Hey, how did that happen if No Child Left Behind was supposedly diverting teaching resources away from history and into reading and math (the subjects on the tests required by the program)?
Well, maybe reading is... you know... fundamental.
I mean, check out this question from the history test:
[A] question on the fourth-grade version of the test, which quoted three sentences from the 1858 speech in which Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”I'd say reading comprehension goes a long way on a history test that asks you to interpret a text, and, more than that, the ability to read and interpret texts gets you much farther along in the process of learning history than knowing some historical facts.
The test asked students, “What did Abraham Lincoln mean in this speech?” and listed four possible answers.
a) The South should be allowed to separate from the United States.
b) The government should support slavery in the South.
c) Sometime in the future slavery would disappear from the United States.
d) Americans would not be willing to fight a war over slavery.
And why does reading even need to be a separate subject from history in school? Give them history texts and teach reading from them. Science books too. Leave the storybooks for pleasure reading outside of school. They will be easier reading, and with well-developed reading skills, kids should feel pleasure curling up with a novel at home. But even if they don't, why should any kind of a premium be placed on an interest in reading novels? It's not tied to economic success in life and needn't be inculcated any more than an interest in watching movies or listening to popular music. Leave kids alone to find out out what recreational activities enrich and satisfy them. Some may want to dance or play music or paint. Just because teachers tend to be the kind of people who love novels does not mean that this choice ought to be imposed on young people via compulsory education. Teach them about history, science, law, logic -- something academic and substantive -- and leave the fictional material for after hours.
And quit bitching about No Child Left Behind.
ADDED: Message to the self-appointed reading experts who are outraged at what I've written: Ironically, you are not reading very well. I'm not saying reading shouldn't be taught. I'm saying that the reading materials used in teaching reading should be nonfiction, so that students are absorbing information and practicing critical thinking while they read. I consider this to be efficient and appropriate for the school setting. Students would have access to fiction to read on their own for fun (and maybe, because it would be a change of pace, they'd have more of a tendency to experience it as fun).
I'm drawing on my own background as a law professor. In law school, we spend much of the time teaching students to read cases. So to me, the combination of learning reading skills and learning substantive material is very familiar. I'm working with adult students, obviously, but they are still learning how to read. If I were to try to adapt this to young readers, I would find elementary, well-written books that present scientific and historical information.
If you don't like this idea, but can do nothing more than call it stupid, then I can't respect your opinion. My working theory is that you are either stupid, lacking in creativity (despite your affinity for fiction), or have some conflicting interest in the publishing or education industry.
By the way, I was taught to read through the ridiculous fictional series known as Dick and Jane.
AND: I have a big new post here addressing some of the criticisms of this post (which, I think, really misunderstand my point).