Southborough resident develops children’s literature class at Algonquin

harry-potterI recently finished the sixth Harry Potter installment (just in time for the movie), and I can tell you that despite the fact that Harry Potter is classified as children’s literature, it has some pertty grown-up themes. And I’m not the only Southborough resident to think so.

Algonquin senior Maggie Rousseau came up with the idea of a children’s literature elective to be offered next year by the English department. The class will explore themes in children’s literature, from classic fairytales to modern epics. Rousseau told the Metrowest Daily News:

“So many things you didn’t understand as a kid, reading it over you’re able to understand now,” Rousseau said. “It’s not just a throw-away class for an easy A.”

You can read more in the Metrowest Daily News.

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John
13 years ago

“Not just a throw-away class for an easy A”

Really?! Seriously?

This course will give the students an “easy A”? Talk about major grade inflation….The level of academics (or should I say the worth of an “A”) has become shameful/embarrassing. I guess we should hand out A’s to everybody now, even to those who don’t deserve them but will get them from taking this class.

Imagine this:
Student A invests an incredible amount of time learning calculus/physics in a standard level course. Comes out with a well-deserved B+/A-.

Student B reads fairytales and comes out with an “easy A”. Hence, Student B has a higher GPA than Student A.

Something is wrong with this, no?

Mimi22
13 years ago

This sounds like a terrific course. Congrats to Maggie and the teacher at Algonquin who is developing the cirriculum. Adolescent literature builds upon themes from as far back as the ancient Greeks and is an ideal way to teach young minds how to analyze all forms of literature.

John
13 years ago

Usted no está recibiendo el punto. El fortalecimiento de los programas de matemáticas y ciencias deberían ser la máxima prioridad en las escuelas secundarias americanas. Un curso sobre hadas no hacer el truco.

Mimi22
13 years ago

USTED no está recibiendo el punto. Matemáticas y Ciencia no son los únicos temas que se desarrollan el cerebro. La literatura, la lengua y la música son tan importantes. El curso no es sobre “las hadas” se trata de estudio y análisis literario.

YOU are not getting the point. Mathematics and Science are not the only subjects that develop the brain. Literature, language and music are just as important. The course is not about “fairies” it is about literary study and analysis.

And what’s with the Spanish? Are you being self-congratulatory or just rude?

John
13 years ago

You’re right about one thing–language is important. However, I would have to, in the most respectful manner, disagree with everything else you wrote. I wrote the above post in Spanish to serve as a “metaphor”; the point is that we are in an age of globalization (actually, I was watching Jeopardy yesterday and one of the kids on the show was learning mandarin chinese because her dad told her that China is the future, but I digress).

My point is that I am very displeased in the way my tax money is spent with regards to education. More emphasis should be placed on math and science. Yes, these are not the only subjects of importance, but they are being shoved aside for “useless” courses. Pragmatically, there should be no comparison between spending money on a math/tech program or a literary study program. In my opinion, a course on “How an IPod Works” or “What Makes a Computer Work?” is much more beneficial to the students and to the economy. This actually can even apply to you, Mimi. Ever go into a Best Buy and not have the slightest clue what all the specifications mean? RAM? LED/Plasma?

Being an Algonquin and Ivy League graduate currently looking for a job, I can say that no one cares about literary analysis. Learning how to write well is one thing, but analyzing why an author wrote a fictional event a specific way is completely different (and useless). Who cares if the author is trying to portray existential qualities in his or her writing? So what if the author is trying to infer a theme or moral. Unemployed is still unemployed. The only way to succeed in this world is to develop useful skills.

Don’t believe me? I googled “us math and science” and below are articles about the US lagging behind the international community. And trust me, there are already alot of liberal arts/humanities/music electives at Algonquin. I pose you this question: How many extra help programs/tutoring programs are there for the math and science courses at Algonquin (everybody knows that these are not “easy A – Harry Potter” courses and that actual, good old-fashioned hard work must be used to understand the subjects). If we could divert some money into these areas, the world and lives of the future leaders of America would be much, much better.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/04/AR2007120400730.html

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2006-01-29-teacher-shortage_x.htm

Mimi22
13 years ago

Well, I don’t disagree with everything you have written but with much of it. My background is private secondary school, ivy league university and a graduate degree and I feel that there is nothing in this world more important than a well-rounded liberal arts education. Key to that is reading, writing and literature. There are many out there who have no aptitute or interest in math and science. Are they to be written out of the educational system, or later out of society? Since when is the journalist, author, attorney, historian, artist or business person not valued in our society? These are all disciplines that require little if any math or science after secondary school.

I agree that careers in math & science-related fields are important, but not to the exclusion of the other disciplines that teach us about who we are and where we have come from – history, literature, music, art. My goal is children who can compete on the global playing field but also carry on an intelligent conversation on any number of topics and adapt to change as change will inevitably come to all of them. You cannot succeed in a three dimensional world with a one-dimensional education.

Teaching our children how to think, how they fit in with society and how to find meaningful work that will make them happy is the most important goal. If they become doctors, engineers, lawyers or artists – that they do it well, contribute positively to society and are fulfilled doing it should be our only concern.

Papa Rosa
13 years ago

John: Too bad your Ivy League education didn’t teach you to write; if it had, you wouldn’t misuse quotation marks, say you’re displeased “in the way” when you mean “at the way,” or write “infer” when you mean “imply.”

Indeed, given a proper education, you may have come to understand that high-school course selection isn’t a zero-sum game – that there’s plenty of room for the study of science, math and literature.

Which brings us to the straw-man argument, a concept I must assume you skipped despite all that expensive schooling …

Mimi22
13 years ago

Papa, you are my hero.

Very interesting point about the straw-man argument. Interestingly enough, my “expensive schooling” WAS mostly in math and science and I missed that one, but I looked it up and found it a very enlightening concept, especially where debate like this takes place. I will have to study it further. Flawed logic is a good topic.

Jamie
13 years ago

It seems that most of today’s posts have been written by ivy league graduates. Does the fact that ARHS has never had a graduate attend Harvard reflect on the quality f the school? Even inner city schools send graduates to Harvard. I am not an ivy league graduate but I would be curious to hear their opinions.

However, I must strongly disagree with this portion of Mimi22’s post “Since when is the journalist, author, attorney, historian, artist or business person not valued in our society? These are all disciplines that require little if any math or science after secondary school.” That just is not true.

John
13 years ago

Papa Rosa: I don’t like your tone. Please use constructive criticism. If you cannot write in this manner, then I suggest you refrain from posting. Let’s not act like the posters from the “ontheegotrip” blog. Thank you.

And you’re right, I have never, ever, ever heard about the straw man argument (frankly, I could care less about it). And I’m pretty sure 99% of the population of Earth hasn’t either. Do you know how to do an integral? I’m sure many more people know this compared to what a straw man argument is. Sadly, at least 60% of algonquin grads do not take calculus. This is a problem.

Mimi: I guess I should make my point more clear. I’m not trying to say that a student should only learn math and science. Coming from an institution that has a renaissance man President, and a motto that stresses exploration of all subjects, I know that engineering is not the center of the universe (explained further below).

Jamie: I’m afraid you’re mistaken about Algonquin not having anybody attend Harvard. Check Class of 2004. I believe Naviance was only used, starting from Class of 2006.

Susan: First, I want to say how much I enjoy reading your blog. I am currently living out-of-state, but am still interested in what happens in my hometown. Second, from the USA Today article you posted, I was able to find this reader-discussion question. It basically explains the point I was trying to make: Do you consider yourself more “right brain” or “left brain”? What about your kids? Do you think the education system cultivates both or should it change?

The whole point I was trying to make (my 1st point hinted at it, as it would have been off-topic to talk about, 2nd and mainly 3rd post tried to make) is that Algonquin, along with other US Schools, does not cultivate both sides of the brain. Sure, there is the core requirement that a student must take math and science to graduate. But these subjects are hard. Much harder than simply reading a book. It requires critical thinking; reading one page of a textbook one time simply will not get it done. To grasp the full meaning, a student must read the page multiple times in order to understand the concept.

From the original post, money is being spent on developing this new literature course. I’m trying to say, wouldn’t the money be better spent on creating extra-help sessions/tutoring? After all, from the web pages I posted, the US is falling far behind other international students in terms of math and science.

The quote “easy A” was used to hint at the relative level of difficulty between math/science vs. literary studies. Given the option of taking quantum physics (which forms the foundation of semiconductors, i.e. technology) or “Harry Potter” studies, which course do you think is easier? My point is that the tax money should have been spent on creating supplemental math/science courses given the current state of the world. And Mimi, again, I’m not saying that math/science are the only subjects to learn. Rather, I am saying that these subjects are probably the hardest to learn at the high school age.

Mimi22
13 years ago

I appreciate your explanation John, I really do, but I still disagree.

I don’t know how many high-level literary analysis classes you have taken, but I have found that they require as much if not more complex thinking than math or science. More importantly, they require A DIFFERENT KIND of thinking and there is the rub. No, we should not let kids off the hook as far as the study of math and science is concerned. These disciplines develop the brain and cultivate invaluable thinking skills, but likewise, literature is critical to a well-rounded education. As far as taxpayer dollars go, modern education is about capilatizing on material that will stimulate students and keep them engaged. I am fine with my taxpayer dollars going to anything that stimulates the mind and keeps kids learning.

Finally, I don’t know why we are arguing one or the other. Did Susan’s post, or the article it referenced, say that students would now be able to choose NOT to take math or science in favor of the class described? It did not.

Your entire premise seems to be based on the idea that the course described is going to be “easy” and I see no facts to support that assumption. Quite the contrary, I feel the course could be very challenging.

I am out of this discussion since you seem fairly set on your idea that this course is a waste of time. Ironically, one of the most telling signs of a well-educated mind is that it strives to remain open to new ideas. Your refusal to see any possibility that this type of course can be valuable, shows that your mind is closed, at least on this subject.

Papa Rosa
13 years ago

John writes:
I don’t like your tone. Please use constructive criticism. If you cannot write in this manner, then I suggest you refrain from posting.

Thank you for the suggestion, which I will of course ignore with glee.

… Do you know how to do an integral?

Yawn. I do a half-dozen integrals every morning before I have my first cup of coffee.

John
13 years ago

Current Liberal Arts Education at Algonquin: Very Good/Excellent
– Courses include: Creative Writing, Dramatic Lit., Romanticism
– From personal experience: Well-developed lesson plans. Each class had a specific goal. Challenging course material.

Current Technology Education at Algonquin: Average
– Courses include: C++, Java, Freshmen Physics
– From personal experience: Did not learn a thing. No lectures. Given textbook, figure it out yourself.

Shouldn’t more money be spent on math/science (technology)? Especially since US is BEHIND compared to the world. Do you want all of our American jobs outsourced?!

And you are correct to say my “entire premise seems to be based on the idea that the course described is going to be “easy”.” Look at the the quote I posted in my very first comment. She said that this course is “not JUST an easy A” which implies that it will be an easy A. This is actually why I wrote my comment in the first place; the comment was outrageous to be me. Why are there courses with “easy A’s”?

I agree that I might have stretched my argument out a little by saying literary analysis is useless (please disregard that paragraph). I should not have written that. When I read this article, I thought it was ridiculous how this course was characterized as an “easy A.” Math/science courses would not be “easy A” courses. Hence, we need to divert money to this area to help students learn more about these topics, especially when the english department is doing just fine.

Mimi, I agree with all the posts you have wrote. I just don’t think you understood what I was trying to say. Sorry about the confusion.

Again, the fact that we are spending money on another english course, rather than spending money on math/science is a problem.

‘Nuff said. Y’all figure it out. I’m out. Peace.

– Word

Mimi22
13 years ago

Good grief John, did you not read the article?

“So many things you didn’t understand as a kid, reading it over you’re able to understand now,” Rousseau said. “It’s not just a throw-away class for an easy A.”

For those muggles who might view the half-year course as akin to a stroll around the grounds of Hogwarts, Querino said that won’t be the case. He calls it a challenging, college-level course that will be reading-intensive.

She didn’t mean that the course IS an easy A, she meant it is NOT an easy A.

Do I need to point out how ironic it is that you didn’t bother to read the article or that you misread the meaning of the article?

I repeat GOOD GRIEF!!! If I hadn’t wasted so much time responding to you, this would be funny!

Everyone else reading this, please stop me next time!!!

John
13 years ago

Ok, I’m wrong, you’re right. I misinterpreted the quote. No need to say good grief many times. No need to capitalize good grief. Why? Because I don’t even know what that means. I know that grief means sadness. But good grief? Good sadness?

Nevertheless, my other points still stand.

Jamie
13 years ago

Since Governor Patrick has announced funding for additional charter schools, it might be possible to start one in Southborough.

Kelly Roney
13 years ago

Ironic that the central dispute here hinged on misreading…

Here’s some background on math education in Massachusetts, which is the best in the country and comparable to all but the very best in the world. Rest on our laurels? No, we should rival Hong Kong and Singapore, but there’s also no reason to panic (nor any reason from experience to believe that charter schools add much).

One other point: There will always be more English courses than math courses due to the much more diffuse structure of knowledge in the humanities than in math (or science).

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