Sunday, January 06, 2013

American Education: Graphic Novels - Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Hello, Dr. Bucky!

James Bucky Carter, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, wrote a book that guides teachers in pairing graphic novels with traditional texts."I think we live in an age where we should not study text in isolation," he said. "Every text should be put in relation to something else," such as graphic novels as supplements to traditional literature. Chicago Tribune

In the photo above is Dr. James Bucky Carter, an asstistant professor of English education at University of Texas of El Paso. The above photo is from the professor's website.  The Chicago Tribune wrote a glowing piece on the application for Professor Bucky's methodolgies employed at Alan B. Shepard High School, in the south west Chicago suburbs.

Dr. Bucky advocates the use of graphic novels (comic books in the classroom) not only to aid in the development of slow readers, but in Honors English and Advanced Placement courses as well.

Professor Bucky has much going for him, an advanced degree in English education. a tenured track position with University of Texas Farm System, a sure fire path to full class loads completely free of academic rigor, a culture dumb-ed down to the point that newspapers must be offered in digest form ( RedEye), literature must wait for the movie ( Anna Karenina Redux)  and history in the care of Oliver Stone is even considered. . .for anything of substantive historical perspective.

Reading is a rigorous activity.  Reading and writing require hard work. More so, misreading and misunderstanding have contributed to miseries historical and sundry - Guttenberg developed the printing press to free Western Man from the clutches of clerics who printed books by hand.  As a result the Northern ( read Dutch/English) Humanists like Disiderius Erasmus and Sir Thomas More, both were trained by the manuscript illustrating monks with books printed on Gutenberg's moveable type.  Though both the clerical abuses of the Medici and Borgia Popes, neither ditched the Faith.

Their contemporary, the activist Augustinian priest Martin Luther, used the graphic novels of the day, Broadsheets, to make propaganda weapon that would reach its zenith in 1920's Bavaria.

Martin Luther's graphic novels  ( like Lucas Cranach's "Kissing the Pope's feet" and the Monk Calf)
sparked decades of religious slaughter. Lucas Cranach, the Stan Lee of the 16th Century, illustrated Martin Luther's tracts aimed at particular demographics, ignorant and illiterate peasants and ignorant and reading-challenged German nobility nurturing particular beefs with ecclesiastical princes.

Illustrations help texts make clear authorial intent.  William Makepeace Thackeray illustrated all of his works and Charles Dickens hired out illustrators Hablot K. Browne to help readers of Pickwick Papers understand what lies within his words.

Babies learn to love books via picture books and all good elementary developmental texts are illustrated to some extent.

Our public  secondary schools are a disaster.  Teacher training is enthralled to Colleges of Education and mastery of academic disciplines remain subject to the limitations set by those colleges. Teachers who don't know their subjects, but are certified to teach are placed in classrooms thick with challenging and willful youngsters.  Shortly, the cry of "No one cares about learning" is heard crawling its way from under the tightly closed doors of the novice's classroom.  It is easier to become a teacher than it is to become an electrician, carpenter, pipe-fitter, or stationary engineer.  The certification process of the trades is much more rigorous and exacting.  The apprenticeship programs for the skilled trades are much more carefully monitored than any Student Teacher program.

Advanced degrees in the subject ( biology/English/history & etc.) to mastered are discouraged in favor of a M.Eds. and Ed.Ds worth exactly the papers they are printed up . . .without illustration. A public  school head could never expect let alone request a driver's ed instructor with more than  few free periods in his day to take over a history class, " Hey, sorry Doc, not my rice bowl.".

I have yet to meet a skilled tradesman unable to engage in cross-disciplinary work ( cut pipe, build a frame, wire, or weld) and do so with professionalism.  There are no graphic novels in plumbing.

Teachers wholly unfamiliar with Beowulf and its place in the canon of English literature well ahead of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, don't ken kennings, or their thorn from their ash, much less wynn over the students to beauty and fun of Old English, will necessarily embrace a good comic book over Seamus Heaney's translation.

Goodbye Mr. Chips and Hello Dr. Bucky.

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