The power of the press has long been a mastered skill of Americans. Libel and slander are not just frowned upon but unlawful, but manipulation is one thing that people are susceptible to. Telling things the way you want them to be heard enables printers to become historians and readers to become believers.
Knowledge of right and wrong is power, not just knowledge. Plenty of ignorant people have demonstrated understanding, but intelligence questions the source from which it came and validates the integrity before passing it along. Experience of others may offer an opportunity to skip the struggle and pain and benefit from the lesson, but only if you believe it.
Education has become a right, not a privilege like it once was in our brief history since colonization. Reading from the sacred word was the foundation of this experience. Controlling the source of the material to learn from enables the teacher to guide students through a process to reach a goal of application without the paired experiences. Without a tragedy there is no loss. Without a romance there is no love. With oppression there is tyranny. With violence there is fear.
Libraries are portals of discovery. All the tombs and catacombs of records could not hold the roaring seas and crashing thunder of life. On the same shelf you can find a tale of a trip to the depths of the sea and a journey that spans the globe. If you read fast you can even throw in a trip to the moon too, all in one day.
The library and the classroom have drifted further and further apart. The Internet and government are stepping in between the two. No longer will teachers and faculty decide what’s best for Jane and Johnny to read about, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers has done that for them. The Common Core State Standards have been established for the purpose of reducing the amount of fictional resources and focusing on non-fiction for educational purposes.
Once again, the issue of a government-regulated educational system has arisen when it solves none of the pertinent issues. Language barriers, special education and funding for the arts are all crippling future generations.
Why don’t we just create a public education system that subscribes to the notion that children can learn from anyone, anywhere, at any time? A great example is available online. With the technology available in schools today, an Internet connection can save families hundreds of dollars on books and save school districts millions of dollars on textbooks. “Ted Talks” offers students an opportunity to learn from innovators and leaders in innumerable fields. From Art to Zoology, there is no shortage of verifiable and unique examples of educational opportunity.
Students who find something they want to study more can delve in deeper at their public library. Using databases for research and checking out books has an invested feature that handing out required reading at school just doesn’t. Current students know how to access cliff notes and summaries for any book online. There are scores of websites that even highlight significant detailed facts and pull quotes right from the text. Engaging students is the important part of education. Robots can spit out information and facts, but teachers are supposed to excite, enrich and motivate.
The youth of today need goals. They have active imaginations just like generations before them, but they have so many limitations. They are given everything step by step. We must remove the barriers and allow thought to be formed freely. Malcolm Gladwell offers new ways to think about the whole world in “The Tipping Point,” and “Blink.” “Guns, Germs and Steel,” by Jared Diamond, delves into the real history of how cultures began and how some eventually progressed. Laurence Gonzales digs the deepest fears out of us in “Deep Survival” and provokes a mind unfamiliar with struggle to fight and battle against what we think we know but can’t possibly predict.
Whoever these governors are that got together and passed this mandate are, they’re missing the mark. Kids don’t care if a book is factual or fictional, they want to be entertained and challenged. Add the “Scientific American” magazine to the classroom. Challenge schools to write their own research papers on experiments they design and conduct themselves. Offer scholarships to students who can weave lines from classical literature together to make one complete, dynamic story. Work with publishers to create interactive books. Stop making checklists and recommendations. Be a revolutionary driving force that provides for tomorrow’s future, but don’t deprive them of the past; it has so many valuable lessons to teach, in fact and fiction. “The Old Man and the Sea” has one more great catch left to make.