Home > Uncategorized > Ever get anywhere taking a shortcut?

Ever get anywhere taking a shortcut?

Since I’ve been laid up for 2 days running with my own personal case of Ebola, I’m doing my best to catch up on an ever-changing world. Yesterday my daughter mentioned that the latest shot across the progress bow is for schools to replace libraries with computer work-stations. Not add computer work-stations to libraries mind you. Get rid of libraries altogether. You know, no more of those quaint (and space-eating) books. Because who needs them in the world of Google and all that.

So essentially, let’s revise our reading lists shall we? Replace “The Grapes of Wrath” with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grapes_of_Wrath? Perhaps a link to purchasing the Cliff Notes on Amazon.com? With some kick back to the school?

So first we stop teaching kids how to write (cursive writing? gone…), and now let’s encourage them not to read, as if the devices that schools are forced to rip from Junior’s hand every morning don’t do enough of that already.

I can hear you though, don’t worry. Surely they’ll simply “read” on their devices. You know. Kindles and Nooks and whatever the ghost of Steve Jobs calls the Apple version. Yes….and they can learn a foreign language by falling asleep listening to tapes too! There are two types of people in the world. One side decides they want to bend a spoon, so they take it in their hand and bend it. The other side googles “Uri Geller”.

As you can tell…I am here to praise books, not to bury them. The burying kind are misguided souls who never experienced the pure joy of packing for vacation and setting aside a separate suitcase for reading material. And maybe….just maybe….these are the same folks who want to ban Twain and Salinger every September….to save our little darlings from life itself. Wild guesses are my thing.

(Why don’t we get rid of all the Chemistry beakers and replace them with YouTube links to experiments? Think of the insurance money we could save? There’s always that idiot who manages to get chemicals in his eyes.)

grapesofwrathfondasteinbeckI adore books. They are my passion. Before the written word our learning was via the oral tradition. Just think how a simple statement whispered around a room gets mutated by the time it reaches the first cheerleader and you can see the down side to this. But words written down. Now that’s grown up stuff. Steinbeck. Twain. They’ll last forever. And while they may spark debate….hell….all good learning sparks debate…nobody can claim that Tom Joad was a right wing conservative (well..um…see next paragraph for what they do claim). It is written. Read it. Learn from it. Go out and multiply and teach your offspring to do likewise.

I’m not against technology. This is a blog after all, I’m not writing these words with a quill pen. I’m all for technology when it advances learning. I’ll all against it when it encourages laziness. How many kids in high school actually read the books assigned to them? I mean cover to cover. Every word. Teachers love to think they can ask the kind of super-duper-insider-handshake questions that can’t possibly be known otherwise. But teachers are sometimes blinded by the fancy degrees hanging on their walls. So I’m here to say that any reasonably intelligent kid can pass a normal test on “The Grapes of Wrath” without actually reading “The Grapes of Wrath”. Hell….watching the movie might be enough in some cases. But the “themes” and the “what does Tom represent” questions are almost as predictable as the Fox News housewives who consider the Joad family to be Stalin loving commies.

I’ve read the Grapes of Wrath. Multiple times. I’ve devoured this book. Give me an hour with a kid with an average IQ and I’ll trick that kid’s teacher. Because what you learn from a book can’t possibly be tested. It’s what you carry away from it in your DNA….dare I say….your soul. A great book and its lessons stay with you forever. Long after a harried teacher puts down his or her red pen.

But the kid has to read it first. You know. The book. In it’s glorious heft. From a library (or for 1 penny on Amazon. Yes, 1 penny. The world can be had that cheaply….3.99 shipping included of course). That’s where books used to be. And that’s what some schools want to take away. In the name of…well….something that seems like progress because it’s got wires coming out of it.

aaatt“To Kill a Mockingbird” is still on high school reading lists. There are still those who try to suppress it, but stupid is as American as apple pie too. You can’t regulate small minds (although a nation that put a man on the moon should be able to keep them off school boards).

I read this book as a very early teen. At the time I knew nothing….like most teens. I lived in my own head…inside my own four walls. History meant 4th period, and the world was created the day I was born. Civil rights? Blacks? What?

Atticus Finch….a man who never existed. Fiction. Gregory Peck in that splendid white suit. He gently explains racism to his precocious daughter Scout. She asks him if he’s a “nigger-lover”….and after he tells her not to use that word (“ignorant, trashy people use it”) he says to her “I certainly am….I do my best to love everybody.”

And at that moment….I started to mature. I wasn’t asked about this on the test…..a test I probably passed with an 85 or so (“Discuss the author’s treatment of Boo Radley using the passive voice and no adverbs….” arghhhh!)…as a student I lived in Lake Woebegone and was depressingly slightly above average. But it was my personal moment. It belonged to me. Such lines in the sand can’t be dictated by questions on a test. And they don’t exist at all if all you do is scour wikipedia. It was a one on one connection. Harper Lee….to me.

I’m not done yet either. That’s what books do. Like a good drug….you’re always searching for that same high (get that suitcase ready!). And you know what? Over the years I’ve gotten there. Again and again.

But I never got anywhere taking a shortcut.

In a bit..



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