How High School Made Me Hate Reading

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Photo Credit: Glen Noble

Yesterday I took a trip to Barnes & Noble because I was in the mood for a good book that was actually in book format. I have an eReader, but it’s just not the same. It’s not! Maybe it’s the smell of the pages that gets me? Who in the good lord knows.

Anyway, as I was perusing the classics section it dawned on me that I’d read quite a few of the books there yet none of the ones which were required reading in high school. In fact I felt myself inwardly scoffing at Emma by Jane Austen as I skimmed the titles and in that moment I paused. The book had not done anything worthy of receiving my inward hostility, so why was I feeling this way? Due to the fact that I got angry or nauseated when reading the titles of books I’d first seen in high school I believe the negative feelings are connected to that particularly painful era of my life. More specifically I seem to be biased toward disliking books that I was supposed to read for teachers whom I disliked. Now let me make something clear. When I say disliked I don’t mean that I had slight philosophical differences with these people, I mean that I continue to harbor a burning anger toward them and if given the opportunity would revoke any and all credentials that allow them to be in the presence of young minds. Why would I doll out so harsh a punishment? Simply because I believe that teaching should allow children to learn information while encouraging them to continue exploring new avenues in which that information may be used or interpreted. So let’s take a look at the latter of those avenues and how it applies to the English teachers I disliked in high school.  Hold on a second while I go to dictionary.com and copy the definition of interpretation.

Interpretation in·ter·pre·ta·tion  [in-tur-pri-tey-shuhn]  noun

  1. The act of interpreting; elucidation; explication: This writer’s work demands interpretation.
  2. An explanation of the meaning of another’s artistic or creative work; an elucidation: an interpretation of a poem.
  3. A conception of another’s behavior: a charitable interpretation of his tactlessness.
  4. A way of interpreting.
  5. The rendering of a dramatic part, music, etc., so as to bring out the meaning, or to indicate one’s particular conception of it.

Something you may notice whilst reading over all five definitions is that interpretation is not once defined as fact. Here in lies the reason that I dislike these teachers so grievously. Reading in their classrooms was not a practice in thought and creative interpretation, instead it was a psychological maze in which we were required to determine the teachers’ interpretation of the literature and develop our “own” reiterated version of that. Now I have no problem with practicing psychology, in fact I did just that for five years of university. However, if a teacher requests you give an interpretation and only gives high marks if you repeat her own ideas, they are just fucked up.

I’ll be the first to admit I was not innocent in my poor relationship with these teachers. Once I figured out that I had to become a parrot to receive good grades I became stubborn to the point of shutting down in their classes. However, I did not walk into those classes with this attitude. My obstinance was only developed after I was backed into a creative corner where I felt my ideas worthless.

So please, if you’re a teacher don’t be this person. Listen to your students and encourage them to develop their own ideas. Because if we stop developing new ideas how will our culture and society continue to advance?

If you’re wondering I ended up buying Pride and Prejudice because I wanted to read something by Ms. Austen, but am not yet ready to face Emma again. Have a lovely day everyone!

ⓛⓞⓥⓔTricia

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