennsylvania school districts. [6]  Notably, the only course in English with a sustained emphasis on reading literary texts, in their complete book format, is the Grade 12 Advanced Placement course, intended for those expected not only to go to college, but possibly also to succeed there.

Now, there is nothing in and of itself offensive about teaching “English Language Arts” rather than English literature.  It might be best, our culture as fragmented as it is these days, to let students, once taught to read, find their own way to the literature of their choice.  What’s appalling about this whole experience with the Elements of Literature is the duplicity involved and the ugliness of its presentation, overwhelming because of the bureaucratic regulations requiring it.  Literature is not literature, it’s a tool.  English literature will not be taught, but there will be “exposure” to Beowulf and Shakespeare.  Reading and writing are not about ideas or emotions, but about passing tests.  There’s no fundamental difference between literature, comic books, movies or political speeches.  And should a student find any problem with this, they’ll fail the test.  This isn’t education, it’s indoctrination.

But what makes it even worse is that it’s not indoctrination in a way that makes any sense.  Because students are not really being taught the language arts, they’re not really being guided toward success in college or in professions (or simply in jobs).  And they’re certainly not being “exposed” to literature, so much as they are being driven away from it.  They are being taught how to take a test.  The only lesson they learn and can carry away and use throughout life, is to submit to authority, and use whatever means, regardless of value, that will help them “get ahead” —  i.e. pass whatever test life presents as obstacle to their success.   “What forms do I fill out in order to get that new car?” is the kind of question this book prepares students to ask.

Which is weird, because when literature and books really were of value, we not only found such questions fairly easy to ask, we didn’t see any need to set literature aside in order to ask them.  But that’s what the student readers of Elements of Literature are being taught: that literature is an impediment to overcome, in order to get to the ‘real’ questions in life, like how to negotiate a car purchase.

There was a time when books, cars, political speeches, film, history, all formed strands of the great web of life, without mistaking any one for any of the others.  There was no reason to dispense with one in order to enjoy the others.  Now everything is everything, and nothing matters — except “getting ahead.”  There’s just nothing anymore, beyond bare survival and hedonistic pleasure, which seems to give that any value.

Notes

[1] Elements of Literature Sixth Course Essentials of British and World Literature.  Pennsylvania Edition.  No author designation on title pages.  Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2007.

[2] I move we expunge the word ‘awesome’ from the English language forthwith.

[3] As one of my teachers once put it, “A classic is a text written by someone who’s dead.”

[4] William Shakespeare, Sonnet 30:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past,

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,

And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:

Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,

For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,

And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,

And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,

And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er

The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,

Which I new pay as if not paid before.

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,

All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.

[5] For instance:  http://www.education.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx#tab-1

[6 ] For instance:  http://www.basd.net/Page/8914

Categories: Essay, Essays

15 Comments »

  1. I move we expunge the word ‘awesome’ from the English language forthwith.

    We might as well expunge it since society has lost its capacity for awe, reverence and the sacred. Soon these words will be incomprehensible:

    Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror-indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy – but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend, and saw him at his side, cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.
    The Wind in the Willows.

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  2. I pity the students who have to wade through such shit. However, why should anybody want to pass the “PSSA”, if it is like that?

    A feeling for quality can only be gained by experiencing quality. Once the bureaucrats and formalists have taken over such matters, the game is over. I am observing similar trends in other areas as well.

    At least this book has helped you come out of writer’s block, by making you vexed, so it served its purpose for you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. this is an obviously terrible text. one glimmer of hope is that as these children, exposed to this wank, mature, they will discover for themselves through some coincidence, or other avenue, the value of literature. it is without question that a schools responsibility is to be influential, but it shouldn’t be discounted how much the freedom, when it eventually arrives, to be an independent thinker, can influence the decisions of children who have managed to drag them selves through the quagmire of such bureaucratic nonsense. i was like this. school was a nightmare because i wasn’t free to think, once i received that freedom i read voraciously. some kids do not that the representation of things is tacky & yearn to be introduced to something more authentic. unfortunately this way is fraught with risk & uncertainty.

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  4. Rhetoric and Composition or any of its cousins is not something that should be taught in Secondary Education. It embodies an instrumental view of literature, treating it as a means to an end and not an end in itself. And above all no ‘what is Holden Caulfield telling us here’? Linking reading to the internet is a counsel of despair, the one is immersive and absorbing, the other a flickering theater of distraction. Hot or cold, I forget which Marshall.

    Reading for pleasure and the joy of insight into other minds and other worlds should be the goal that goes no further than the book itself.

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  5. Hi EJ, I don’t want to get too disheartened because I tend to believe as danielpaulmarshall argues some kids can get past mind-deadening “education”.

    The root problem here is I think that education has become sucked up into the process of producing successful students so that they will be successful workers. How is success measured? Grades on tests. This is similar to the problem I mentioned at Massimo’s site with regard to modern science where success is measured by publications. Grades, like publications may mean something in the right context, but by themselves mean nothing.

    It may be true that a person with an understanding of a subject would be able to successfully answer questions on a test and so get a good grade. But with funding of schools tied to grades on tests, it is more efficient (and imperative) for schools to train students to answer questions about subjects, regardless if they understand the subject at all.

    Perhaps there are three levels of education…

    1) Teaching “answers” or “the way to pass a test”: an exercise which is as much indoctrination (into the brain dead workforce students are expected to join) as it is functional for school interests with little regard to knowledge or appreciation of a subject (both of those are secondary).

    2) Teaching knowledge of a subject: while potentially dry and off-putting it at least shows some effort in trying to get a student to understand a subject.

    3) Teaching appreciation (as much as knowledge) of a subject: this to me is the best form of education in that it excites the student to learn for themselves about the subject, regardless of getting a grade.

    As societies become more obsessed with the bottom line, type 1 education is going to be the thing. The more societies are concerned with students enjoying or wanting to learn for themselves as part of living (regardless of bottom line benefits) type 3 is more likely to be promoted.

    I’m not sure there is anything wrong with hedonistic pleasure, to me enjoying a good book is a form of hedonistic pleasure. It is not about doing something productive, or going to help me be more productive. It is about experiencing different facets of life, or with fantasy and scifi facets of lives that may have no direct bearing on this world at all. Pure invention and creativity.

    Sadly, most literature (especially the “classics”) were taught to me through high school in type 2 format. It made me NOT want to read them… they must be as boring as the teachers. It was only picking them up later that I realized they had drained the fun out, to get us a mechanistic understanding of the stories and writing process rather than to appreciate the stories themselves. Just glad it wasn’t a type 1 experience as in the text you described which sounds worse than cliff notes.

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  6. I want to bring in a corporate perspective. We communicate through memos, reports and proposals. These are the lifeblood of the organisation. If they are not clearly, succinctly and accurately worded the system becomes polluted with noise and distortion, and miscommunication follows. This is really quite a severe problem that badly impairs efficiency. This compounds another problem, and that is the unbelievably sloppy thinking that plagues corporate life.

    What we expect from the schooling system is that it produces people who can produce memos, reports and proposals that are clear, succinct and accurate. We expect that these people can reason effectively. We don’t care about Caliban and Prospero. Shakespeare’s sonnets are beside the point. Learned quotations, metaphors and allusions carry no weight. We really don’t expect familiarity with Dante. We are not getting what we expect and the result is damaging.

    Language is a tool and in the corporate world we expect that it be used precisely to enable our goals. We don’t care about bad grammar but we care very much about bad communication. This is important to bear in mind because the great majority of people will be employed in one way or another in or by the corporate world.

    What is the answer? I really don’t know but it seems to me we are being sucked down the sewer of infantilism by the visual media. The use of language is the most important skill any person can acquire. This needs to be given far greater weight. It is not just another subject alongside physics, biology and book keeping.

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  7. labnut, ombhurbhuva ,
    Again, I don’t think it so bad that language arts and composition are taught just for their own sake. But the book in question presents itself as an introduction to literature – which I think is deceptive. And in a manner that really says ‘stay away from literature.’ I know that it is possible to have a generic “English” course, that has sections on composition, and sections just reading literature – because that was what we had when I went to school. Part of the problem here is, since I went to school, the bureaucrats have ever increasingly demanded ‘objective’ tests, to justify educational expenditure, but there is no numerical measurement of literary response.

    danielpaulmarshall, dbholmes,
    I think inquisitive students will always find their way to their own interests – including, hopefully, literature. But it seems schools have set up systematic roadblocks to their doing so, and that makes no sense to me. Again, when I went to school, we had bad teachers who could do that, but the system was flexible enough to allow good teachers to intervene. Now I fear the rot is system wide.

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  8. ombhurbhuva,
    I take it that you are talking about management here who are science graduates or I.T. staff. Please clarify.

    I am talking about the full spectrum of a large manufacturing company – Sales, Marketing, Finance, IT, Product Design, Manufacturing, Assembly, Quality Assurance, Human Resources, Service.

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  9. A powerful critique of a textbook and the philosophy behind it.

    If I’m not mistaken, English Lit. and related subjects focused on reading (and writing about) literary texts in one’s own language is a relatively new addition to the formal curriculum, and you could say that it never *really* established itself before, in the latter part of the 20th century, it started to self-destruct.

    Of course popular literary and patriotic works in the vernacular have had an important place in the formal education of children, and I think that the shared knowledge of such texts has often played a very important role in creating a sense of being a part of a nation (shared language, shared values).

    At the higher levels of European-style formal education, however, the emphasis was traditionally on Latin and Greek language and literature, and vernacular literature was more or less extracurricular (for pleasure and entertainment).

    We now have much lower levels of traditional literacy, however. The early-20th century middle class could deal very easily with 18th and 19th century texts, but the early-21st century middle class can’t even deal with many relatively easy 20th-century texts.

    I have only anecdotal evidence here, but I suspect that the level and kind of literacy currently being achieved, even by brighter students, may not be sufficient for them to be able to read complex prose. For example, I was really shocked when an acquaintance of mine, a graduate student with philosophical interests, said he had tried to but couldn’t read Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. Not just that he couldn’t read it because he found it boring, but that he was actually struggling to read and understand the sentences. (For those who don’t know it, it’s little longer than a short story and is as straightforward a narrative as you could ask for.)

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  10. Mark,
    At the higher levels of European-style formal education, however, the emphasis was traditionally on Latin and Greek language and literature

    I think there is a lot to be said for that approach. The world’s largest empire was administered by people selected on the basis of a classical education.

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  11. In my earlier comment I supported the need for utilitarian, functional skills in English and I still do since that is where the greatest need is. I expect Dan-K to robustly contest this in his trademark, irascible, professorial style 🙂

    But there is another side to me that revels in literature and reads voraciously. Are the two sides divorced from each other or does one complement the other?

    I think that it all starts with a good in-depth education in literature and that the functional skills are a natural out-growth of this. There are six parts to my reasoning:

    1) we reason in language. Without language you cannot reason. The better our command of language the better we can reason. This command of language is imparted by reading the best examples of language usage, that is by extensive and wide reading that ranges over the best our literature has to offer. The first goal of English language education must be to impart a love of reading, a sense of excitement about the experiences of others and a deep curiosity.

    2) words convey our meaning. The larger the repertoire of words at out disposal the better we are able to convey our exact meaning. Again this can only be arrived at by much reading of good works of literature.

    3) shared values and assumptions are vital to the understanding of communication. They are vital to cooperative endeavours. They are vital to the functioning of society. We imbibe shared values and assumptions from our literature.

    4) good authors are good and insightful observers. From them we learn to observe others and to understand others. Once again this is vital to cooperative endeavours.

    5) nimbleness and flexibility of thinking. By absorbing many thinking styles from a wide range of literature we become nimble and flexible in our thinking.

    6) innovative thinking. By exposure to the large range of points of view in our literature one develops more innovative styles of thinking. I am always shocked by the lack of flexible, innovative thinking in my company.

    These properties: good reasoning powers, accurately conveying meaning, shared values and assumptions, insightful observation, flexible thinking and innovative thinking are all necessary to good corporate communication. They are the natural outcome of deep immersion in the best our literature has to offer. But that will only happen if our schools cultivate curiosity, a love of reading and excitement at discovering the jewels in our literature. The final polish can be added to this by completing it with a course in memo, report and proposal writing.

    Reading is like putting down roots into the soil of our culture. This soil sustains us and nourishes us, it enables us to flourish. But shallow soil cannot sustain us through the vicissitudes of life. The deeper we put our roots the stronger is our growth and this is why I support exposure to all levels of our literary history, back to Greek and Roman writings. It creates a deep sense of continuity and robust values that strengthen us.

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  12. E.John:
    I worry about the use of the term ‘British’ in the book’s title. British is a political term as in British Parliament, Constitution, etc. It suggests to me literature in English written by British subjects. Of course I know that what they mean is Literature in the English Language but such an awkward expression in the title of a book that purports to teach effective communication is an indication of poor standards. 1152 pages – don’t take less as Dell Comics used to say.

    You have to remember that school books are a gold mine for publishers who will continue to update and make obsolete texts that are only a few years old. On Amazon I saw the book in question offered new for $41 and used$3.50 with a list price of $107.55. These books are not portable either and are probably left at school and so are useless as anthologies that you might dip into. There are teacher’s handbooks as well so all in all they are bad for both teachers and students.

    I have several anthologies of American Literature of the doorstep dimension which arrive here (Ireland) second-hand or remaindered. They are generally quite good. I note that the Norton Anthology of English Literature is British Isles based.

    Labnut:
    So we are talking about management essentially. As a general operative I had no call to write memos. We generally expressed ourselves through ostensive definition, ‘one of those yokes’, grunts and clicks.
    Michael.

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  13. Mark,
    Your right about the decreasing literacy, and there are a number of reasons for it; but certainly the education students receive doesn’t seem to be helping.

    michael,
    I noted the inclusion of “British” in the subtitle, too. It’s almost self-evident irony (albeit not intended). To me, it seems clear that the people who put the book together included “British” to appeal to conservatives, “World” to appeal to liberals, and “Literature” to appeal to those parents who may still hope their children will be ‘exposed’ to the classics. Ultimately, the bureaucrats and specialists put the book together in order to appeal to each other. Outside of their circle, it comes to us, as I note above, a mess.

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  14. I’ve been taking a look at cyberfiction and gothic literature in my MA studies. There is room for social advancement and personal development in certain types of literature. Just like gaming can produce the same. I recently posted about gaming and fiction’s ability to bring about personal change after reading an interesting academic essay by Nadia Crandall and watching a TED talk by the highly motivating game designer Jane McGonigal…the way I see it, society needs to rethink the way they approach education. Creativity and change can be found in the most unlikely places. Cool blog by the way 🙂

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