Robert Winner


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Debate: Non-fiction reading in schools

According to an article in Great Schools the hottest buzz word in education is "Non-Fiction". It states if you want to get your kids hooked on learning start them on non-fiction early. The movement is intent on reducing and/or eliminating the fiction books from the libraries and reading lists.

With the advent of STEM and core curriculums and reduction in the school budgets we are faced with the elemination of the Arts from the electives. If this trend continues and the elemination of the fiction books from the reading selection lists a return to the dark ages is in our future.

I have opinions on why this is taking place but will hold them in reserve.

Why would there be a movement against fiction books?

Where would the idea come from?

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    Oct 16 2012: It sounds like you are looking for theories, so I will resist my inclination to educate myself about the movement to which you refer before I respond.

    I think there is a big difference between starting kids on nonfiction early and clearing away the fiction.

    Many aspects of real life are as enchanting and engaging as fiction. I still have from my childhood my first book about dinosaurs. Dinosaurs have the appeal of fantasy and they are real.

    The same can be true about animals that are not extinct, like chameleons that change color for camouflage, caterpillars that change to butterflies...

    So I totally understand increasing kids' interest in understanding their world by introducing them in books and through hands-on adventures to real things.

    But the removal of fiction seems ridiculous. The educational value as well as the pleasure of well chosen works of fiction is obvious, as fiction explores life's great themes.

    So if it is really true that there is a movement to eliminate fiction from reading lists, my guess is that people leading the charge do not trust educators to pick valuable books for their kids to read and rather expect teachers might choose books that present values of which they don't approve. Like some people think books involving wizards, regardless of their other merits, are a poor use of kids time.
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    Gail .

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    Oct 17 2012: Burning books was part of the dark ages, when books offended the Pope's church. Today, we do not burn them in great public ceremonies. We ban them - with great public outcry. Look at the Harry Potter series, that fundamentalists wanted out of schools and public libraries because it glorified witchcraft (false). The Potter fantasies do not depict witchcraft. Children who had never read a book for fun in their lives were desperate to get their hands on the books. It's still No. 1 on the American Library Association's top 100 most banned/challenged books in this century and 7th in the last century. Crazy!

    When I was growing up, the term "banned in Boston" (meaning removed from all public library shelves) was a huge joke. My mother used to say, "If it's banned in Boston, it must be a good book". Why? Because New England was the home base of conservative Christianity. (It is no more. The aging population has moved to the sun belt.)

    As to the dark ages appearing in our future if the trend you mention continues, I would say that we are well on our way to another apex already. I feel like it's here already, and I still have the freedom to read anything that I want.
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    Oct 17 2012: chinese is the most wastely nation in the world in the feilds of energy and life and you knowThe butterfly effect..if we want to build theSaving society we must cut us in the door and room put us on knowledge and learning
    so computer wont reduce ,produce and do
    we will be much better.

    that is my theory .
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      Oct 17 2012: I know that students suicide in China if they fail the college entrance exam. It's pretty dumb because I've never heard of a student suiciding if they bombed the SAT test over here.

      And when I went back over to China, my Aunt, who is an English teacher, asked me to go over some English portions of the college entrance test, and it was pretty utter BS. Most pointless thing to suicide over...
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    Oct 17 2012: schools should be dispeered with the high unemplayment .many parents are nothing to do ,they should burden the duty of education .i think this is a good way to solve the probem of unemployment .

    we build a culture of family learning , then we all learn from parents and cosions . your parents 'level decide mostly of youe level.that is agood thing .we wont need school , and there will be a good learning ,and the world will become better and i guess we will have less socielly problem.that is it .

    agree?or not ?
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      Oct 17 2012: Chen, The US has many problems in the area of education. To better solve them we should look at the worst issues and begin there. Since it would be hard to determine the worst causes I would suggest that if we solve the inner city schools issues we would be well on the way to a understanding resolution in all schools.

      At the inner city we have many parents who themselves are uneducated. We have gang influence both in and out of schools. We have old and decaying facilities. Drugs, high pregency rates, and much more.

      I would propose that Community colleges (CC) and teaching colleges adopt a school. The college student would supplement the staff and provide tutoring. The CC would provide students in maintenance fields to help restore and maintain the facilities. The inner city schools could apply foir grants to provide night time education to adults thus serving and including the community in the education process.

      There is much to do. But a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
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    Oct 17 2012: If the only books your kids read are the ones at school, you have a bigger problem that the lack of fiction.

    My kids were in a good school system and I still was not happy. They did not have enough science, art, or skill building. It was my job to supplement the school deficits at home to meet the values at home. So my kids had art supplies and tools (even very young) and measuring cups and microscopes chemistry sets (what a mess) and electronic boards etc..

    For some families there is not enough sports, for others there's not enough music. It's all based on the value of the family. But each school will water down to the least (and cheapest) common denominator that reflects the overall community. It is up to the parents to make sure the kids learn the values of the family.

    So if the school gets rid of fiction it is up to the parents to make sure the kids get a variety from Dr. Suess to Watership Down, to Grapes of Wrath. And you don't have to invest a lot of money. The local library is a great resource and would have access to ILL.

    Schools are only as good as the people that run them and they usually do not have the same values I do. Step up and be a parent.
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      Oct 17 2012: Linda, I both appreciated and liked your reply. I do think that there is something to be gained in the interaction that comes from the discussion in English class over a classic piece of litature.