Reading Needs to Make a Comeback

What was the last book you read?  I am currently reading

Amazing Grace: 9781780783048: Books

To Rescue the Republic: Ulysses S. Grant, the Fragile Union, and the Crisis of 1876: Baier, Bret, Whitney, Catherine: 9780063039544: Books

Race Marxism: The Truth About Critical Race Theory and Praxis: Lindsay, James: 9798795809083: Books

Yes.  I generally read three books simultaneously.  I think it must be one of those “attention deficit disorder” symptoms?

I strongly encourage all of us to continue to make reading part of our lives.  No.  Not just audio books.  I am talking about sitting down, open a book, and just enjoy reading.

However, it’s not just the activity of reading that is important.  Oh, no.  It is also what type of books are you reading.

Recently, I was introduced to a reading list of a fifth-grade classroom in California.  I am going to give you two titles of what fifth-graders are reading on a California public school campus. Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness (Ordinary Terrible Things): 9781948340007: Higginbotham, Anastasia: Books

When Aidan Became a Brother: Kyle Lukoff, Kaylani Juanita;Kaylani Juanita, Kaylani Juanita;Kaylani Juanita: 9781620148372: Books

You may ask me, “Paul, do you have a problem with either book?”  My answer:  the problem for me is there are only so many days in a school year / so much time in a day.  Therefore, if these two books are in lieu of the “classics” then that is my problem.  The content?  Not so much.  I just find it interesting these are the books our fifth graders are going to read, oppose to “Call of the Wild” or “The Wizard of Oz.”

I read a fantastic book about education:  A THOMAS JEFFERSON EDUCATION by Oliver De Mille.  A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century: Oliver DeMille: 9781615399918: Books  I strongly recommend that book!  The book is geared to adults who have the responsibility of raising children, have connections to children (teacher / counselor), or interested in what education could look like.  Chapter five of the book is “Classics.”

The chapter (“Classics”) starts with three quotes:

“It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds … In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours.” – William Ellery Channing

“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.” – Henry David Thoreau

“When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before, you see more in you than was there before.” – Clifton Fadiman

The first page of the chapter continues with, “Please take out a blank sheet of paper.  Now answer each of the following questions:  1. What books are your companions through life?  2. If you were evacuated to another planet and could only take one book, upon which to base the whole teaching of your family and establishing right and wrong for your community, what would it be?   3. What is good?  What is evil?”

With the two titles of today’s California fifth grade classroom, how would a student answer those three questions?  Would be fascinating.

The part of the “Classics” chapter that got me thinking is when DeMille talks about America’s National Book.

This leads to the question, “What is America’s nation book?”  Bloom argues that when he was teaching college at the University of Chicago in the 1950s and 60s, he could tell what the national books were by asking students what books formed the core of their lives, the basis of society. The two answers he always got were the Bible and the Declaration of Independence.  In the late 1960s this changed.  Bloom’s students really couldn’t answer his question.  They stopped referring to the Bible and the Declaration and they listed … nothing.  No national books.  The Bible and the Declaration remained for the older generations, but the youngsters came up with no core source of absolutes, no central foundation.

In the 1980s, it changes again:  students began listing various rock n’ roll music artists as the thing they revered and turned to for truth and answers.

Isn’t that interesting?  Less than 40 years ago our nation went from national books being the Bible and the Declaration of Independence to literally “no true national book in America today.”

And since there is “no true national book in America today” what does that mean?

Again, from the chapter (book published 2013):

No national books mean no culture; and this is ominous for the future.  Any society which loses its national book declines and collapses in ignorance, dwindles and perishes in unbelief.  In Bloom’s own words: “The loss of the gripping inner life vouchsafed those who were nurtured by the Bible must be primarily attributed not to our schools or political life, but to the family, which with all its rights to privacy, has proved unable to maintain any content of it’s own … the delicate fabric of the civilization into which the successive generations are woven has unraveled, and children are raised, not educated…

So, what’s your point of this article, Paul?

We need to STUDY THE CLASSICS.  The classics spend time teaching morality and civilization of our nation and possibly Western Civilization.  The “Classics” give our children the big idea of their country’s – and yes, Western Civilization – foundation.

I go back to the Thomas Jefferson Education:

In addition to maintaining our freedom and our civilization, there are at least six other reasons to study the classics.  (I am going to give you the reasons, but I want you to buy the book and see how to make the reasons come alive in your life / your child’s life).

    1. The Classics Teach Us Human Nature
    2. The Classics Bring Us Face-to-Face with Greatness
    3. The Classics Take Us to the Frontier to be Conquered
    4. The Classics Force Us to Think
    5. The Classics Connect Us to Stories
    6. Our Canon Becomes Our Plot – There are four types of stories:  bent, broken, whole, and healing.

As with everything in K-12 education, YOU (parent / legal guardian) NEED TO STEP UP AND STEP INTO WHAT IS BEING TAUGHT TO THE CHILDREN!  As we keep hearing, the RESPONSE to COVID19 gave the parents more access to the classroom than at any time in a generation or two.  You (parent / legal guardian) always had the opportunity to step up and step into what is being taught to the children.  You (parent / legal guardian) need to accept how you have played a role in your child’s education.  No teacher that I know of will say “no” to you being involved in your child’s education.  If the teacher says “no” to your involvement, then I encourage you to professionally / calmly work your way through the system to be involved in your child’s education.

Definitely, look at the books your child’s teachers are encouraging your child to read.  You need to at least glance / skim what the book is about.  Go online and find a description of the book. For those two books I shared with you, I went online and quickly found the summary of each book and bio of the author.  Is that book what you want your child to read?   If no, talk to the teacher.  See what you and the teacher can do to arrive at a “Win-Win” solution.  Also, when talking to the teacher, give the teacher the benefit of the doubt.  Not every teacher is featured on “Libs of TikTok.”  Those on “Libs of TikTok” are few!  A majority of teachers are good-hearted and understand their role.  And, I agree, many of the young teachers coming out of colleges have an agenda they have been trained to teach.  Let the younger teacher know you honestly want to work with the teacher.  You are not there to get the teacher fired or bend to your ways!  You shouldn’t be at least in the beginning.  The younger teacher is learning, as well.

I am going to give you just a few books that are “missing” (not missing every classroom – BTW) in California fifth grade classrooms:

  • The Giver – Lois Lowery (1993)
  • Old Yeller – Fred Gipson (1956)
  • Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren (1945)
  • The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)
  • The Black Stallion – Walter Farley (1991)
  • The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury (2012)
  • Where The Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls
  • Bridge To Terabithia – Katherine Paterson
  • Inside Out and Back Again – Thanhha Lai