TWAIN-L Archives

Mark Twain Forum


Options: Use Forum View

Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Robert E Stewart <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 27 Oct 2012 22:18:42 -0400
text/plain (219 lines)
On my Kindle, I can read many of those books I read-but-don't-remember from 
 school--Tale of Two Cities, Les Miserables, and wonder why they aren't all 
that  familiar. I think the discussion here has explained that. But Dad 
read to us  often, and Tom Sawyer was among the first I remember. Wind in the 
Willows, too.  I have read Tom, Huck, and Roughing It, especially the Nevada 
section, a number  of times, and always find it an old friend, familiar but 
always a pleasure. My  point is that Parents, Teachers, and Authors must all 
team up to make  books come alive, or lay as words on dry paper. 
Bob Stewart
In a message dated 10/27/2012 5:32:31 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time,  
[log in to unmask] writes:

What I  remember from my student days, if I may butt in here, is that the  =
teachers who were passionate about their subject and liked and respected  =
students, were always able to get their students excited about the  =
subject matter.

I read Tom Sawyer when I was nine or ten and Huck  Finn when I was eleven =
or twelve - I never studied them in school but I  did have an elementary =
school teacher who was taking night classes and he  was studying Huck =
Finn.  He was keen on the book and what he was  learning and this rubbed =
off on his students.  I didn't really begin  to understand Adventures of =
Huckleberry Finn until I was twenty and I  have read it many many times =
over the years.

Tom Sawyer and Huck  Finn were the books that made me decide to become a =
writer.   Twenty-some years and dozen novels into this career I still =
feel I owe  Mark Twain a massive debt. (You can find my books in North =
America under  the name S. Thomas Russell.  They're published by =
Putnam/Penguin and  a couple of recent books made the London Times =
Bestseller list).  I  don't think studying Twain's books in school could =
have ruined them -  they are just too good.

My son read Huck Finn and then Tom Sawyer a  couple of years ago - he =
would have been twelve.  After hearing me  go on and on about Huck and =
Tom he borrowed copies out of my study and  read them.  He liked Huck =
Finn far more than Tom Sawyer .  He  assures me, though, that kids don't =
read them anymore - too bad.  I  wish my love of Shakespeare would =
inspire him to read the plays but I  think he's at that point in his life =
where he needs to develop interests  of his own.

Excuse the ramble.  Let me just finish by saying that  teachers who love =
their subject can change lives.  I come from a  very working class =
family.  My father had a grade 8 education and my  mother dropped out of =
school at 15.  They were honest, hard working  people but culture did not =
enter our house.  A few high school  teachers and friends I made at that =
time (and in some cases their  families) introduced me to the arts.  I =
owe them too.

Sean  Russell =20


From: Sharon McCoy=20
Sent:  Saturday, October 27, 2012 10:51 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re:  Huck on Google

I think that it would depend, as always, on how you  as a teacher felt =
about it=20
and why you were teaching it.  This  is true, really, of any text.

If you were teaching _Huck Finn_ because  you feel that it is a book =
pertinent to=20
kids this age, a book that  helps them understand how alone and awkward =
scared we all feel  at that age, and how that can be compounded by =
or  abuse; if you were teaching the novel because it demonstrates ways of  =
humor and wits to deal with tense situations; if you were  teaching it =
its protagonist has to make a lot of tough  choices, sees a lot of =
violence, and=20
is taught things that go  against his heart; if you are teaching the book =
it takes on  the hidden horror of the homeless--that many of them are  =
(and some right in your classroom); if you are teaching  the book because =
things have changed, unfortunately, they  have not changed enough . . . =
then your=20
students would be as  interested in the book as you are.

I know because my son is in sixth  grade and has been reading the novel, =
on his=20
own.  He has  listened to me talk about it for years, and on long road =
trips  we=20
have listened to most of it on tape, stopping the tape often to talk  =
about the=20
disturbing bits . . . and many of the bits that disturbed  him had =
nothing to do=20
with race, though those disturbed him, too,  but not always in the way =
you might=20

But if you teach  a book -- any book -- as a "classic" and with ponderous =

reverence, of  course they're going to look for a way out of reading it.  =
Or  if=20
you teach a book that raises real issues but refuse to discuss them  =
honestly, of=20
course they are going to look for a way out of reading  it.

I teach the book at the college level, and my evaluations show that  =
students considered dropping the course rather than read  _Huck Finn_ =
again (they=20
feel the same about Faulkner, and about  poetry), but usually, by the end =
of the=20
course, they're telling me  how glad they are that they stayed in -- and =
they surprise  themselves by choosing to write about the very texts they  =
they hated. =20

Sorry for the long  meditation.  But today I am reading and commenting on  =
about Sherman Alexie's _Flight_ (a book most of them  expected to hate, =
for some=20
reason -- as though I would assign a  book I didn't love), and I am awed =
by their=20
earnestness and passion  . . . and have to remind myself that my purpose =
is to=20
help them  write better and develop their arguments more deeply, and not  =
lose myself in the joy of youthful  enthusiasm.


From:  Andrew Dickson <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Sat,  October 27, 2012 7:42:20 AM
Subject: Re: Huck on Google

I know this  is a book that's given to Junior High School students to
read, but because  of this, it has this horrible stigma to it.  So many
people from  multiple generations associate Huckleberry Finn with
"boring" because they  were forced to read it in school.  I feel like
Mark Twain would be  furious if he knew how his once-counter-cultural
book, a book that provided  an outlet (among other things) for kids who
are like Huck Finn to feel some  catharsis, is now punishing those very
same kids.  Or has been for  decades, I should say.

I'm so thankful I wasn't ever assigned to read  this book (or perhaps I
was, but I just was so used to not reading in  school that I didn't
remember it) in High School.

Google Alerts  about the kids saying how they don't want to read it,
yes some of it is  laziness, but if this were a book that they wanted
to read, they'd read  it.  Reading should never be forced -- every time
it is, you never  learn anything.  You just feel resentment, page after
page.   Doesn't matter how profound the work is.

I don't think more policing of  students is going to get kids
interested in reading this book.   Honestly, I don't think anything
ever will -- the stigma runs too  deep.  I feel bad though for the
punishments that are going to come to  these kids.  I read the book for
the first time over the summer (of  this year, at 22) and I feel like
it was the perfect time for me to read  it.  Not a minute before or
after.  Obviously that's subjective,  but I -cannot- imagine 7th
graders getting into the poetry of this  book.  I imagine most will
think "Oh yeah, that book that's supposed  to teach us that racism=3Dbad"


On Fri, Oct 26,  2012 at 3:16 PM, Sam Sackett <[log in to unmask]>  =
> There's a service on Google called Google Alerts.  It  gives you what =
> s on the Internet -- news, blogs, and  web -- about the subject you =
choose. =3D
>  I signed up for it  to get alerts about Huckleberry Finn, hoping I'd =
see an=3D
> y  comments about my Huckleberry Finn Grows Up.  I haven't seen any  =
> But what I have seen is that almost every  day some student is writing =
in sa=3D
> ying he's been given a class  assignment about Adventures of =
Huckleberry Fin=3D
> n and wants  somebody to do his homework for him; and/or some person or  =
> any is offering to provide an essay about Twain's  classic.
> I think if I were teaching Huckleberry Finn,  I'd want to subscribe to =
this =3D
> Google service to see what my  students were doing; in fact, if I were =
> ing any book or  books at all, I'd want to get Google Alerts on that =
book  or=3D
>  those books.  Keeping students honest is a tough job,  and this would =
> Sam Sackett