Opinion
Reading & Literacy Letter to the Editor

Reader Applauds David Denby’s ‘Morale Boost’ for Teachers

April 26, 2016 1 min read

To the Editor:

Thank God for David Denby (“Q&A With Author David Denby: A Quest for ‘Serious’ Reading in the Digital Age”). He is again helping return the soul to teaching and learning.

In an era when well-meaning reformers seek to transform great teachers into data drones who are encouraged to fill passive student minds with test-prep bites of information in a manner reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ infamous utilitarian reformer Thomas Gradgrind, we need the eloquent voice of David Denby to remind us what we are losing in the data-driven reform process.

Denby’s Great Books, published 20 years ago, provided a similar morale boost for beleaguered teachers trying to keep the relevance and love of great literature alive in classrooms across the country. Today’s test-obsessed reformers rarely mention, much less cite, the great writers, thinkers, teachers, and philosophers of the past, including Aristotle, John Dewey, Alfred North Whitehead, Robert Maynard Hutchins, and Theodore R. Sizer. These names seldom enter the current debate about how to raise scores and improve graduation rates. This sin of omission is a profound loss for teachers and students.

Denby’s celebration of New York City’s Beacon School English teacher Sean Leon recalls Kipling’s comment in his autobiography about how one can learn more from “a good scholar in a rage” than from a “lucid but laborious drudge.” Leon confirms that a good scholar in a rage with a passion for teaching can motivate the most reluctant student in the most difficult environment, but only if the teacher has the freedom to teach creatively rather than being required to mindlessly follow a scripted module.

Anthony McCann

Clifton Park, N.Y.

The writer is a retired teacher.

A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 2016 edition of Education Week as Reader Applauds David Denby’s ‘Morale Boost’ for Teachers

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Interactive Learning Best Practices: Creative Ways Interactive Displays Engage Students
Students and teachers alike struggle in our newly hybrid world where learning takes place partly on-site and partly online. Focus, engagement, and motivation have become big concerns in this transition. In this webinar, we will
Content provided by Samsung
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Educator-Driven EdTech Design: Help Shape the Future of Classroom Technology
Join us for a collaborative workshop where you will get a live demo of GoGuardian Teacher, including seamless new integrations with Google Classroom, and participate in an interactive design exercise building a feature based on
Content provided by GoGuardian
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Dr. Louisa Moats on Why Literacy PD Is Essential
In the white paper, Literacy PD: 10 Reasons Why It’s Essential, renowned literacy expert and author of LETRS® (Language Essentials for Te...
Content provided by Voyager Sopris Learning
Reading & Literacy Most States Fail to Measure Teachers' Knowledge of the 'Science of Reading,' Report Says
The majority of states don’t evaluate whether prospective teachers know how to teach reading effectively, a new analysis finds.
6 min read
Image shows two children ages 5 to 7 years old and a teacher, an African-American woman, holding a digital tablet up, showing it to the girl sitting next to her. They are all wearing masks, back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic, trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
E+/Getty
Reading & Literacy Opinion The Coming Literacy Crisis: There’s No Going Back to School as We Knew It
Many schools failed to properly teach reading long before the pandemic, write Comer Yates, Renée Boynton-Jarrett, and Maryanne Wolf.
Comer Yates, Renée Boynton-Jarrett & Maryanne Wolf
4 min read
Illustration shows boy of color holding a cage with floating star dust escaping from the cage into the open night sky.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Sponsor
How have students’ reading habits changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Without a doubt, the average classroom looks more different now than ever before. With schools and districts across the nation engaging in a mix of remote, hybrid, and in-person learning, getting books into the hands of students can be difficult.
Content provided by Renaissance Learning