Monday, August 6, 2007

Why people read less these days...

I just learned this morning that our state general assembly decided to provide extra funding to students already on scholarships and studying math or the sciences. My immediate thought was: what about the humanities?? We're important, too! Just apparently not in the "real" world. When expressing my severe revulsion to this new development, my husband simpy shrugged his shoulders and replied: well, the state needs more doctors and engineers and accountants right now. But, if there is a monetary value placed on certain majors, isn't this dictating to our students what they should study? Despite my obvious concern as a college French teacher wanting to keep her classes on the schedule, I also think that this is really sad for our students. It's discouraging them from broadening their horizons. It's preprogramming them to devalue reading and writing and art and music and history and language and...lots of other things, too. Yes, students do usually have to take a certain number of required classes in these subjects, but they treat them as just that: requirements. They put these classes off as long as possible and arrive to class with poor attitudes, limiting the possibility for teachers like me to inspire them--if they are already seniors, it's too late for them to switch majors even if they do end up appreciating my subject. I'm not bitter because I study and teach a field that makes less money and interests fewer students. Truly, I'm not because I love what I do. I simply wish that our culture were more open to quality of life, self-discovery, exploration of the world, etc. Life is so much more rich when we probe its contents, all of its contents. Am I over-reacting? Probably a bit. Am I fighting a losing battle? I sure hope not.

This recent clip from the Colbert Report touches on my above complaint. Sometimes when things are depressing, you just have to laugh at them. And Colbert certainly made me laugh here:


Literary Feline said...

I understand that certain fields and avenues of education are in demand in today's society, but we mustn't lose sight of the fact that a well balanced education makes for a well rounded person. It's okay to focus on math and sciences, but those aren't fields that lend themselves to teaching a good bedside manner or compassion. The humanities and arts, however, do. This is just one small reason why arts and humanities are so important to maintain. They represent our past, present and future. We cannot move forward without studying the past and knowing where we are today. Taking into account the culture (which very much includes the arts and humanities) should be a necessary part in that forward movement. I don't know if I'm making any sense at all. Haha

Jonny said...

I know I'm a bit cynical, but when you're talking about people already in college, they generally already have preconceived notions about what interests them, likes and dislikes. If truly rudderless and open to different possibilities, a student will take a vast array of subjects, case-in-point moi. But a few hundred bucks isn't going to change someone's mind. That's not to say that its right and students shouldn't be more open to things. The idea that you know what's good for you at 18 is laughable, but that's the way the system works.

And as for putting a monetary value on certain majors, society already does that anyway. No one whose ultimate concern is money will be majoring in French or literature anyway.

StuckInABook said...

As somebody investigating the possibility of funding for a English Masters degree, I can but agree with you! Such a shame.

Kelly said...

Simon, welcome back! I'm sending good wishes your way on finding that funding. There has to be a way to do it!

I'm with you, literary feline! You make perfect sense. If only more people could see your logic. :)

Oh, Jonny, I am painfully aware of the monetary value our society puts on various fields. But, to quote our wise and humble father, people tend to be paid (barring the occasional oddities) according to how useful they are to the community. We need some Renaissance French scholars to pass on the knowledge, but just a few will suffice. My problem with the new scholarship development is that since most students already realize the eventual monetary value of certain degrees, further influencing them with additional $$ to pursue those degrees doesn't give us (humanities people) half a chance. If only we could give people more money to pursue these degrees--it might make it a little easier to stomach taking on college debt if a larger part of it is subsidized since they already know that their salary won't be that impressive.

Cath said...

Hi, I wandered in here via Stuck in a book's blog and hope it's okay to comment.

You said:

"I simply wish that our culture were more open to quality of life, self-discovery, exploration of the world, etc. Life is so much more rich when we probe its contents, all of its contents."

I just wanted to say how much I agree with you. As a middle-aged grandma though I've come to realise that people either have this curiosity about life and the world around them or they don't. Most don't seem to and I find this disappointing and I *know* they think I'm weird. It's a shame and I'm not even convinced that education is the answer. Is it upbringing... or are we simply born with a fascination for everything and everyone? I wish I knew.

Kelly said...

Welcome, Cath! I love comments! And I wish I knew the answer, too. I just can't imagine not having that curiosity, but it certainly doesn't seem to be the norm. This is why I've grown to love book blogs--there are others like us out there, which inspired (obvious, perhaps) the name of my blog.

I heard an English literature professor speak a few months ago about how to convince the world that life is meaningful. He tries to convey that the beauty found in reading, writing, art and other creative forms of expression is useful simply because it can give us hope. I'm eager to read his book Writing at the End of the World.