Tuesday, May 29, 2007

High School Bans Teacher from Using Novels in Her "College Prep" English Class!

The LA Times recently had a very depressing op-ed called "Test-Takers, Not Students" written by Janet Ewell, an English teacher at an Orange County high school. This past fall, the adminstration banned the teaching of novels in "college prep" English classes! The principal insisted on strict adherence to a textbook that is a collection of mere excerpts because it "is aligned to the California content standards."

How exactly does this strategy prepare students for college-level work? The humanities courses I took in college expected students to read & analyze literature as a whole. A student who had never gone through the exercise in high school of reading & discussing a full book would be woefully unprepared for this type of college class.

The good news is that the district finally allowed Ms. Ewell to teach Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The bad news is they restricted her to only 7 hours' worth of class time and required her to not "teach it cover to cover".

I loved reading To Kill a Mockingbird in my high school English class. I don't recall how long we spent on it, but I'm certain it was more than 7 hours and my teacher definitely taught it "cover to cover."

Reading classic literature did not in any way prevent me from doing well on standardized tests including a top score of 5 on the Advanced Placement English Literature exam. It definitely helped prepare me for the humanities classes I took in college.

Charlotte Mason, Mortimer J. Adler, Dorothy Sayers, et al. must be rolling in their graves at the thought of school administrators banning English teachers from teaching full literary works. I know it sure reinforces my decision to homeschool!

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