It got me thinking…and discussing with the family about the highlights of our school reading lives.
The tragedy was gradually revealed, though, as B21 and B18 shared not only their lack of inspiring, interesting school texts, but the utter dearth of said texts in the first place.
Mr Books and I, over 30 years after the event, could recall every single book, play and poet that we read for our HSC years, and with a little more effort we could also recall most of the books read throughout years 7 – 10 as well.
Whereas both boys only remembered their meagre list of texts thanks to our prompts.
It seems like the teaching of English no longer stresses, you know, actual reading!
The books selected, according to the boys, were ones that could be read aloud in class, as no-one was expected to actually, you know, read the books by themselves at home.
They also don’t remember discussing the books except in terms of purpose and narrative style.
They memorised certain critical phrases and ideas that they then regurgitated in exams, with no idea what any of it meant.
They didn’t even have to read the books in question as none of the exam questions or class discussions were actually about, you know, the story.
The book was selected purely as an example of a text type and that’s all that mattered for the rest of the course.
The joy of reading and language was completely absent.
Author intent and individual reader experiences were irrelevant.
Neither boy now reads.
Which breaks my heart.
B21 used to be an avid reader, but a combination of getting his first smart phone in the middle of his high school years & the current mode of teaching English stopped all that dead.
B18 always struggled to get into reading.
He just didn’t see the point of it.
After constant trying, we finally found that he enjoyed stories like Wonder by R. J. Palacio, but as many of you probably already know, books like Wonder are not very common in the junior fiction market.
Since his high school years, anything to do with reading or books has been anathema for him.
Any need or desire he may have had for stories, magic or imagination he found in movies and getting lost in another’s world now happens via games like Fortnight.
Given the amount of joy, comfort and companionship that books and plays and theatre have given both Mr Books and I over the years, we wonder what the boys will turn to during their own future times of need.
Perhaps, we’re being old fashioned fuddy-duddy’s.
Maybe the wonderful world of new technology, AI and AR will provide our Gen Zedder’s with their own kind of joy, comfort and companionship?
I’m also forgetting, that during my school years, our parents were worried about the effects of television on our minds and lives.
Schools had stopped teaching grammar and our parents generation was horrified.
What were we doing to our kids and what did it mean for the future?
Maybe, I am now simply on the other side of the generational divide.
Oh the irony!
I just hope that I live long enough to enjoy watching our Zedder’s angst over the educational standards inflicted on their oh so modern kids.
Catcher in the Rye
(A) The Rabbits by John Marsden & Shaun Tan
He also recalls that early in Yr 7 or 8 he may have watched a TV version of a Shakespeare play.
It may have had fairies in it, but he can’t really remember.
And he doesn’t care.