Friday, December 2, 2011

What is the point of an English class anymore? #EngChat

The most fun I have in class is when my kids are having discussions about literature and relating it to the world around them today. Isn't that why we read? Isn't that why authors write? Are English classes today becoming test prep course for state exams? If my students uses one too many run-on sentences but can explain the complexity of Twain's satire in Huck Finn and compare it to Saturday Night Live's view of the Presidency, does that make them a bad student? Does that make me a bad teacher?

The reason I ask is because of a conversation I had with some English teachers online the other day. They were stressing the importance of being common in all of their classrooms and making sure all of their exams align with their state exam. Now, I understand the importance of preparing students for the state exam. However, are we preparing them to be thinkers? When I look at the world around me, I make constant comparisons to literature I have read. When I hear about a school district banning a book, I think of Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury. When ever some talks about trying to relive the past, I can't help but think of Gatsby and the green light. TV uses literary allusions all of the time and a part of me smiles when I see those connections because I feel like I'm part of an inside joke the writers put there just for me. Are our kids going to feel the same thing if texts are only used to teach specific skills to prepare them for state exams? 

What about teaching the beauty of reading? Why not focus on the value of making connections? These are parts of life that are valuable to people long after they are done taking tests. Am I wrong in wanting to show my students how scary The Hunger Games is when we look around the world and see laws and governments that are seen in the story? Does it make me a bad teacher? What is the point of an English class anymore?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

- @TheNerdyTeacher