End of Week Update – 5/16/14
My children know there are two things they can ask me to purchase for them, no questions asked: running shoes and books. Even in this age of Kindles and Nooks, I will gladly pull out my wallet and buy good old-fashioned books. In fact, I’ll even pay premium price for the hard cover version. Growing up I lived within walking distance of the neighborhood library, and summer consisted of enrolling in the summer reading club and blazing through the suggested list of titles, accumulating the stickers needed to take home the prized free book.
To my chagrin, reading for enjoyment among kids has declined precipitously. Frank Bruni reports in his recent op-ed piece, Read, Kids, Read, that 30 years ago only 8% of 13-year-olds and 9% of 17-year-old said they “hardly ever” or never read for pleasure. Today, 22% of 13-year-olds and 27% of 17-year-olds say that. Fewer than 20% of 17-year-olds now read for pleasure “almost every day.” Back in 1984, 31% did. I concur with him that this is a “marked and depressing change.” Our role as educators and parents is to ensure our children have the time and opportunity to curl up with a good book – this weekend is a good time to start.
Another article that caught my eye recently was Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers. Scott Samuelson makes a strong case for the value of the humanities, and the danger of education’s increasingly narrow focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects as well as assessment and “outcomes.” He warns that this threatens to erode the values that undergird not just our society’s commitment to the humanities, but to democracy itself. Samuelson encourages us to “strive to be a society of free people, not simply one of well-compensated managers and employees.”
I have enjoyed immensely watching our 12th graders share their Senior Projects with their peers, family and friends this week. Topics range from documentary films to choreography to political activism to Japanese ceramic study. The young men and women standing at the podium are confident, passionate, well-prepared, and most important, joyful in their presentation of their work. There could not be a better representation of “outcomes” than what we are seeing before us. And I am betting they read for fun!