4 comments on “Of Mice, Flies and Farms: Death by Examination

  1. Great post, Bill, and I couldn’t agree more with your premise. I would also add that many fifteen year olds don’t read because, as my incredible school librarian @stenmeister says, their teachers don’t bring them to the library. Pressures of curricular coverage suggests, and I see this all too often, that the library visit or even personal reading is the first thing to go. Coupled with the fact that I come across too many new and training teachers who can’t remember the last book they read. No joke. It was a passion for reading which brought me to teaching English. Is that pasion always there in the English teacher?

    • Sadly Kenny, I think you are right on all counts. Can’t speak about newly qualified teachers, but I have to say I taught with many teachers over the years who hadn’t read a book since they left university. In terms of covering the curriculum, I suppose that is really my main point. The goals are so wrong for most kids. Higher English was designed largely for those going on to study literature at university, not as any kind of ‘benchmark’ of competence. In an ideal world, I think the goal of producing lifelong readers would take over, but the bean-counters would find it too difficult to measure.

  2. I have a 15 year old son who used to read enthusiastically for hours but I lately have observed exactly what you described. He has been given what he considers out of date novels to read and is expected to analyse them until all the life is sucked out of them. Such an outdated system – it just doesn’t work any more for so many students. (Australia)

    • That sounds like a familiar story Sue. I think the problem is greater than we are even prepared to admit, as many kids are able to jump through the required hoops, which makes it look like the system is ‘working’. I suspect your son will read enthusiastically again, but unfortunately despite, rather than because of, his school experience.

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