In the article “English in Secondary Schools; A Review” Allan Abbott discusses the study of English in secondary schools. If you didn’t know the article was published in 1901, you might not realize it aside from the dated and sexist language. Over a hundred years later, professionals in the field are still trying to figure out how to prepare students for college and the real world in the English classroom.
I was struck by what seemed like a reference to a writing-across-the-curriculum stance in the following passage:
After the elementary steps, proficiency in composition and taste for literature can be obtained only by several years of constant writing and reading, which can be done with but few recitation periods. A boy cannot write with ease and force until he has reasonable accuracy, nor can he criticize without a fairly wide knowledge of books. The intermediate high-school years are crowded with other subjects that need time, and that also, if properly taught, afford English training. In short, the middle high-school years demand for other subjects time that English can well spare .
Abbott is essentially claiming that it should be the English teacher’s job to teach the basic skills early on and then allow for less time spent in English and Literature classrooms during the middle years because the other subjects can incorporate writing into the lesson plans. I agree that it is important to encourage writing, and good writing, in other subjects, but does this really work?
It was also amazing to read, again in an article published in 1901, that “interest, the psychologists tell us, depends on ability to connect the new object with something interesting already in the mind, and to hold the interest of pupils, we must discover what resident or natural interests they have, and make our work branch out in a sort of network from them”(395). I wasn’t surprised to read that “very little work has been done in this direction”(395).
Hay Kristien, I really liked how you made the connection to Writing-Across-the-Curriculum. I think we talked about this in class a bit…for example, the “why do I have to write in art class?” thing. I appreciate your candor with “does this really work?” I think it requires a LOT of buy in from our staff. Sadly, if not everyone is on board it just becomes another “thorn” in someones side. By the way, I really like the layout of your blog too. Very nice. Rachel M
Jennifer Nance said:
I don’t think disassociation from students is a new concept, and your quotation here clearly emphasizes much the same. Discovering and encouraging their “natural interests” seems to be the key to teaching success. I just wish the dusty academics who still staunchly encourage Nathaniel Hawthorne over Chris Crutcher and Lois Lowry could understand this.