I was reading about Michele's travails
with the public school system's "zero tolerance" violence policy (which is translated "zero tolerance for the victims of school violence because we'd much rather blame you for being a quiet law-abiding citizen than confront someone who may actually, you know, react in a way that would make us uncomfortable--eek!"), and was getting depressed enough over the state of education in this country when my husband decided to add to my despair.
Hublet has recently changed jobs and become a high school english teacher. I am pleased to report that he made it through his first semester relatively unscathed, and that 14-18 year olds relate well to him--insert joke about relative maturity levels here; I certainly have. So this semester he's picked up a class of college-level seniors, and he's all excited about being able to teach British Lit., wandering the house pulling books off of shelves and muttering about how there's just not enough time. I heart my little lit-geek hublet, I do.
However, his excitement was somewhat dimmed when he picked up the "standard text" for literature as approved by the edu-honchos and noticed, next to an essay by Milton
, a piece by Anna Quindlen
. Now, here's the thing--content, politics, or anything else aside here, Anna Quindlen's name should NEVER appear next to Milton's, not because I'm trying to say she's a no-talent hack with a series of bizarre axes to grind, but because they are apples and oranges. However, in the relativist world of pc-mandated education, the fact that both writers produced essays within their lifetimes makes them equivalent.
Where do I even start with this? There's SO MUCH WRONG with a worldview that completely erases the great gulf of complex differences between the author of Paradise Lost
and the author of Thinking Out Loud
that I shouldn't even need to write about it. But apparently these differences are lost on the folks RESPONSIBLE for EDUCATING the YOUTH OF AMERICA. Who cares about any of that esoteric culture and history stuff? They both wrote, and this way, women writers can't complain about getting short shrift.
Would someone please explain that the reason women and minorities are underrepresented in the Western Canon is because they weren't taught to read and write on a regular basis until about 100 years ago? Why must we overlook the realities of history, which would incidentally give students a much larger appreciation of writers like Jane Austen and Frederick Douglass, in order to make everyone "feel good about themselves?"
Instead, students are spoon fed crap like The Country of the Pointed Firs
alongside Sister Carrie
, and told, when they notice the great gulf in quality, that these pieces of literature are merely "different, not better or worse than one another." Students don't buy this lie on an instinctual level, but because of the need by educators to help human nature overcome itself by simply erasing inconvenient facts like "for the most part, men produced better literature than women in the 19th century, and here's why," they are not given the critical vocabulary that would help them articulate their feelings. So they feel cheated and lied to, and become cynical A-seekers, divorced from the joy of literature.
When we read, we want a story that speaks to us on many levels. You may have to struggle with Shakesperean language, but once you do, the rewards are innumerable. No one sits down to read a novel on the basis of the race or gender of the novelist--well, except for the folks at the Department of Public Instruction. And that, friends, is the problem. Milton wept.