Friday, September 02, 2005

Leaving Children Behind

I've made a similar post before, but I want to emphasize again that I think that it is totally wrong to reduce or eliminate the teaching of poetry in K-12 education.

Partly, I blame the fetishizing of multiple choice testing. I think that it's a mistake to salivate over high stakes, multiple choice tests and artificially constructed "increases or decreases" in scores. Even though all the people in this world who are good at multiple choice tests are also good, upstanding citizens with highly developed social and emotional skills, I haven't flown to the moon on my vaccuum cleaner lately.

High stakes, multiple choice testing is especially bad for poetry. I mean, I suppose you could have the question: Regie Cabico is a) the square root of five, b) a type of kumquat, c) a poet, d) the capital of Brazil, e) none of the above. (Believe it or not, that would actually be an improvement to certain curricula, because at least you would be learning the name of a living poet.) For some reason, it seems very difficult for certain officials who design curricula and tests to comprehend sometimes, but believe it or not, there are poets who are still alive and writing! Yes, there are still poets writing poetry out there today! Go figure.

I also think that poetry is too-often marginalized -- economically, politically, and socially -- which should not be a surprise if you've been reading this blog regularly. This marginalization affects the education of poetry. We teach elementary school, middle school, and high school students that poetry means nothing when we don't teach poetry. We teach students that poetry means less when we teach less of it. We teach students that no one writes poetry today, or at least no one we should take seriously, when we complete the education of poetry by winding up the unit with the "modern" work of T.S. Eliot. I guess Elizabeth Bishop (who actually is one of my favorite poets, if I was forced to choose) is too much of a wild child.

Of course, in almost every classroom, we teach students that Asian-American poetry means nothing everyday. Now that school years are beginning across the nation, I suppose that will remain one staple of the English curriculum, no matter how many brilliant new exams that one manufactures.


Blogger Patty said...

Excellent post!

I thought you might be interested in knowing that Victoria Chang gives a reading at Blackbird.

1:57 AM  

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