The New York Times story on the “reading workshop” method glorifies indifference toward literature.
This so-called movement is led by people who don’t love literature enough to defend it, and who don’t care about history enough to find out that their revolution is nothing revolutionary. It glorifies a certain indifference.
The movement writes off the literature itself. It writes off the teachers who teach it well and inspire their students to love it. It writes off the possibility that literature will affect students’ entire lives and stay in their minds, in ways that teen novels cannot do. Proponents say, “Look, the kids are reading; this is working!” They do not stop to think that reading 20 pages a day is not the same as grappling with literature. The chicken coop is not a palace. (Oops–no one teaches Dostoevsky anymore.)
I taught Sophocles’ Antigone (among many other works of literature) to my eighth grade ESL students. We had heated debates in class. Students wrote thoughtful essays. I thought, “How much more they will understand when they read it in high school!” Then I realized they probably wouldn’t read it in high school. They would probably never have it assigned to them again.
Mr. Robert Pondiscio says in “New York Times Discovers Reader’s Workshop” (Core Knowledge Blog, August 29, 2009 ):
Update: “Progressive schools let kids pick their own books in the 1920s and 1930s. Now it is supposed to be a major innovation. Ha!” tweets Diane Ravitch, who is quoted in the piece. The paper “applauds the death of any version of a common culture.” Just desserts of the NY Times,” she adds. “By encouraging the death of reading, they doom the NY Times.”
“Progressive schools.” That’s John Dewey’s baby…