The following is an excerpt from On Reading The Grapes of Wrath [Penguin Books, $14.00] by Susan Shillinglaw.
Deliberate reading is as cleansing as deliberate movement. To enter a yoga studio is to cross a boundary into a place of serenity. To op...
16 April 2014
My first thought in reading the title of this article was "What happens when we don't have time to read the timeless in times when time is money?"
We certainly do live in fast times don't we? But, are we making a terrible mistake by assuming that "faster is better"? Are we sacrificing an element of a TRULY great education if we assume that the only criteria for such an education are college and career readiness? Though I do not criticize the true value of college and career readiness, if we simplistically allow those criteria to dominate curricular planning and if we allow, oh, I dunno, say literary reading to be demoted as either being too impossible to measure beyond the elements of advanced literacy and vocabulary skills then what happens to a deep focus upon the timelessness of literary wisdom?
AND BEFORE you jump on me for suggesting that literary reading has been demoted, let me say that I do understand that a close reading of the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts implies that literary reading has NOT been demoted since the expectations are to be spread across the curriculum. This clarification suggests that the amount of literary reading in English Literature classes will essentially be unchanged given the amount of informational reading expected in non ELA courses. I know that. But, I also know that de facto forces place incredible pressure on course syllabi to focus on the "power standards;" those standards most tested and those having the greatest impact upon a school's overall scores.
So, timeless articulations of wisdom, those that take time, that could be "better spent" on score boosting "learning" experiences, will inevitably get the squeeze. My guess is long reads and slow reads may give way to shorter and faster reads in order to get as many literary titles into play as possible.
This article, one of many dozens of articles I've read on Steinbeck's THE GRAPES OF WRATH, stands among the most interesting in it's focus upon the need to slow down in order to truly connect and develop an appreciation for the circumstances the Joads and so in which so many others find themselves.
Susan Shillinglaw builds an exquisite case for the inner chapters with particular emphasis upon the inner chapter about the slow yet determined turtle caught up in a fast world of Lincoln Zephyrs flying by completely oblivious to the turtle's situation. Of course it's a metaphor for the "forces of progress" whizzing by the displaced victims of progress. Empathy and compassion for the downtrodden? No time to care about that.
Faster does not make for better reading. Nor does it always make for better living.
So, you're probably an English teacher. You probably get my point and will enjoy Shillinglaw's appreciation for THE GRAPES OF WRATH. But, I've saved something for last that might be a great lesson for your "irony" collection.
Have you seen those commercials for AT&T promoting "faster is better?"
I'd only seen one, but in hoping to find a link to the commercial, I was surprised to discover one I hadn't seen before. It's the one about turtles!
Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHMH-R6g4vs
brought to you by GLT Global ED, an educational nonprofit promoting the wisdom of reading great literature