There have been a few times where my younger co-workers have shown that their schooling had a serious lack of cultural enlightenment. By the quizzical looks on the faces of these college graduates, I have begun to wonder if the "finer" bits are being lost in today's schoolrooms. Recently, while gathered around our virtual water cooler, I discovered that they did not read classical books in early grade school. No Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, Alice in Wonderland (they weren't even interested in the movie). They couldn't remember what they read in middle school, whereas I remember Cry, the Beloved Country, To Kill a Mockingbird, and a few plays by Shakespeare.
Today, an older gent in the office stood near the A/R gal and quoted "The King was in the counting house, counting out his money". She gave him a blank stare. I was the only other person in the room who knew another line to the poem.
Okay, so it's not great literature. But it is a poem that teaches children good use of our language. It develops our appreciation for works that come later, and grows our interest in reading. It seems that those little sing-song poems and stories are no longer being learned in schools. Is this why the written word of today is reduced to "k" and "gr8"? By no means do I intend to denounce today's youth. It is the educational system that I am concerned about. I always admired people who have a full vocabulary, who can put down someone without them knowing they've been compared to toe jam. That skill only comes with a rounded education, starting with reading the classical children's fairy tales and poems.
I loved to read when I was young. We had some older books at home that were compilations of children's stories and poems, the good stuff. The ones where you had to figure out some of the words, or look them up in a dictionary. The school librarians encouraged us to read a step up from our level, to keep learning more. I wonder what's going on within those four walls now. Has the computer lab taken floor space where there once were bookshelves? The library was, and still is, a place of wonder for me. A well written book can take you to other worlds, or other times in history.
Upon the advice of a friend, I borrowed Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury from a local library. Immediately upon reading the first chapter, I was caught by the eloquent use of the language. I could imagine the scenes as if I had stepped into them. I could sense nightfall when characters were going home at the end of the day, and hear the chirping bugs in the middle of the hot afternoon. Books like that make me want to read more. And makes me gr8ful that I was encouraged to read good literature a long time ago.
How about you? Did you read Aesop's Fables? Did you go through the looking glass with Alice, or sail with the owl and the pussycat? Or take a trip to Treasure Island?