10 Apr 2018

Education in America

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Tony Esolen:

The gorilla in the living room is this: A majority of teachers are pretty ignorant in the subjects they are hired to teach. They write poorly, they do not read good books, they think poorly, and so they end up depending upon on-line lesson plans — which are wretched — or the puked-up politics they are fed in college.

Ask how many high school English teachers are able to read a poem by Milton without trouble, let alone teach that poem. Or rather ask how many college freshmen, having come out of “good” schools with English teachers galore, even recognize the name of John Milton.

Raising salaries won’t attract better teachers, not now, because those better teachers don’t exist. Our college education now is pretty wretched. I am regularly informed by my old students that even in graduate schools, students pursuing a degree in English literature do not know English literature, and often do not even LIKE English literature; they like “theory,” which they do not have the philosophical grounding to evaluate, and politics, which rushes into the vacuum that ignorance leaves.

There’s no reforming it. We have some teachers who really do love English literature — I’m choosing that subject because it’s the one I know best — but they are coming out of “classical” Christian academies, secondary and post-secondary, and they haven’t taken courses in education, they don’t have degrees in education or in English education, so in most states you can’t hire them for public schools. They end up teaching in private schools, most of them for wages that at best barely allow them to support a family.”

8 Feedbacks on "Education in America"

Seattle Sam

My daughter teaches AP English in a California public school . She’s very good (teacher of he year in her district), but when she took on the class she had to read much of the material for the first time. And she went to a top tier liberal arts college. Or perhaps BECAUSE she went to one of those schools.

Donald Sutherland in Animal House: OK, don’t write this down, but I find Milton probably as boring as you find Milton. Mrs. Milton found him boring too.

JK Brown

On the other hand, the sorry state of English literature, the teaching of which didn’t even start until the 1880s, is also a product of the efforts by English teachers over the ages to inculcate a loathing of reading by making it as onerous as possible.

“Shakespeare did not intend for his work to be used to torture minors.”

Louis Rossman, Computer repair youtuber, self-taught.



Shakespeare should not be “taught” in high school it should be “explored”. It can be made to be enjoyable.

We should know history and literature and the arts are a part of our history. If we don’t learn this we are “ignorant” and are playing our part in the world with a handicap. It isn’t about “just” Shakespeare or Milton or Mozart or Monet or Homer or Virgil or Joyce, etc it is about all this and more. Our children should get an introduction to great plays, books, music, leaders, inventors. Not to punish them but to tease them and open their eyes and their mind. To know where they came from and whose shoulders they are standing on to be able to see so much and how we got here.

Steven WIlson

Shakespeare should be watched in a theater.

Let’s Review 64: 10 Snappy One-Liners - American Digest

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Gordon Scott

Shakespeare can be taught, but reading the plays is torturous. Start with the poetry. Demonstrate how difficult it is to write a sonnet, and point out that WS wrote over 100.

Show how many phrases we use today come from WS. Hire the local college theater department to come in and do “Shakespeare in the Park” style productions.


I find it strange to regard Shakespeare’s plays as “torture”. This in itself says something about our current state of affairs.


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