Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Reading of classic literature in serious decline in Uk schools

BrianPK
Reader
Posts: 106
Joined: March 2011
Location: Ireland

Reading of classic literature in serious decline in Uk schools

Post by BrianPK » Fri April 1st, 2011, 11:34 pm

Imagine going through life without reading Pride and Prejudice or even worse Wuthering Heights :eek: How depressing!
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/ed ... ssics.html

User avatar
Divia
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4435
Joined: August 2008
Location: Always Cloudy, Central New York

Post by Divia » Sat April 2nd, 2011, 12:04 am

Since I disliked both books I'd be OK with it.

fact of the matter is its very hard for a 16 year old boy to relate to Jane Austen. Boys (for the most part) enjoy nonfiction over fiction. They want action, not to read about a love story sent in 19 cent.


When the battle cry goes up "kids aren't reading classics." I typically say "Yeah, and neither are adults." You rarely see adults lugging A tale of two cities to the beach. They are reading Patterson and something like that, popular fiction.

Bottom line is, its hard enough to get kids to read. The fact they will even pick up a book, classic or modern and enjoy it is enough for me. If a student is willing to read a Paul Volponi book over Austen, understand it and want to read more by the author then thats all I need.
News, views, and reviews on books and graphic novels for young adult.
http://yabookmarks.blogspot.com/

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sat April 2nd, 2011, 12:24 am

In Austen and Dicken's day, the elites were bemoaning that the young were reading this worthless popular fiction instead of Homer and Cicero.

SGM
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 699
Joined: March 2010

Post by SGM » Sat April 2nd, 2011, 6:01 am

[quote=""Divia""]fact of the matter is its very hard for a 16 year old boy to relate to Jane Austen. Boys (for the most part) enjoy nonfiction over fiction. They want action, not to read about a love story sent in 19 cent.
[/quote]

As a mother of a young teenage boy said to me some years ago about Harry Potter -- if it gets boys into the habit of reading fiction, it was OK with her. I read copious Enid Blyton books when I was young about whom there were many complaints from the experts (some libraries wouldn't even stock her books) but she got me into the habit of reading constantly and I read a great many other writers too.

My brothers read very little fiction in comparison to myself and my sisters, but they consume (and did from their early teens) an awful lot of newsprint.

Although, I don't have problems with reading Austen, I have a positive anti of some of the writers I "studied" in the past, mostly early 20th century novels heavily influenced by Freud (and most particuarly D H Lawrence), this probably has more to so with the way we study them than the actual writers themselves and I am also not a huge Bronte fan (but each sister for a different reason). My sister who studied literature to Masters level now says she just wants to enjoy literature not study it and hence chose a completely different slant for her PhD.

The new UK government are making changes to the English curriculum in schools and ensuring that the likes of Dickens (who I also have no problems with) are to be taught again but I can really understand teenage boys not taking to Pride and Prejudice. Of course, the new government also say they want to ensure that traditional history is taught again. We will have to reserved judgement on how well they live up this intention.
Last edited by SGM on Sat April 2nd, 2011, 6:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

User avatar
wendy
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 592
Joined: September 2010
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Contact:

Post by wendy » Sat April 2nd, 2011, 9:16 am

Take away the grammar school system, insist on mixed-ability teaching, have classes of 30+ children, water down the GCE system with GCSE's, introduce a National Curriculum that teaches for test-taking rather than learning, don't pay your good teachers enough to keep them - and what do you get? A system that nurtures the lowest ability because no one is allowed to fail.

Best parent comment I had as a UK teacher? "Why are you still teaching Shakespeare when he's been dead for over 300 years?" Go figure!
Wendy K. Perriman
Fire on Dark Water (Penguin, 2011)
http://www.wendyperriman.com
http://www.FireOnDarkWater.com

BrianPK
Reader
Posts: 106
Joined: March 2011
Location: Ireland

Post by BrianPK » Sat April 2nd, 2011, 5:22 pm

Surely it's balance we're looking for when it comes to encouraging the young to enjoy reading. Is there not a possibility that, without gentle encouragement from adults,the lowest common denominator will become the norm for far too many young people. I feel that I would have greatly missed out if I had not been encouraged by my parents and (some)school teachers to "try" books like Wuthering Heights.
A few weeks ago I finished reading the 5th Bernard Cornwell Saxon Chronicles novel and absolutely loved each book.I can't wait for the 6th to come out so that I can join Uther in the shield wall;slip about in the blood soaked grass and split a few skulls with my battle axe.It's marvellously entertaining old rubbish.But I also feel the need to read something a little more sober, challenging and thoughtful at times.
The classics are regarded by most people as amongst the finest writings civilization has produced and surely it will be a terrible indictment of the present generation of adults and teachers if they allow such wonderful novels to be lost to the present generation of school children and allow them to grow to maturity oblivious of the Brontes and Jane Austen and only capable of asking "Wuthering where"? or "Pride and what"?
I had a look in both Amazon .co.uk and Amazon.com and of the 961 customers who were moved to comment on the novel Wuthering Heights,56% thought it outstanding ...5 stars and only 8% thought it rubbish...1 star. Or 75% 4 stars+ and only 15% 2 stars or less. All is not yet lost :)
Last edited by BrianPK on Sat April 2nd, 2011, 9:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
Divia
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4435
Joined: August 2008
Location: Always Cloudy, Central New York

Post by Divia » Sat April 2nd, 2011, 8:47 pm

You will always have people reading the classics. However I hate it when the classics are shoved down kids throats. There are other books that can just as easily show theme, setting etc. in contemporary novels. The problem with Victorian novels, and we all know this, is they are wordy. I remember reading the Scarlett letter and it was 5 pages of description for a rose. Common! Kids dont have time for that. They want fast reading.

We did a choice reading yesterday and I don't know how mnay students came to me and said "i want something that pulls me in." or "something that's fast paced." Victorian novels are not faced paced. And I find it troublesome that we want a 17 boy from the inner city to read Charles Dickens.
News, views, and reviews on books and graphic novels for young adult.
http://yabookmarks.blogspot.com/

User avatar
LoveHistory
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3751
Joined: September 2008
Location: Wisconsin, USA
Contact:

Post by LoveHistory » Sat April 2nd, 2011, 8:55 pm

Can't an inner city 17 year old boy relate to some of the conditions of the poor of Dickens' London?

A good teacher can make just about any story come alive. The problem isn't the books being chosen, it's how they're being used. Just telling a kid to read it because it's a classic and then asking boring questions will not cut it. You have to show them that it applies to them and not just to people who were alive when it was written.

User avatar
Divia
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4435
Joined: August 2008
Location: Always Cloudy, Central New York

Post by Divia » Sat April 2nd, 2011, 10:53 pm

They can relate to certain aspects of the book, but the reading is a little dry.

I can only go on personal experience and what my students want to read isn't classics...if they want to read at all.
News, views, and reviews on books and graphic novels for young adult.
http://yabookmarks.blogspot.com/

SGM
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 699
Joined: March 2010

Post by SGM » Sun April 3rd, 2011, 8:31 am

[QUOTE=BrianPK;82837]Surely it's balance we're looking for when it comes to encouraging the young to enjoy reading. Is there not a possibility that, without gentle encouragement from adults,the lowest common denominator will become the norm for far too many young people. I feel that I would have greatly missed out if I had not been encouraged by my parents and (some)school teachers to "try" books like Wuthering Heights. QUOTE]

I totally agree with another comment about inner city kids relating to some of Dickens novels.

However, we are influenced in our reading habits by many sources. I read many of the "classics" at about the same time I was reading Enid Blyton simply because I had watched them on TV (thank you BBC Childrens' Classics) or seen a film: The Count of Monte Christo, Hereward the Wake, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Ivanhoe and, of course, any amount of Shakespeare etc etc and from there I was encouraged to read some of the French and Russian classics. What I agree that I got from my secondary education which I probably would not have otherwise were Chaucer and Milton for which I am profoundy grateful. The Brontes, Dickens, Dumas et al I had already come across and read and once I had done that, I was capable of finding others myself. I would not have fallen across Chaucer, Milton, Spenser, Dryden or Pope on my own so my take on what I would like to see on the English curriculum is slightly different. I also don't underestimate the value of modern classics -- and I do consider Philip Pulman's Dark Materials to fall into that category and thus of considerable value on the curriculum.

I am not sure Milton is on the A level syllabus any more and am really rather shocked to find that Mrs Gaskell is. She wouldn't have made it in my day.
Last edited by SGM on Sun April 3rd, 2011, 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

Post Reply

Return to “Chat”