From: San Antonio, TX
ORIGINAL: Gary Childress
ORIGINAL: Gary Childress
I think they are doing a big disservice to school kids by forcing them to read all these classics. Kids should read stuff more focused on entertainment so that they'd get hooked up on reading.
I disagree. I'm very thankful that my teachers stimulated my thinking by having me read the classics. At the time I wish I could have completed my assignments in class by reading comic books but as I've grown older I've come to appreciate what I was "force fed" as a child.
In most of cases, forcing classics on kids doesn't result in stimulating their thinking but in making them hate reading books.
Also those classics that were written with teenagers in mind can be introduced in high school.
Notice, that since you'd prefer reading comic books, it means that you were already reading for enjoyment, so classics couldn't spoil reading for you. I also started reading from comics. Then I was reading adventure novels, western novels and war books, all before the school started to torture me with its mandatory readings.
Yup. Me too. I started enjoying graphic novel renditions of some classics long before the 'text' versions. "Red Badge of Courage", "Moby Dick", "Crime and Punishment" combined intrigue, violence and suspense aplenty for a new reader. The graphic novel was a great intro. for this genre.
Still hate mandated classics reading. Worst book I ever was made to suffer through was "Madame Bovary" for an expository composition class. What a steaming pile of waste. Just because a book is classic doesn't make it readable.
I read Madame Bovary a while back on my own initiative. Unfortunately I don't remember much about the book and most of it was probably wasted on me but looking at Wiki:
Long established as one of the greatest novels ever written, the book has often been described as a "perfect" work of fiction. Henry James writes: "Madame Bovary has a perfection that not only stamps it, but that makes it stand almost alone; it holds itself with such a supreme unapproachable assurance as both excites and defies judgment."
I think it would be sort of neat to take a class on what made Madame Bovary a great work. I'm sure there must be some reasonable explanation that a literary philistine like me might be ignorant of.
I can't speak for literary classics but I can speak for scientific and philosophical classics to some degree. What marks a philosophical classic is in some part due to how influential a philosopher's view was at the time and how much it has influenced our own culture. Few believe in Plato's perfect forms anymore but for centuries Western thought owed a direct debt to Plato and we still do. Plato did do something very unique and important by asking for the first time through Socrates, what is justice, what is piety, what makes a good life. These are important quesitons and the way they were answered has influenced Western culture down to the present.
Also I think part of the rationale behind making kids read certain things is to find out what a child will respond best to. We are required to study a diversity of different sciences and arts so that we can see for ourselves at an early age what we have an interest in. My own pet beef with my education at a young age is that few American public schools seem to introduce children to much in the way of philosophy. Philosophy is a passion of mine and I always wonder, had I been introduced to it sooner (at least in high school) I might be better off today and more fluent in its works, making it easier for me to understand our own time.
I don't really feel anger toward my childhood teachers for making me read things I didn't want to read. I feel more ashamed that at the time I didn't take more interest in those readings. They are important (again I don't know much about literature) in understanding more about who we are and why we think the way we do.
So for instance what makes "Shattered Sword" so important to some World War II enthusiasts? "Shattered Sword" (if I understand correclty, I haven't read the book myself) sort of shatters the myth of Japanese supremacy early in the war by arguing that their ship designs and tactics were not as "great" as authors had formerly attributed to them. This is an important work to World War II enthusiasts because of its influence on their thinking. I suppose if I were a fiction writer or literary type I would be a little more fluent in what makes a piece of literature "important". But I'm not going to rule that literature is bunk because I don't understand it. Usually there are good reasons for things being as they are. I may just not understand those reasons off the bat as it were.
LOL! So Wikipedia will be the arbiter of classic literature, will it?
Sure, there are novels and other literature that is impenetrable to my perspective, that I just 'don't get'. If I want to be lost in old books that I don't understand, I can read up on initial works by Pythagoras, Euclideas or some of Einstein's scientific publications. I won't claim they're bunk because I can't understand them or find them interesting, I promise.
"Classic" literature is supposed to be different. Not necessarily written for the masses, but it should elicit thought, enjoyment and appreciation for the medium amongst many, if not most, of its readers. Not a popularity contest mind you, but a classic cannot be a classic if very few think it a useful or worthwhile read.
I won't argue that the philosophers you cited are classical philosophers and worthwhile for most people to have at least a passing familiarity with their works. I cannot say the same for Flaubert's POS fictional novel. It "ate" about two weeks of my life, I sure as **** am not going to take a class explaining why I 'should' like it, if only I were more intellectually sophisticated.
What is a 'classic' and a 'must-read' is not exclusively personal choice, but it is mostly personal opinion, IMO.