A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the "stuffy" literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must "meet them where they are"—that is, pander to boys' untutored tastes.
For elementary- and middle-school boys, that means "books that exploit [their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor." AP reported that one school librarian treats her pupils to "grossology" parties. "Just get 'em reading," she counsels cheerily. "Worry about what they're reading later."So, the solution our pedagogues have come up with to getting reluctant boys to read is to teach them to be boorish, moronic slobs. Sounds like a great plan.
Spence adds that:
Education was once understood as training for freedom. Not merely the transmission of information, education entailed the formation of manners and taste. Aristotle thought we should be raised "so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; this is the right education."
"Plato before him," writes C. S. Lewis, "had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful."The idea that we have to cater to the young savages' penchant for the prurient is an abdication of one's role as an educator. What's next? Teaching arithmetic by counting the number of chocolate bars floating in the toilet bowl?
The problem, as you probably guessed, is that young boys spend a lot more time than girls with electronic amusements of one sort or another. The solution, Spence rather reasonably insists, is to severely curtail their access to these nefarious devices, and then ply them with good books.
I think he's right. Reading is not an enjoyable activity for many young boys. They'd rather be creating mayhem on the video screen. But just because civilizing males is not an easy task is no reason why parents and public schools should shirk the job of doing it.
Check out Spence's essay, especially if you're thinking about going into middle school or elementary ed. He makes a lot of interesting, and important, points.