Posts Tagged ‘education’

My Son Doesn’t Like to Read

December 7, 2016


My Son Doesn’t Like to Read

 My son doesn’t like to read.  Reading for enjoyment is a mystery to him.  Actually, sitting still for enjoyment is a mystery to him.  About the only thing he will sit still to watch are sports on TV and social media videos.

He is not ADHD.  He can spend large amounts of time working at the computer on photographs and design problems, and he can concentrate and finish his homework.  He is quite organized.  But the only times he will read is when he needs information.  And if he can obtain that information by listening, or asking a teacher or watching a YouTube video, he would prefer it.  He does not read to understand.  Gaining a deeper understanding of the life around him through reading would seem to be an oxymoron to him.  What he most prefers is being out doing activities with friends.

I’m not much worried about my son’s prospects in life.  He already runs his own business.  He makes money.  He is very active socially.  He’s well liked and well behaved.  Life doesn’t demand that he read that well.  His biggest problem is that school demands he reads that well.  And colleges demand that he read that well.

And speaking as someone who enjoys reading and does quite a lot of it, I wonder if society is best served by the emphasis our educational institutions place on reading.  I realize this is heresy and in a large part probably wrong-headed.  But, as I’ve aged and butted my head up against the world, it has occurred to me that many of the people I know, who have done quite well in life, do not like to read.  And conversely, many of the people I know, who like to read, have not done as well as might be supposed, given their abilities.

I was first struck by this while trying to create a producer for my play.  The fellow was a quite successful graduate from Stanford.  He was somewhat intrigued by the idea of play production.  But he admitted to me candidly that he didn’t like to read, and couldn’t imagine having to make it through “all those scripts”.  Another fellow I met was admitted to Stanford almost entirely on his test scores – not his high school attainments, as I think he might have dropped out.  But he had spent most of his teen years assiduously reading his way through the public library, and so seemed to have wowed the admissions people.   He, however, did quite modestly in life, and much less than I might have expected.  Then, there are others I have run across.  For example, a quite successful CFO, a sought after mechanic who had never learned to read, and the Lord knows how many quite successful salespeople.  In fact, the more successful the salesperson, the less it seemed they enjoyed reading.  It wasn’t the product understanding so much as the numbers of people you met.

On the other hand, I like to read, and find myself among many friends and acquaintances who enjoy reading also, many with advanced degrees.  But, many of these well-read friends have only had modest success in life, if that.  I’ve many well-read friends who have lived on the fringes of poverty most their lives.  And of the ones who have done better, most have achieved some success within a profession.  But, of those within a profession, it still seems that those who prefer to read have still not done as well as those who don’t, or at least as well as their gifts would have appeared to take them.  Of the doctors I know, the most successful does not particular enjoy reading.

So why doesn’t reading help us that much?  This is the question which has occurred to me – especially since I like to read.

The most obvious reason I suppose is that reading is like golf; it takes a lot of time and takes us away from the business at hand, which is applying ourselves to life.  “Always with your nose in a book,” as they say.

There are probably a multitude of reasons, actually.  But the one most dire, that has occurred to me, is that the pursuit of reading is fueled by the belief that a better understanding of the world will naturally make us more successful.  And I wonder if this is necessarily true.  What age has taught me is as Shakespeare noted:  “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  This idea of getting a step up on life through greater understanding seems to be of limited use!  Life, as I’ve come to know it, seems to be like the weather or the stock market and confound even the most learned.  And those who do best are those who place their bets and get into the game – just as those who do best at investing are those who start.  It’s simple enough, really.

A more troubling aspect is that the notion that we can understand life more successfully through reading – gets extended by the ego of the intellectual among us into the belief than they can fully understand life, at least to the extent that they owe it to the general betterment to legislate how the rest of the less acquainted with the ‘facts’ should live.  Our educational institutions would seem to inculcate this view, if only implicitly.  At one point this was the view of the educated nobility.  Presently, it seems to be the view of everyone.

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From the Editor’s Perch…

January 19, 2014
Core Curriculum Takes Another Local School.

Core Curriculum Takes Another Local School.

Core Curriculum: an Anarchist’s Viewpoint


            When I was much younger, the notion that it was much wiser to learn concepts rather than facts and information of all sorts made sense.  After all, we could always look up the facts, but wasn’t it the task of intelligence to organize these facts into a coherent, usable bit of wisdom one could carry around and use as a mental tool to examine and mine more facts and information to determine meaning?  Wasn’t the point of learning to absorb ways of looking and seeing so that the world became a comprehensible and useable?  Shouldn’t education spread the acquired wisdom of the history of all endeavors?  Otherwise, what’s to keep us from being superseded by the computer?


With experience came a different point of view.  When it came to arguing a point, I found facts and examples to be much more powerful tools than concepts.  Arguing from a ‘concept’ was about as effective as pounding a Bible.  Concepts are useful when you are preaching to the choir.  But otherwise, no one has time for yours.  Concepts are something you can fight with, but it’s facts and examples which do the hard work.  People generally hold concepts to be a lot like opinions (and assholes); everybody has one.  About all a concept will do is to start a fight.

Which brought me to my second, more rebellious, notion, which is that a concept is really just a prejudice about reality.   Some say that the facts organize themselves this way.  Others say that the facts organize themselves that way.  In fact, the facts do not do any organizing at all.  It’s the people who have organized everything.  So, when we discuss education, and learning, the question is: how ‘organized’ do we want this education to be’.  The Core Curriculum people (and those who would keep their jobs by enforcing these positions) would maintain (albeit tacitly) that we want it very organized, and from the top down.


In essence, what the Core Curriculum demands a student do is to observe the world with prejudice, rather than as it is.  And they would insist that this prejudice be extreme and all-encompassing, and – by the way, created by those far away from you who will ‘know better’.

For goodness sakes, if we are going to have prejudices, shouldn’t they be our own?  How in the world are we ever to change a prejudice, if it isn’t even ours?

Since time immemorial, the populace has yearned for consistency, and has sought to enforce it through force.  But since time immemorial, wisdom has taught us the errors of placing all of our eggs in one basket.  The reason facts occur without prejudice is because life occurs without prejudice.  The only thing which occurs with complete prejudice is death.  Yes, death is restful.  Death is peaceful.  Death will silence all of your questions and anxieties.  The Core Curriculum is a big step towards this ideal state.  And they would start with our children.

Photo from Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch

December 2, 2012

Editor’s Note:  grumble, grumble….

Hyperactive Textbook2

Hey Kids!

The Hyperactive Textbook

If you have kids, chances are you end up helping them with their homework.  When I was a student the texts had chapters and paragraphs explaining the material to be learned followed by questions to test whether we had indeed understood the lesson.  Nowadays, just locating the explanatory narrative can be challenging.  The page is a jumble of fonts and colors and letters printed in a variety of bold types and sizes.  There are illustrations and photos and diagrams and insets and outsets and a matrix of colored explanatory boxes rife with additions and digressions and further explanations, and even little cartoony, happy learning helpers to point out important things you might not want to miss.  All in all it’s a thriving, teeming mass of intelligiblia (my term).  Just locating the preceding and following chapters takes a bit of concentration.  And the whole phantasmagoria of it makes me a little queasy.  Whatever happened to simple schoolbook type and the narrative progression of reason… followed by a few well thought out questions?

Hyperactive Textbook3

Look at this!

If your students’ problem solving skills are anything like my son’s, it’s a matter of reading the question and stabbing at an answer.  And if the answer doesn’t come in a lucky burst of insight, the next thing you do is to go looking for help.  Actually, demanding  help.  (Looking for that little ‘happy figure’.)  And any help should cut to the chase – providing the answer first, before providing the explanation.   Any help which has to mull the problem over – pause to think for a moment – is obviously incompetent.

And this!
And this!
Cool!, huh?

As a parent we have to resist this tyranny of the ignorant, for the sake of our children.  But it’s hard when the text itself panders to it.  To my thinking a good text implicitly practices the problem solving skills required by the questions. Chris19Web It is a calm thoughtful explanation, each of which parts are an equally important link in a narrative of constructed understanding.Chris5Web It begins with what we know – just as should the process of answering the questions – and progresses in clear, thoughtful steps towards conclusions which reveal much that we didn’t know.  It is an exercise in delayed gratification, much like a successful life.

But apparently our educators and their publishers all know better now.Chris16Web  Cool!  huh?

Photos by Carl Nelson of a professional model

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