Opinion
Reading & Literacy Letter to the Editor

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

April 26, 2016 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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

Curriculum Webinar Computer Science Education Movement Gathers Momentum. How Should Schools React?
Discover how schools can expand opportunities for students to study computer science education.
School & District Management Webinar Fostering Student Well-Being with Programs That Work
Protecting student well-being has never been more important. Join this webinar to learn how to ensure your programs yield the best outcomes.
Reading & Literacy Webinar 'Science of Reading': What Are the Components?
Learn how to adopt a “science of reading” approach to early literacy to effectively build students’ vocabulary and content knowledge.

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

Reading & Literacy Q&A Banned-Book Author: If a Book Isn't in the School Library, 'It Might as Well Not Exist'
Ashley Hope Pérez, an author and a former high school English teacher, explains her concerns with the current wave of school book bans.
7 min read
Ashley Hope Pérez, author of "Out of Darkness," the third most banned book in the country.
Ashley Hope Pérez, author of <i>Out of Darkness,</i> the third most banned book in the country.
Photo courtesy of Ashley Hope Pérez
Reading & Literacy Q&A How to Build Better Small-Group Reading Instruction
Reading expert Matthew Burns answers questions about how to rev up classroom reading groups.
5 min read
Latasha Johnson teaches reading skills to a kindergarten classroom at Walnut Creek Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C. on May 25, 2022.
Latasha Johnson teaches kindergartners in a reading group at Walnut Creek Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C., earlier this year.
Kate Medley for Education Week
Reading & Literacy Book Ban Efforts Surging in 2022, Library Association Says
This year's numbers for challenges to books already approach last year's totals, which were the highest in decades.
3 min read
Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents in Salt Lake City on Dec. 16, 2021. The wave of attempted book banning and restrictions continues to intensify, the American Library Association reported Friday. Numbers for 2022 already approach last year's totals, which were the highest in decades.
Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents.
Rick Bowmer/AP
Reading & Literacy Listen: A Principal Reflects on Shifting to the 'Science of Reading'
Why is changing instructional practice so hard? 3 takeaways from EdWeek's Twitter Spaces discussion with a school leader.
3 min read
Sherri Miller is the principal of Lacy Elementary in Raleigh, N.C.
Sherri Miller is the principal of Lacy Elementary in Raleigh, N.C.
Kate Medley for Education Week