Two articles from The New York Times came to my attention over the weekend. The first, Poetry: Who Needs It? arrived via email from my brother-in-law. He knows my love for poetry; he’s also a voracious reader … during those moments when he absolutely must take time out from golf! (I’m honored he includes wiseblooding.com as part of his reading.)
The author (William Logan) of Poetry: Who Needs it? expresses thoughts I advanced in an April post. Logan’s essay states the perceived problem well and seems to hope for a more poetry-friendly (my words) approach in education. His tongue-in-cheek suggestions for elementary-school curriculum (before the age of 12) resembles the movement that advocates for educating children in a free-range setting.
For my part, I remember a time when poetry readings were common … not just the coffee-house, drug-induced ramblings of hippies (though I do remember those). I’m talking about poetic readings as one aspect of a school program or as part of a social gathering. Even in school classes, we were required to memorize certain poems, and subsequently recite them in front of our class members. Children who didn’t have a father like mine (see yesterday’s post relating his recitations) could be certain to have minimal exposure to poetic and dramatic delivery on a semi-regular basis.
Logan’s “blue-sky proposal … making them read poetry” isn’t likely to resolve the public’s general attitude in favor of poetry. However, I’m inclined to believe print publications (where published poetry often appeared) declining over time to continue publishing poetry resulted from negative editorial attitudes toward poetry and the public gradually adopted an identical mindset. (Rhetorical question: Was this the the first shoe to drop in coarsening our culture?)
Schools have followed suit; whenever education dollars have been reduced or education belts even lightly tightened, dollars devoted to the humanities are usually the first to feel it; oftentimes programs are discontinued entirely. (While this devaluation of humanities predates Common Core, a perusal of the CC standards doesn’t foster my optimism. I’ll address CC concerns in a future post.) Continue reading “Losing Arts?”