The trend toward student-centered learning (as opposed to teacher-directed learning) has already created a self-satisfied, poorly prepared, and somewhat somnolent cohort of college students. But a new trend could make things worse. On Saturday the New York Times reported on “reading workshops” in middle school that are designed to awaken students’ interest in reading by letting them choose the books to read. Author James Patterson is popular; so are “young-adult chick-lit novels” and even the “’Captain Underpants’ series of comic-book-style novels,” writes Motoko Rich.
So kids don’t want to read the books their teachers select? Let them read whatever they want.
Of course, personal choice has its value, and Phi Beta Cons blogger Mark Bauerlein is quoted as being at least tolerant of the trend. But the movement reflects the desperation of educators who can’t get kids to read anything at all. As Mark said, he used to be a “great-books, high-culture kind of person,” but now, he says, “we just need to preserve book habits among the kids as much as we possibly can.”
I too want kids to read. But worse than today’s post-literacy habits and lack of shared literate culture may be the arrogant ignorance that will follow such self-directed reading, starting in middle school.