08 February 2010

A sad anecdote

I wrote a post entitled "Interesting Things Found in Books" and asked readers what they have found in books.  This was one of the comments:
I bought a book of poetry by John Donne, printed in the 1940s. It was heavily annotated and underlined, and had been studied very hard. I assumed it must have belonged to a professor or grad student, until I found two high school hall passes inside the pages.

I went online to look up this school (in upstate NY) that had such well-educated students. Today their resources for English classes include a "Lord of the Flies" video game. It made me want to cry.
So sad.


  1. I don't get it. You thought the school had "such well-educated students" but then you criticize their methods. I feel sad too. Sad for people like you who find brilliance remarkable yet think you know how best to educate.

    I think we all need to acknowledge that there is not only one best way to educate and that the results should be the gauge of what system works.

    It's possible that the point of the post was that in the 40's (when the book was published), education was better than it is today. If that was your point, you should have made it more clear. Alas, if only we bettered ourselves by judging others.

  2. This sounds little too much like an attack on new media, which unfortunately can produce many bastardizations (e.g.: http://www1.dantesinferno.com/thebiggame.html) but has also provided us with far too many benefits for one to off-handedly question it's validity as an effective teaching tool.

    I'm sure, once upon a time, someone must have similarly complained about using film in such a manner.

    Although, as with most of Stan's posts, I'm sure this one wasn't meant to offend simply to offer a topic to reflect upon.

  3. WOMBAT: I think implication is that the educational approach has clearly changed drastically since this book was worked, going from in depth study and rigorous analysis to pop entertainment form factor.

    And while I'm a proponent of the idea that the internet has become a much more capable learning tool than any textbook could hope to achieve, there is something missing. Perhaps a level of structure, or something. I'm not sure. I breezed through college without having to work for it (except for the fine arts), so I probably didn't get a good structure either.

    Most interesting thing I found in a book: While reading Zoshchenko's "Before Sunrise" I thumbed to a page that had a "thank you" postcard in it, addressed to a Mr. Deming Brown. The name looked familiar, and after a few days I realized he had written the forward. Apparently I had purchased the book from him (or a relative) without realizing it, as the address on the card matched the anonymous seller who shipped it to me.

  4. Spiv: I get your point and I think you're right. For everything we gain, we lose something and for everything we lose, we gain something else. Ours is not a perfect world and we have to make the best of the resources available to us.

    It's likely they were making the same argument in the 40's that we make today. It's also likely that the author of the annotations was an autodidact and perhaps exceptional in his or her time.

    Too often we blame the educational system du jour for the problems plaguing our children and adolescents. There are myriad other forces at work that I believe it to be impossible for our small human minds to even begin to understand them.

    I'm only suggesting that it's easy to blame the educational system and hard to accept that there are gifted, talented and exceptional people walking among us who are never acknowledged, noticed or recognized except by a lucky select few.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...