Below are two questions that I'd like some input on. If you have any answers to either these questions, please type a response in the comment section. Or feel free to email me at Nathancharlesbranson@gmail.com with your thoughts. I am looking to start a conversation about these things, whether online, via email or in person.
I've come to the conclusion that part of my job as a teacher is to try to persuade students to become readers. At some point in my life I became a reader. I think part of it came from my mom taking me to the Thomasville Library at least once a week as a child. I am a reader because books give me answers to the questions that I have about the world. Whenever I am at a friend's house and visually browse his bookshelf, I can't help but to find at least one book I've never heard of. And then take note of that book, hoping to have time to read it. Looking at other people's bookshelves makes me want to read.
I meet many students in my classes today who are curious. As a teacher I know that my job isn't to merely hoard all the good books and attempt to make myself into this resource of knowledge. I know as a teacher I am supposed to push my students to develop their own specialties and to explore topics I don't have time to explore myself. I want my students to develop their own appetite for books. I believe that if I can expose my students to the right kind of theology, literature, history and sociology, they will naturally become readers. The challenge is------getting the right books in their hands. Letting them get a good look at bookshelves full of good books.
Here's my question----------- What persuades young people to become readers in 2015? What is the "gateway drug" to get students hooked on reading good books? Not just any book, but challenging books, so they will want to take on big social and moral problems in the future. How did you become a reader?
Since I am a writing teacher I often pay attention to how previous teachers have worded sample essays. One thing I've noticed about "old essays" that often times they are worded in a way that attempt to persuade an audience to take legislative action for a particular idea. For instance, if you are writing a persuasive essay about organ donors, it seems the common way to argue is to suggest all Americans be organ donors. Part of writing a good persuasive essay is to find a topic in which there are two sides. Yet it seems that in order to find "two sides" you always want to find a topic in which people are attempting to make something legal or illegal or mandatory by law or not mandatory by law.
This in turn, I have noticed, means that when searching for persuasive essay topics you always come upon lots of laws being passed. This is annoying to me because a society in which there are always laws being passed sounds like a society that cannot think and make educated choices on their own.
Is this just a tendency of writing teachers to make sensational writing topics of "for or against" legislative/"let's pass some laws!" topics? Is this something writing teachers are doing to "wake up" bored high school students? Or is this a normal trend in American culture in 2015------that being-----we are more interested in passing laws to change the tide of our society rather than changing the minds of the people? If this is true-------does this mean that we've given up on persuasion and public discourse? That we've exchanged persuasion for just making laws to control the general public?
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I'm Nathan Branson and I teach community college English.