*As a belated 2015 New Years Resolution, I decided I would write a daily (or, almost daily, I know some days I just won’t be able to find the time) blog answering a thought provoking question from a long list of questions I found here in a quest of self exploration.
Today’s Chosen Question :
If you could choose one book as a mandatory read for all high school students, which book would you choose?
That’s actually a really tough question. All of the obvious books, classic lit with very important lessons are already often used as mandatory high school reading, i.e. To Kill A Mockingbird, etc. I’m going to be a question-rebel and take this in a different direction. I don’t think the question should be what book should be mandatory reading, but more, how can you teach a lesson about a book in a way where the lesson of the book sticks in students minds and makes them better people?
In sixth grade, I had this awesome social studies teacher who was a bald, short guy in his fifties. One day we walked into a classroom and most of the desks were gone. There were about six desks, two huge comfy bean-bag chairs,and then just empty carpet space. We all had to pick pieces of paper out of a hat. Most of the papers said “poor” a handful (six) said “middle class” and two said “rich.” The rich people got the bean-bag chairs. The middle-class got the desks and the rest of the class (most of the class) had to sit on the floor. He taught as normal mostly for the rest of the week, only the rich people got to do whatever they wanted; drink soda or eat in class, get up and go to the bathroom whenever they wanted, etc. The middle class had to ask permission, sometimes they would be granted said permission and sometimes not. If a poor person asked to use the bathroom he would literally refuse to let us go. Parents started complaining by Wednesday day wanting to know why their child was being treated poorly in class. Friday morning he finally said, “Don’t you understand yet? This is how America works.” And suddenly we ALL understood the lesson, and it was so much more relevant and potent than trying to explain how the class system works by say teaching it out of a textbook.
Later that year, we walked into class on a Monday and each had to pick either a blue, or green ribbon. We had to wear the ribbons on our wrist and had no clue what they were for. Similar to the class-system lesson, our teacher was kind and granted privilege to one group (I don’t remember which color) and treating the other group like crap. This was a lesson about racism, and until you are discriminated against, treated like shit for NO REASON you don’t truly understand racism. (Let me clarify, as a white American I would feel pompous to ever claim I understand racism from the receiving end) but the point and impact of the lesson truly stuck with me. In all of my elementary and High School years, that its the ONLY teacher that actually had an impact on the values and beliefs I try and live my life by in my adult-present.
The relevancy of this to said question is that I think that assigning a required reading book and making kids write a book report on it is not going to make the important lesson and brilliant literature actually effect the way they think and see the world. You have to integrate the book, or the lesson of the book, into their lives for them to truly benefit from it. Theres millions of books that should be required, some that already are and some that have yet to become classic lit but you can assign ten amazing timeless classics to a student to read throughout the year and if they read it because they have to and write a report in whatever fashion they think the teacher wants because they want a good grade, you more or less just wasted the students time and the authors talent.