Comments: 20
Debbie's Spurts 7 months ago
I knew nothing about French Revokution besides some dates and names. Never dawned on me when I first read, got engrossed (after a slightly show start before characters grew on me) and really enjoyed the book with heart in throat. Totally missed the significance of the "Two Cities" or even which cities they were; had no clue about significance of things like the guillotine, aristocracy, the period called the Terror, ...

Had a miserable tenth grade experience with it as well. Partly because the teacher kept jumping around forgetting where she had assigned us to read so wouodn't make much sense unless you read ahead (which got you in almost as much trouble as saying you already read it ...).
YouKneeK 7 months ago
That sounds like a really messed up tenth-grade experience. I actually remember very little about mine, to the point that sometimes I wonder if I actually read it. But I’m pretty sure it was one of the books where we took turns reading some of the chapters out loud during class.
I have to go over this one again. I read it as a kid (had a Dickens romp when I was around 12) and I remember so little (except the end) it'd be almost a new experience now.
YouKneeK 7 months ago
I’m impressed that you read it by choice at that age! After reading it, I can understand why it probably didn’t interest me at 15. So far this is the only Dickens book I’ve read, so I’ll be interested to see what his other books are like when I’m ready to cycle back around to him.
Debbie's Spurts 7 months ago
I enjoyed a lot of his books -- but disliked many more for being too bleak and dreary with too much extraneous material.
@Debbie: Same. But I liked his tongue-in-cheek descriptions. The bleaker the picture, the more he stuck it to everyone.
@Youkneek: Filled the abyss between children literature and adult. Mom worked at the public library, but I lived at a small town in South-America, so it was still a limited fare, that catered mostly to grown-ups.
Debbie's Spurts 7 months ago
Yeah, I read a lot of adult fare because of a tiny public library fiction selection (and parents who did not buy books). When later I had to study in school some of the classics I read and loved as random library finds, I hated it except with a few exceptional teachers. Some classes could suck the life out of a good story — and I didn't mind reaching for metaphors or overanalyzing words and symbolisms. I think the issue was often that the worse teachers clearly weren't into it so made it dull or were into it but you had no chance unless you could figure out their slant on various aspects to fake agreement.
YouKneeK 7 months ago
I read very few “in-between” books around that age either. There were never enough books for me to read, and my parents rarely took me to the public library. My parents didn’t much care what I read though, so I was pretty young when I started grabbing whatever my mom was reading. I also borrowed some of my grandma’s books during our annual visits, and made selections from the "grown up" section when I was allowed to buy books at the bookstore.

Most of what they read was just popular fiction at the time, though. For example, my mom read a *lot* of V.C. Andrews, and I think it was my grandma who introduced me to Stephen King which led to me reading many horror books throughout junior high.
Yeah, some teachers are real "book killers."
Yep, this is one of Dickens' two stabs at historical fiction (the other being Barnaby Rudge).

I'm not a tremendous fan of this one. Having it assigned 3 times in high school did not really help there. (And I love Dickens.)
Didn't your teachers communicate with one another? What a nightmare. And what a waste, with so many relevant books out there, to academically go over the same one over and over again.
Well, part of it was going to two different high schools. (So twice in English in two different schools) The third was a history teacher.

It's not the only book I got assigned 3 times. The Pearl can go die in a hole.
I'm forever grateful to my lit teacher. I had the same one my 4 last years of schooling, and she never repeated herself (actually, looking back, I realize she had a very comprehensive frame for the whole bulk of highschool years). She even had a program for the last two where you had a choice from a selection, so you could pick something you hadn't read yet (or had, if you weren't into reading :P). Her test on them where (in)famous for being printed in a little slip of paper: about 4 point, and if you'd read and researched, you'd cramp your hand writing the hour away, otherwise you where dead in the water. It was grand.
YouKneeK 7 months ago
I’ve never been convinced that books like A Tale of Two Cities, The Iliad, Shakespeare, Moby Dick, etc. are the best books to inundate kids with in school. Not when so many kids (definitely NOT me) hate reading to begin with, because these books just make them hate it more. And many kids (this one includes me) hated pretty much anything associated with "schoolwork".

It seems better to choose more accessible selections that will help them them develop the love of reading while still learning to find and appreciate deeper themes. When they’re older, or even while they're still young, they may choose to read the classics on their own as many others do and get more out of them by going into it with a better attitude.
Undisputed truth
Debbie's Spurts 7 months ago
I'm okay with some exposure to get the feel of a different period and a different language -- in literature classes. Not in reading classes where you might have reluctant readers to start with. The standardized tests and college exams are likely to require a passing knowledge of them -- but mix it in with books appealing to other tastes and without making thinking it's the greatest book ever or agreeing with teacher's opinion//slant the only way to pass (unless that teacher's slant is just what the college exams will want).

Students reading the classics will be into them or not. Studying and discussing and overanalyzing won't help the "not" (yes, you need enough to pass exams and enough to know how any academic pursuits or literature professions will want it done -- but just how many hours and how many essays before even the ones who were into the book now hate studying it?). Letting students have an opinion, letting them read it not just study it, letting an essay showing they did read it even if not getting out of it what you got out of it get a decent grade ... you can still slant class exams and briefer class discussions to what the bigger exams will insist on.

Literature appreciation and critical thinking are educational and students should be encouraged to learn that--without destroying the read and maki students get higher and entrance exams wrong because a particular teacher drummed in their point of view instead of exam answers and students point of view.
Debbie's Spurts 7 months ago
Sorry for soapbox. Like Susannah, military brat changing schools a lot. Always public schools, on or off military base -- yet somehow frequently got "those" teachers that even had to put an anti-Christian/Christian, Morality or political leanings lesson to even the fluffiest, unprofound book. Sometimes even that morality lesson was just that women should be more submissive, listen to their betters, not make waves, bring it on themselves -- and usually my teachers were female. That's not even anything to do with my own religious beliefs -- not every book written was for a moral, immoral or religious purpose and I'll,take my religion from my chosen church and not the public school,system thank you very much. And many books and articles do and should outright question political systems/beliefs where it's ridiculous to have a teacher try to twist them to fit their own political views.
YouKneeK 7 months ago
I agree that a mix is probably best. There should be some classics, but not the inundation that consists of primarily classics. I also agree on the importance of letting students form their own opinions.

In my ideal world, the emphasis would be on teaching children to read and analyze things for themselves. Testing should reward individual thinking rather than regurgitated ideas that they've memorized from other people. At least children who like to read are likely to learn that on their own, if not in the classroom.
I had a solid diet of classics in high school. We read 2 books published after 1950. (To Kill a Mockingbird and The Old Man and the Sea.) I liked some, was indifferent to others, hated a few.
@Debbie *offers box* please, that was awesome. It happens a lot, the teacher leaning on thew children with their stance. Not my experience with lit class (it did happen in others, catholic schooled here), woman was a real pro. I wasn't sure about her the first year, since middle-shool program still had those "one book through out the year, torn into strips" deal, and she was difficult to like. But, and here was a surprise, she asked us for recommendations on reading at the end of the year. Further surprise, she took them to heart. We saw some of those books, following years read some of those books. Through out the next four years I learned to respect her a lot. Looking back, I realize she might be on of those rare examples of dream-teacher, and I get nostalgic.