Erin O’Connor, from a post that I’ve been thinking about for the past six months or so:

English teachers are mediators. They are not ends in themselves. That’s how it should be, anyway. They are training wheels that young readers ought to be able to shed once they acquire the skills they need to read purposefully and profitably on their own. But, too often, this backfires. Kids get turned off, and reading just becomes a chore they have to do for school. Or — and this pattern is less discussed, but still troubling — they become dependent. They may really enjoy reading — but they think they need a class, and spoonfed lectures, and guided discussions, in order to get anything out of what they read. They are willing and eager — but have learned from their teachers exactly what they should not have learned. They have become passive where they should be active, and the teacher becomes a crutch for laziness, fear, uncertainty, and sometimes even a creeping snobbery about reading, about choosing what to read, deciding how to read, and figuring out what one thinks about what one has read. These folks grow up into the kind of adults who answer questions about their favorite books by listing works they think should be their favorites — but that they may never have even actually read.


  1. Alan, have you read a wonderful essay called "The Loss of the Creature" by Walker Percy that touches on this very subject in a literary fashion?

  2. Belatedly . . . yes! It's one of Percy's best, though I think he is more interested in how social structures mediate, rather than people.

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