Saturday, October 08, 2011

Authentics & basals, Nobels & ignobles, Jobs & jobs

un pensamiento por Rudy Ch. Garcia

Before I started first grade, my mother taught me, her first-born, to read, something affordable today in fewer families. That was the era when public school teachers were allowed to produce avid readers, kids who loved math, and creative artists and thinkers--largely Anglo--who would grow up to help launch NASA rockets to the moon and beyond. Alongside its patrilineal prejudices, the U.S. produced marvelous thinkers, writers and Nobel winners. More importantly, it produced a workforce and intellectual body that outshone most in the world. The majority were educated in many fields and arts.

Events this past week prodded me to consider what's to come from the Reagan-Bush / Obama-Republican / banks-mortgage co. redesigned America. Now we produce the most expensive mercenaries and disgustingly excessively paid executives in the world. We've come a long way, bebé. Down.

I recently learned of a Denver-area elementary school teacher who was essentially ordered to not use authentic literature, which includes classic literature my generation was raised on, however non-culturally relevant it was for minorities--Jack & the Beanstalk, Alice in Wonderland and the like. Said educator was told to only use books slightly harder than what his first graders could read on their own.

So instead of reading aloud to his students the kinds of stories that captivate children's imaginations, make them want to read more and inspire a few to become authors--something that also aids in developing them as writers--the aforementioned teacher will read down to his students. But for good reason.

No child left behind. But not behind like decades ago when I'd climb on my mom's lap for her to share Robert Louis Stevenson with me. No matter I couldn't comprehend every word or nuance as I followed her finger, another side of my brain was inventing scenarios I'd carry with me until I got old enough to create them on paper. That's a major reason I'm an avid reader, and writer. Many of my generation learned that way in public schools. Yeah, we had basal readers too. But not to replace Alice.

Another Denver-area teacher recently informed me she had to conduct a writing class in English to Spanish-speaking third-graders. "They can barely write anything in English!" Despite that, she intended to persevere and try imparting to them her love of poetry. Then I received her latest message: "La escuela canceló la semana pasada el programa de escritura porque están en probatoria y tienen que concentrarse en cosas "más académicas." Will basal reading replace what she could have given those kids?

That coincided this week with the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature--yes, a heavily pro-West recognition, but of much literary merit. Part of one of his poems almost seems to describe how American children are being left behind in a thinking world, to deliberately NOT become future Tranströmers:

The Indoors is Endless

He lies awake, hears the woolly flutter
of night moths, his moonlight comrades.

His strength ebbs out, he pushes in vain
against the iron-bound tomorrow.

And the God of the depths cries out of the depths
‘Deliver me! Deliver yourself!’

All the surface action turns inwards.
He’s taken apart, put together.

The wind rises and the wild rose bushes
catch on the fleeing light.

The future opens, he looks into
the self-rotating kaleidoscope

sees indistinct fluttering faces
family faces not yet born.

By mistake his gaze strikes me
as I walk around here in Washington

among grandiose houses where only
every second column bears weight.

White buildings in crematorium style
where the dream of the poor turns to ash.

The gentle downward slope gets steeper
and imperceptibly becomes an abyss.

[The abyss no child gets left behind, from entering.]

The death of Steve Jobs also occurred this week. One of America's greatest creative minds. His Apple Inc. democratized us by giving us access to home computers. User friendly ones to create on. The best for that in the world. No small accomplishment. Apple's more famous creator even had a good name--Jobs--part of the American dream that's now an endangered species, especially of the full-time and meaningful variety. The ongoing Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Denver, etc. protests coincide with Jobs' last days. I'm not holding him up as the epitome of a great capitalist, but the 75,000 jobs Apple benefits from are some of what we need more of in this country.

No, and Apple computers are not cheap, anymore than a Lexus could be as cheap as a Toyota. They're just better and those who can afford them don't regret entering the world he and others began. I don't know if Jobs would have started his world if he'd been raised on basal readers. Luckily, his parents and teachers probably did read Alice in Wonderland to him. But it makes me wonder how many potential Steve Jobs are being derailed in America's schools today where avid reading is replaced by basal reading.

I'll leave it to readers to decide who are the Ignobles to include in the title of today's post. All Democrat and Republican politicos are acceptable. All the foundations steering corporate giving toward charter schools are good candidates. And don't forget the education companies that produce basal readers and profit from our society's blame-the-teachers and test-the-kids-mania.

And in the end, will America just read down to their kids, into "an abyss?"

Es todo, hoy


Carrie said...

Contributing Bloguistas: said...

¡Me encantó! Todo está conectado...

Aliceii said...

Enjoyed your musings as always.