Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Life Richer With Poetry

Good poetry used to be a staple of education, but today much great poetry has fallen by the wayside. Beautiful and memorable poetry has been replaced by mediocre multiculturalism and shallow avant-garde pop. Anthologies used in public schools carefully count how many minorities from every conceivable ethnic group are represented in the name of diversity--instead of the quality--of the poetry. Many great poets are sadly ignored.

Thus, students are much more likely to recognize
Nikki Giovanni than Rupert Brooke, and this is a shame for Western Civilization. In addition, because of the emphasis on those who "question the assumptions" of Western Civilization (they really should be studying our heritage and questioning what has made our society so successful--while questioning the motives of those who "question the assumptions" of our heritage), they include avant-garde, minority power, and beat poets that are simply mediocre and who are memorable for their image rather than their talent. So even with an emphasis on diversity, minorities that celebrate Western Civilization, such as the excellent Countee Cullee, whose model was John Keats, are ignored. They may have extraordinary talent but not the "socially correct" attitudes in the pop consumer mold that embodies "progressive" education.

This can have a disastrous effect on certain students, both ignorant of our grand heritage and more captivated by
pop, avant-garde image than substance and talent. They are convinced that free verse and exchanging "you" for "u" is hip and copping an image is everything. The results are predictably shallow and juvenile. But, look, I'm acting like a beat poet! Only problem: Take away the image and there is no substance or talent apparent.

An exceptional alternative to the the politically correct textbooks that will give anyone interested, including students, a sampling of great and inspiring poetry: Poetry of Youth, edited by Edwin Markham. It is described in the Atkinson-Ravitch Sampler of Classic Literature:

"In its seriousness of purpose and the quality of its selections, perhaps no better anthology ever existed for middle and high school students. Regrettably, the book is no longer in print, but copies are obtainable through libraries and secondhand bookshops. The contemporary selections stop with the mid-1930s, but this range of poetry reflects over three centuries of literary heritage. Poems are categorized in terms that youths can understand, and each selection is introduced with just enough explanation so that students can connect with the work as they begin to read. This anthology deserves to be reprinted--and sought out by teachers and parents."

Regrettably, it has become hard to find because The Language Police, in which The Atkinson-Ravitch Sampler of Classic Literature was found, was a bestseller and many people have already tried to find the book. It definitely should be reprinted.

Poetry should also be memorized.
Marva Collins, the pro-academic education theorist and traditionalist who is refreshing in a era of theorists who distrust academic matter and our heritage, made memorizing poems part of her curriculum. Her autobiography and educational theory is in the inspiring Marva Collins' Way: Returning to Excellence in Education. She states:

"When I started at Delano I was impressed by the principal, an older German man, a classical scholar who read the Iliad to students during lunchtime. He had faculty workshops where he recited Donne, Yeats, and Byron, stopping in the middle of a poem to ask his teachers to supply the next line. When they couldn't, he waved his hand with disgust and said, 'Some of you aren't worth a Sam Hill.' I learned a lot from him, and I began teaching poetry and classical literature to my students. Above all the principal taught me that a good teacher is one who continues to learn along with the students."

Liberals, who wilt like daisies at the mention of "classical literature," reciting poetry, and memorizing anything, would no doubt call both of them "reactionary."

Marva Collins instructs her students, "Now you've got it. Every scholar, every writer, every thinker learned from those who came before." That is exactly what liberals do not want students to know, hence why they attempt to replace academic matter, traditional subjects, and learning techniques with "progressive" methods that deemphasize our heritage. Tradition is the enemy, and they replace it with a new utopian multicultural and dumbed down curriculum with a modernist focus. Students attempt to learn to discover for themselves--the "progressive" jargon is "discovery learning"--but this type of learning, while fine in some ways, is almost impossible to be successful at without having a core basis of knowledge of the past.

The best way to know poetry is to find a good anthology like Poetry for Youth. Another one that includes selections of literature is Diane and Michael Ravitch's new The English Reader: What Every Literate Person Needs to Know. Memorize and closely analyze selections of poetry. Elizabeth Kantor in
The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature counsels:

"You should be learning poems by heart (even if you have the time for intensive structural analysis, but especially if you don't). Poetry is meant to be memorized--meant not so much by the people who write it as by its very nature. All the formal features that distinguish poetry from prose--rhyme, meter, and so forth--are also devices that assist the memory. Originally (before writing was invented), poetry was simply language arranged so that it could be remembered and recited again."

Poetry is an integral part of our English and American heritage. We should attempt to memorize and analyze great poems, not only to admire each great poem's merit but also to enrich our lives.

1 comment:

David said...

That sounds pretty interesting but in today's education world most of students doesn't like poetry and that's why today great poetry has fallen down.

What say ?


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