From her original post:
And why does reading even need to be a separate subject from history in school? Give them history texts and teach reading from them. Science books too. Leave the storybooks for pleasure reading outside of school. They will be easier reading, and with well-developed reading skills, kids should feel pleasure curling up with a novel at home. But even if they don't, why should any kind of a premium be placed on an interest in reading novels? It's not tied to economic success in life and needn't be inculcated any more than an interest in watching movies or listening to popular music. Leave kids alone to find out out what recreational activities enrich and satisfy them. Some may want to dance or play music or paint. Just because teachers tend to be the kind of people who love novels does not mean that this choice ought to be imposed on young people via compulsory education. Teach them about history, science, law, logic -- something academic and substantive -- and leave the fictional material for after hours.
From her defense of the above:
Look, my main point is efficiency. Kids need to learn to read, and they should also be learning science and history too, so why not combine the two tasks? Reading would still be taught and, in the early years, would be the central focus of the lesson, but the texts would have an added benefit of getting started learning other academic subjects.I know I don't often get riled up like this here (unless it's about some scammer trying to shut down AW) but I've actually calmed down considerably and I'm still fargin' mad. I would truly like to see the writing blogosphere refute this to the heavens.
I'm not saying fiction isn't worth reading. I'm saying that it can be held for after hours pleasure reading. Frankly, I think this would increase the love of fiction. Here's this shelf of books that you can read when you finish your other work. You can take them home if you like. I think this would give them an aura of excitement. There are lots of people who have fiction forced on them and avoid it once they're out of school. My father would get passionate about his hatred of "The Return of the Native," which he was forced to read. Me, I read "The Return of the Native" and all of Thomas Hardy's novels on my own and loved them. Look at how kids read the Harry Potter books on their own. Put them outside of the classroom and let kids see them as a leisure treat.
How on earth does someone acheive a post-graduate degree in any of the humanities (that includes law, don't it?) and also ascend to some kind of public status, holding on to this kind of astonishing conceit?
What has the blogosphere said so far? I've found this at alicublog, which lead me to this on Pandagon, and the comments there are really wonderful. Other bloggers have weighed in - mostly, it appears, from the left. (Somewhere MacAllister is grinning liberally, muttering: "she's one of us, she's one of us") By goodness, there have to be some just marginally right of center folk like myself out here that feel the same. I'm not out here on my own am I?
Teaching reading is hard, hard, woefully underpaid work. I know, I've been an elementary school teacher. Something Althouse has obviously not. The objective of teaching reading through fiction is to give students the tools to understand everything they learn in school as well as just be able to sound out (or memorize) all the words they'll see on a page.
Ann says: "Kids need to learn to read, and they should also be learning science and history too, so why not combine the two tasks?"
You try to engage a room full of antsy first graders with straight history or science facts. I'd much prefer telling them a story. One can argue that learning to read If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff , doesn't teach students anything useful about math or science or history, in and of itself - but really, that's the rest of the job of the teacher - to make it relevant. Now, lets get behind that and support the teacher, instead of undercutting his or her efforts even further.
See, this is why teachers come up with thematic units that incorporate what the class is reading in the reading session with what they're learning in the other sessions of the day. For example, the Moose and Muffin story - for math you can bring in muffins and count all the muffins you'd need to feed everyone in the story (I'm not taking this from real life - it's been long ago enough that I don't remember the exact details of the story, nor the lesson plans I used with it, but just go with me here). Then learn subtraction by eating them.
Science - do moose like muffins? Then what do they really eat? Could they eat just muffins?
Nature, geography, ecology: Where can you find moose in the United States? Where do they migrate, what kind of land is best for moose? How does man impact the moose habitat? Trust me, the kids are interested in this. They love the moose - he's the star of that book they had so much fun learning to read. Plus we're coloring maps, building mobiles out of construction paper and yarn, etc.
History - how did the settlers of the west use moose, in trade, as food, as clothing? How about the Native Americans?
See, learning to read from the book is just one tiny part of the curriculum. Now, replace the story with dry factual and age appropriate math, science and history. How excited are the kids about learning to read, now, Ann? You think they'll retain those lessons nearly as long or as well as they did the Moose and muffin related ones? Thousands of teachers will tell you otherwise.
And it just starts there, other longer stories, then "chapter books" and then middle grade novels, are used this way all through elementry school. When the students hit middle school and High School, literature classes are separate, but they're still part of an integrated curriculum that is (hopefully) designed to teach more than just ever more polished reading skills.
Reading Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time gets students exposed to physics and math. Reading Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth teaches logic and number theory (amongst many other things). I didn't know what the Fibbonaci numbers were (or the Golden Spiral and its ubiquousness in nature) before I pre-read that book in order to teach it to my class - so even I learned something that 8 years of post elementary education (High School + college and post college studies) hadn't taught me. I could go on and on. As a substitute teacher for 4 years and a private school teacher for an additional two, I am utterly convinced that teaching fiction to my students was essential to the entire learning experience.
pfft. Ann's a dolt. I'm done - anyone who reads here, gets the point. I doubt she or her supporters ever will.