Thursday, 29 August 2013

Because 'Dumbing Down', Ashley...

...that's why...
Before they arrive on campus this fall, many American college freshmen will already have finished their first assignment. Their colleges have given them a "common reading", one book that they are all expected to read. Last year, 309 colleges made such assignments. It's a great tradition, but something curious has happened since my days as a college student. Only eight schools assigned anything published before 1990, and only four assigned books that could by any stretch be considered classics.
It's something of a rhetorical question she asks, though. She really knows the answer:
Racism is probably the most commonly touched chord in the common readings. Of course, there are great works of literature such as Othello that might serve to introduce students to that, but the emphasis in the common readings is on indicting contemporary society, not on discerning an age-old affliction.
Quite...
Yet another reason why colleges harvest only new growth in the book vineyard is the idea that students are ready for only the most tender shoots. Defenders of the choices say they want "accessibility" and "relevance". Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and even Zora Neale Hurston just don't make the cut when it comes to relevant social issues. In response to critics, some of the colleges say that the books they pick are likely to be the "classics of the future", but the turnover among the choices from year to year suggests either that we are due for an unprecedented avalanche of new classics or that most of these hunches are off the mark.
I know where I'll place my bet.

11 comments:

Lynne at Counting Cats said...

Janet and John books are classics in their own right. I think that some of our secondary school alumni will be hard pressed to get to the last page though.

MTG said...

The Bard was as much anti-semite as he was anti-lawyer but bestowed admirable qualities upon alien characters including Othello, Julia. Poe and Hemingway aside, what constitutes America's cultural history amounts to zilch for a Continent.

Bucko The Moose said...

""Classics of the future""

That's the excuse I use when buying a car off ebay

Demetrius said...

Dr. Jeremy Taylor should be read by all, especially Holy Living and Holy Dying. He is especially good on the subject of marriage. It is only four hundred years and a week or two since he was born.

Anonymous said...

This book is a classic - Stoner.
One of the few books from the mid 20th Century that I have read more than once.

James Higham said...

Women's Studies?

Longrider said...

So never mind that Shakespeare touches on issues that transcend time because humanity is still humanity six hundred years later, eh?

Anonymous said...

Isn't reading a bit passe?

JuliaM said...

"Poe and Hemingway aside, what constitutes America's cultural history amounts to zilch for a Continent."

Not a Steinbeck or Wolfe fan, MTG?

"That's the excuse I use when buying a car off ebay"

Heh! Most of today's old bangers are decidedly dodgy...

"So never mind that Shakespeare touches on issues that transcend time because humanity is still humanity six hundred years later, eh?"

Not to the progressives. They really do genuinely believe we're totally different now.

"Isn't reading a bit passe?"

I see more people with Kindles on the train than I think I ever did with books...

MTG said...

"Not a Steinbeck or Wolfe fan, MTG?"

Absolutely astonishing reading for anyone otherwise bored out of their mind. Incidentally, Steinbeck holds the record for novels which the film improved.

Anonymous said...

How about "The Art of Conversation And Not Lying to Rush In And Bomb Countries" by T Blair and A Campbell?
Penseivat