Thursday, July 30, 2009

Topic: Real World in English Class

10-second review: Two responses to the charge that English teachers do not live and work in the real world.

Title: “How Would You Respond to Someone Who Says English Teachers Don’t Live or Work in the ‘Real World’ ”? English Journal (May 2009), 38-40. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Quote #1: “Good literature, no matter how great the demand for suspension of disbelief, is an expression of truth. Adults may look to fiction as an escape from reality, but students come to English class to embrace it and find a place to express their own truth. I couldn’t keep the ‘real world’ out of the classroom if I tried….” Ann Magyar, p. 38.

Quote #2: “Academics are forever being accused of not living in the real world, but it is in our classrooms that students explore issues that are integral to our nation’s democratic existence.” Gregory Shafer, p. 39.

Comment: First, I would ask the people who made the charge to define “real world.” Their responses should be interesting. I wonder if they would agree on a definition.

In some cases, the classroom is not the real world. It engages students in practice for the real world. In other cases, students deal directly with real-world skills and issues.

Students learn both to cooperate and to compete, to speak formally, to work in small groups and to debate.

In literature, students discuss real-world issues, the illusion of an American dream in Gatsby, the nature of sin in The Scarlet Letter, the nature of war in The Red Badge of Courage, etc., etc.

In writing they are learning to shape their thoughts in order to express themselves eloquently. They learn to read aloud fluently so that they can participate in civil (the double meaning is intended) meetings. They learn how to shape their own learning in completing independent study and in research papers.

How do my readers respond to this charge that English teachers are not living in the real world? RayS.

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