Allow me to add my 25 cents’ worth to the “new school lit standards” discussion taking place in The Post, which has proponents of fiction reading and proponents of nonfiction reading, such as “informational texts,” at odds.
Many years ago, as a middle school history teacher at the Landon School in Bethesda, I had my work cut out for me every day. How to engage adolescent boys in the fine points of constitutional analysis was the chore. One day, I had a eureka moment, and I told the students: “Read the assignment. Come to class tomorrow with something intelligent to say. And bring a quarter.” That last part got their attention.
Next day, the boys arrived a touch early, armed with shiny coins that they kept polishing on their ties (yes, we insisted on formal attire in those days).
“Who’s first to gamble his quarter on making a better argument?” I asked. After a bit of awkward snickering, one boy got up and plunked down his coin on my desk. Two minutes later, another student confidently strode forward and added his quarter to the other boy’s. I served as judge and jury, with the better arguer seeing his work and analytical efforts rewarded. I often had a tough time choosing.
Long story short: Thirty minutes into the following period, the math teacher burst into my room to complain that those history-class arguments were still raging and making his class impossible to teach.
Fast-forward to today’s silly controversy. Were I still in the classroom, the assignment would be as follows: “By tomorrow, you’d better know how to read that darned how-to manual. And bring a quarter!”
Bob Wipfler, Bethesda