Friday, January 02, 2009

Professor X

Professor X, writing in The Atlantic, on teaching English at a community college:

One of the things I try to do on the first night of English 102 is relate the literary techniques we will study to novels that the students have already read. I try to find books familiar to everyone. This has so far proven impossible. My students don’t read much, as a rule, and though I think of them monolithically, they don’t really share a culture. To Kill a Mockingbird? Nope. (And I thought everyone had read that!) Animal Farm? No. If they have read it, they don’t remember it. The Outsiders? The Chocolate War? No and no. Charlotte’s Web? You’d think so, but no. So then I expand the exercise to general works of narrative art, meaning movies, but that doesn’t work much better. Oddly, there are no movies that they all have seen—well, except for one. They’ve all seen The Wizard of Oz.


Wally Bock said...

I read the article. I even agree with the point the author makes about America being leery of a vocational ed track. But I judged the author pretentious and out of touch. He's unaware that graveyard shifts were not only war-production artifacts from the Forties. He doesn't seem to know that those students who become police officers will do much more writing than he probably has.

Most suspiciously, he also seems to be writing about colleges that are very different from the ones I've seen. I've seen them requiring basic computer and writing skills before moving them on to the required English courses. I've seen them providing tutors and "writing labs" to help students learn.

Either the colleges where he teaches are different from the ones I'm familiar with or he is unwilling to suggest to his students that they use help facilities that are available. Either way, I hope that none of the children I care about ever wind up with him for a teacher.

Michael Wade said...


Unfortunately, I've seen quite a bit of what he describes at the community college level. I agree with your point about the police officers. They do a lot of writing although I hope they aren't writing fiction.