The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Teaching great books to kids

Interesting commentary at The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates on the value of teaching sophisticated great books to young kids "How to Teach Books to Kids." The basic idea is that when you read great books at too young of an age, they don't really stick and you don't understand them. In other words, it might not be a good idea to try and force youngsters to read these books.

I can't say I disagree. Though I'd love it if more people were familiar with the great books and think great books educations are great, it's an education that simply isn't appropriate for most people, and very few young kids are ready for it. I am presuming that people do mostly forget about the great books they read when young, which I can't say for certain is the case, but it seems likely. As a person involved in teaching Philosophy, I can say I've many times talked to people who, when I mention that I'm getting my PhD in philosophy, mention that they'd studied some philosophy in undergrad or high school. But they invariably can remember almost nothing of what they'd studied. It's not because they have poor memory, it's just because the things they learned weren't too useful to them and it's been too long. Education has costs. It takes time and it takes money. So, if you learn about something and pretty much entirely forget it within a few years, it seems like you've wasted that time and money. It's primary value is that you can honestly say, "Oh yeah, I read that. It's really good."

I think it's more realistic to expect kids to read books at their age level. Don't try to foist books that don't really grab them (they'll remember books that engross them much better than those that don't) and make them and make them think that reading is boring. Just get them to read and write at their own level. I think because there're are a lot of smart people that are really intrigued by great books, that they expect everyone else will be equally as fascinated, but it's simply not true. More freedom in what students get to read. Let them discover the important stuff on their own.

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