Thursday, March 31, 2011

September 1993: Generic "He" and Singular "They"

Question: How do we resolve the problem of “Everyone returned to his house”?

Answer: Make “they” singular. Change the language.

The authors suggest that “they” be accepted as singular.

Comment: Use some common sense. Simply start in the plural and stay there. Instead of “Everyone returned to his house,” use the following: “All of the students returned to their houses.” Besides the subject is more precise. Preferable to alternating “his” and “her” as in “Everyone returned to his or her house” (ugly) or the traditionally ungrammatical “Everyone returned to his house.” I wrote a 580-page books in which I consciously began in the plural and stayed there. Many things wrong with that book, but I noticed how smoothly the language flowed when I started in the plural and stayed there. RayS.

Title: “The Politics of Grammar Handbooks: Generic He and Singular They. Sharon Zuber and Ann M. Reed. College English (September 1993), 515-532.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

September 1973: Literature at the College Level

Question: What are the problems with teaching literature at the college level?

Answer/Quote: “Here is a seldom mentioned but universally known fact of our profession, bluntly stated: the vast majority of our undergraduate students do not love or appreciate literature as we do. Indeed, the value of studying literature, the rewards of reading, are not immediately apparent to a surprisingly large number of students, despite a vaguely conceived (and externally imposed) notion that reading ‘serious’ literature is somehow essential to becoming ‘a well-rounded person.’

“So we shake our heads in dismay, share our war stories in faculty lounges, rejoice in our occasional successes, and generally bemoan these students’ lack of interest, spotty education, and limited life experiences; the sorry state of basic literacy in recent years; the dismal and misguided teaching conducted in high schools; and, eventually, the anti-intellectual strain in American culture itself, exacerbated by television, Danielle Steel, and Stephen King. Embedded in all this are unstated inklings that our entire enterprise may be suspect or indefensibly elitist.”

The author’s solution to this problem is stated in his title: “Connecting Literature to Students’ Lives.”

Comment: When English majors feel this way about literature, as was stated to me by the graduate of a major university who said, “Nobody reads Henry James, any more,” the believers in reading literature as a way of sensitizing human beings to life are in real trouble. I believe that the idea as stated in the author’s title is the only solution to the problem for students who are not planning to become English majors—and maybe for students who are. RayS.

Title: “Connecting Literature to Students’ Lives. Dan Morgan. College English (September 1993) 491-500.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

November 1994: Young Adult "Problem Novels"

Question: What are some of the best Young Adult “Problem Novels”?

Answer: “Reflections on the 25th Anniversary of the Young Adult Problem Novel” by Aileen Pace Nilsen:

S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders (1967, Viking).
Paul Zindel’s The Pigman (1968, HarperCollins).
Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War (1974, Pantheon).
Robert Lipsyte’s The Contender (1967, HarperCollins).
John Donovan’s I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth the Trip (1969, Harper Collins).
M.E. Kerr’s Dinkey Hocker Shoots Smack! (1972, Harper Collins).
Alice Childress’ A Hero Ain’t Nothing But a Sandwich (1973, Putrnam).

Source: School Library Journal, April 1994.

Title: “This World of English.” Ed. C. Anne Webb. English Journal (November 1994), 109-110.

Monday, March 28, 2011

November 1994: Short Stories

Question: Why use short stories in the classroom?

Answer/Quote: “English teachers like to use short stories. They keep students involved. They don’t take weeks to finish. They can be read in one night. They can be squeezed into the small spaces left by all-school assemblies. They can spark great discussions.” 87.

Comment: Long ago I found that even with short stories, the teacher needs to involve the students quickly to overcome inertia. I have been most successful with the following technique. First, speculating on the title. Second reading one paragraph a page or a column. Third, telling what they have learned from this brief scanning. Fourth, raising questions about what they want to know. Finally, reading to answer the questions and discussing the answers. RayS.

Title: “Connecting Short Stories.” Diana Mitchell. English Journal (November 1994), 87-91.

Friday, March 25, 2011

November 1994: Education Reform and Students

Question: What is a possible strategy for changing the present-day approaches to education?

Answer: “Adults rarely think about students as participants in the process of change.”

Comment: Involve students in evaluating the present-day (2011) use of standardized tests of reading and math in order to determine the success and failure of students and schools. Make their opinions available to legislators who are responsible for using tests for this purpose.

Nowhere in my reading of newspapers and viewing of TV newscasts have I seen anything about how students feel toward reducing evaluation of learning to tests of reading and math. It’s almost as if the learners who are most affected by these tests are of no importance. They do what the adults tell them to do. What are the effects of these tests on the students? At least give them a chance to express their opinions. RayS.

“Making Sense of Reform: The Role of Students in Educational Change.” Patricia B. Wachholz. English Journal (November 1994), 80-82.