Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Narrowing the Gap

So I had to read this article for class and do a Genre reflection on it, and a blog is a Genre so I'm doing it here.  Regular readers, you may want to skip this one as it has nothing to do with wondering who was the first to eat a pineapple, or weird things I think about when I can't sleep at night.  Or read it, if you're interested in education type stuff.

So I'm reading this article called "Narrowing the Gap between Readers and Books", which was...surprisingly short.  No, really, for an educational article, really short.  Anyway, the article talks about how getting students to read, and to want to read, narrows the achievement gap because it helps them perform well in other areas of their education.  Fair enough, I'm on board with that.  Then it goes on to talk about how multi-cultural literature actually helps students, particularly middle-school aged students who are on the verge of losing interest in reading, to maintain their focus and their desire to read.  Now, I can get on board with that too, to an extent.  Part of me wonders if it's the fact that the literature is multi-cultural that is getting students to want to read it, or if it's just because it's different from everything else school has been cramming into their heads for seven or eight years.  I guess I question whether this literature is grabbing kids from other cultures who have not been able to identify with any literature until they discovered books written by people from their culture, or if this is more wide spread and even the non-minority kids are jumping on board with African American lit and saying "Yeah, this is freakin' sweet".  I can see the merit of teaching literature from other cultures, but at some point I have to stop and look at things and say "You know....I'm still going to have to cover the standard literary canon because the school says so", and I wonder if that means I'm going to lose students by having them pay attention to that.  But, then I think that if I can get kids interested in reading literature from various cultures for fun, isn't that still narrowing the gap in a way?  I mean, the article talks about how reading just because you want to is as effective as any other form of reading, even if the kid is just reading comic books or graphic novels.  And to that point, does that make Manga multi-cultural?  No...really, I'm curious.  Do kids see Manga as a multi-cultural piece of of literature, and is that possibly why it's so popular?  Kids eat that stuff up like it's candy.  

I didn't like that the article mentioned lots of cultures, but it seemed to be slanted toward African American literature.  There's nothing wrong with that, but having come out of a high school and (almost) out of a college recently, there's a HUGE push to understand and appreciate African American literature in the classroom.  I think it's great, because it's been neglected for so long, but I think the heavy focus on it makes us forget that there are Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern students in our classrooms, and while they can appreciate African American literature, they can't relate to it.  The study of African American lit was a great move toward inclusion when classrooms were basically either "black kids" or "white kids".  It covered all of your bases, but now our classrooms are so much more diverse and in some places they have become little microcosms of the globe, so we have to be careful to avoid excluding those kids too.  And then, of course, there is a part of me that says "Ok...but if we try to please everyone, does it end in us pleasing no one?" because inevitably some group is going to get left out, and that's just going to cause problems.  

I don't know, those were just the things I was thinking about when I read the article.  It was interesting and gave me some food for thought.

Future entries will resume talking about crazy things.  Perhaps next time I will blog about why you should NOT accidentally lock your cat in your room when you go out of town for 3 days, or why I feel weird when people don't get my obscure references in conversation.  But, that's for another day.

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