In his article, Teaching Classic Literature Classically, Andrew Kurn summarizes the classical process of teaching in four stages: clarifying the purpose, deliberating materials, reading contemplatively, and teaching intentionally.
Kurn believes that the ultimate purpose of a literature teacher is to cultivate wisdom and virtue and I acknowledge this. The other stages however have triggered numerous questions and reactions in my mind.
Kurn says that teachers must select books with ‘virtues to imitate.’ I don’t exactly agree on this as I think that the preference of materials must reflect the purpose of teaching. If the purpose is to magnify beauty and goodness, then choose works with heroes and their extraordinarily good deeds. If the goal is to open the learners' minds to reality, choose pieces that don’t hold bars. As teachers, we often want students to learn morals from texts but we have to remember that many great literary pieces were not written with the same purpose. We cannot assume and we must not teach students to assume that writers always want to instill lessons in their works.
Kurn continues that educators can choose between didactic (contemplating models) and Socrates (exploring opinions) approaches, both of which are done inside the four corners of the classroom. This raises another question: if we are teaching our students about the study of life, why are we boxing their literary lives in the classroom?
Students respond to technology. They are more likely to read Facebook status and ‘like’ Instagram photos rather than listen to ala-Socrates teachers sharing knowledge in masterpieces of the past. They are more into seeing movie versions of the great novels rather than read the book themselves. How are teachers going to cope up with this budding need to be educated and entertained at the same time?
I have expected the article to enlighten me on making classic literature less boring for learners, given the advance technological age that we are in. However, it sticks to the traditional way of teaching literature as it has promised in its title Teaching Classic Literature Classically the last word now reads as ‘conventionally’. In this Digital Age, when telephone companies and gadget manufacturers release new phones, computers, softwares, and applications every week, and even a five-year-old kid knows how to use iPad, Kurn’s idea of teaching Classic Literature the classic way seems remotely outdated.
Apart from having classic books downloadable as ebooks in iPhone, how else can classic literature invade our learners’ lives?
“The world has changed, the world is changing, the world will change. The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Isagani Cruz explains this in his article, Teaching Literature in The Philippine Star. Since the teaching of literature is a very old specialization, instead of trying to come up with ‘new’ techniques, educators can improve old techniques that are uploaded in the World Wide Web. What he does in his lectures is not very far from what Kurn has mentioned in his article. Cruz has come up with his own class paradigm called FREE (Feeding the text, Reading the text, Enhancing the text, and Enjoying the text). He improves the ‘classic’ teaching by showing different videos in class. He also divides the time allotted for Socrates-discussion so learners will have enough time to discuss their opinions in class, the author can ‘talk’ through the texts, and leaves 10 % of his time for discussion. Most importantly, he emphasizes that ‘good literature teachers always relate a literary text, no matter how old or foreign, to today’s newspaper headlines.’
Students can be asked to ‘tweet’ significant lines from novels. They can be asked to blog about their reactions on poetries. They can be asked to show photos that capture themes of short stories.
Literature is a study of life. Educators must not only aim to successfully deliver their literary lessons to students. Their goal must be to let Literature influence the lives of the learners. As Victor Ordoñez said, “We cannot equip the youth of the future with the tools of the past.” The classic way of teaching is not totally bad but it needs enhancement. If educators won’t be updated with the latest trends in teaching Literature, students won’t find time to squeeze in ‘boring’ classics in their fast paced, technology-packed, highly interactive lives even when their gadgets are practically full of Classic Literature ebooks.