Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Arguments For And Against Summer Reading Lists (Given At The Same Time, By The Same Person)

In the New York Times, Joe Queenan rants about the ridiculousness of some of the books that schools pick for their summer reading lists, while begrudgingly admitting that as boring and outdated as many of the choices may be, in the long run, the system works. An excerpt:
"For as long as anyone can remember, well-meaning pedagogues have been sabotaging summer vacations by forcing high schoolers to read Lord of the Flies, All the King’s Men and A Separate Peace. These books may be the cornerstones of our civilization, but they’re certainly no fun. One reason the average American male reads only one book a year may be the emotional trauma suffered in trying to hack his way through Wuthering Heights at the age of 14.
I’m not saying it is necessarily a bad thing that schools require students to read books during the summer: culture, like vitamins, works best when imposed rather than selected. I am simply recording my amazement that in an age when urban high schools use weapons detectors to check for handguns, educators still make kids read The Red Badge of Courage."