According to this report a number of schools who were presented with free classical books had them returned as being ‘too boring’ for current students.
I can sympathise to an extent. When I first studied Shakespeare in class it was mind-numbingly dull, the presentation was fundamentally flawed – Shakespeare’s work are plays meant to be performed, not read as if they were novels. Nor were they meant to be analysed and pored over until every bit of fun and entertainment was wrung from it until all that remains is a ‘carcass fit for hounds’.
Once I saw Shakespeare performed (especially by the RSC) I was hooked and realised just what these great works were all about. Not only that, I could then go back and ‘read’ the plays and gain an even greater understanding of them so that when I watched them again for a second or third time (which I did willingly) I was able to get even more out of the repeated performances.
What was needed wasn’t that these works be abandoned, but simply that they should be presented well.
Where my understanding and sympathies run dry though, is in reading the quotes from the ‘librarians’ at these thankless schools, who hold the opinion that Manga comics and “magazines” (and I’m sure my assumptions of puerility en masse are not entirely unfounded) some how equates to ‘reading’.
Saying that these books are somehow ‘too difficult’ for current students, is an admission of failure of the education system on such a scale as to be tantamount to criminal neglect of the education of our children. These skills form the fundamental basis for just about everything else that follows throughout both academic and professional lives – it’s something like saying that a fish doesn’t really need to know how to swim.
If you are a parent, you should be angry. Your children are being turned in to the lowest, most poorly educated factory fodder that has been seen in probably close to 70 years. If you aren’t a parent, you should still be angry, because the upshot of all these badly educated children is that our potential as a race is diminished in real terms. If kids can’t read, do maths, understand science etc. then where are our next crop of scientists and engineers going to come from? Hell, forget that, where are our next round of plumbers and electricians going to come from?
As for the librarians and school administrators decrying these books as ‘too hard’ – they should lose their jobs. Immediately. The education of our children is far too important to entrust to people who equate Manga with Shakespeare and believe our kids are incapable of understanding or learning from books that were a commonplace part of our education system just thirty years ago.
One of the sad things about expectations is that they are all too often self-fulfilling. If you assume that a child is incapable of something, then they generally become incapable of that thing. This has been proven repeatedly. Similarly, if you have high expectations of children (or people in general) then they tend to live up to them.
Also, any government that accepts such a situation, whatever its nominal political bent, should resign and if they fail to resign they should be forced out through election or otherwise. For far too long our political ‘leaders’ have pursued their own selfish interests, while letting the vital systems within our culture wither en masse. It’s time they were held to account.
Finally, we have to shoulder our share of blame and take responsibility for our actions too. Far too many people are willing to deceive themselves that things are better than they are, especially when it comes to their children, than to face up to the uncomfortable truth that we are acting negligently and actually failing the ones that we profess to love the most.
The future is ours to make, for good or bad.