The world suffers its well-meaning fools,
who often jump in before sensibility rules.
Afraid to confront what they know not,
they carry their protection like a frock. Ronald W. Hull
I have missed teaching English to high school kids. In order to support my family, I have been doing Institutional Advancement work since 1994 - exclusively. Here, at Leo High School, I have substituted in the classroom when and where needed. One year I taught science for three weeks. Christ forgive me.
Time to go back in.
The kids need an experienced, demanding and deeply schooled goad in the classroom. The need is great. One of the most heroic young men that it has been honor to meet in forty years of teaching and education struggles with reading and he will graduate and go on to college in few months.
He has never been challenged. I pick the young man up in Bronzeville every morning and he is constantly buried in some text. One teacher even selected a For Dummies product. I am not kidding. That was my epiphany - or, in Apple/Smart Book language my WTF moment.
I told the fierce and moral young gent, " Read anything, but this is a bit off-putting."
He replied, " What's 'off-putting?'
" It means if you are handed some horseshit, don't eat it."
" To be sure, my friend. How did you feel when these books were trotted out."
" I was pissed, but Mr. _______ said that we needed this to get the basic understanding of the stuff."
" Would you rather eat at Mikey D's, or Schaller's? "
" Schallers no doubt."
" The food is better and they treat you with dignity. not like some punk."
The teacher was well-meaning and having read the entry scores formed his curriculum.
More damage has been done by well-meaning chart readers than anything caused in nature. Neville Chamberlain, General Walter Short, WEB Dubois, . . .
I will return to the classroom and I will use the Norton Introduction to Literature Anthology at all four levels. Four years;one book.
No kiddie lit; no pop novels; no ethno-centric pap, no PC huggie books, no comic books; no graphic novels, but real meaty poetry, fiction, drama and prose, as well as critical essays. The students will read and understand what they read. They will speak of what they read and they will write about what they have read
I get sickened when I find hundreds of unopened, unread and discarded copies of To Kill a Mockingbird, The Kite Runner and The Great Gatsby covering the halls on the last day of the year. One text for four years.
They will not be denied contact with white table cloths, cutlery and cuisine. They will not be denied courtesy and prompt service from their attendant service provider. They will knock down the best in writing and thought. They will learn to be discerning This I pledge.
This will be no tip-toe through the tulips in search of rainbows and unicorns. This will be a bitch and a half and worth it.