It can be easily argued that the choices people make in high school essentially shape the human being that they grow up to be. A passion for literature and reading is included in this generalization. In her essay, I Know Why the Cage Bird Cannot Read, Francine Prose writes about how we are supposed to be introduced to major literary works during high school--and, furthermore, learn to evaluate and understand the language used in them and the connections that we make with it--and how this is being inhibited in an alarming number of schools across the United States. If this is truly the case, then we should all be very concerned about the literacy of our nation, because my own high school English education has been a joke at the best of times.
Literature is supposed to make you think. It should make the reader look between the lines for the deeper meaning, examine the language and syntax choices that the writer makes. Reading, when done properly, is the most healthy exercise for your brain. The way that literature has been presented in our high school English classes, however, undermines that entire idea. English class mainly consists of listening to the teacher (or, worse, a monotonous, unwilling student) trudge slowly through a book, pausing every few lines or paragraphs so that the teacher can give us his or her opinion on what we just read. Assignments mainly appeal to the student's own personal history and emotions, and evaluation of language or syntax is rarely brushed over at best.
How is this sort of approach supposed to foster a healthy love for learning and reading books? As functional, thinking young adults, can't teachers expect us to at least think for ourselves without having to hold our hands and guide us along to the proper conclusion? With the sort of experience that reading in a high school class room presents, it's hardly surprising that many of my own peers view reading with intense distaste.
This dislike of literature formed,...