Middle School Curriculum Rant #1 (I expect there will be more)

I just finished a 1970 copy of a MIDDLE SCHOOL text called Close Up: A Collection of Short Plays. I enjoyed it immensely! It was better than a magazine – each play was short enough that I could read it in little bits of time but feel liked I’d watched an entire drama. These one act plays are fantastic. If you’ve never read short drama, I highly recommend it. It leaves so much to the imagination and is a very cunning and concise craft. What bothers me is this: Why is this textbook withdrawn and why are our children reading much less interesting and much less thought provoking, easier texts today? I visited my son’s 7th grade reading classroom at the middle school’s open house and discussed what was going to be read this year with his reading teacher. I was delighted to see Shakespeare’s Hamlet among the reading list. I was not delighted to see the dumbed down version they were reading. I was appalled – the original text on the left hand side with the easier, new version on the right hand side of each page. What?!? This is someone’s interpretation. It is not Shakespeare. Every nuance, vocabulary, contextual usage, etc., will be completely lost. What kid is not going to prefer to read the easy side? This makes it seem that Shakespeare must difficult to understand since we’re being provided a comprehensible version. Nothing could be further from the truth (this reminds me of the Barbie that said, “Math is HARD!”). Give ’em the real deal and I don’t think the reader will let you down but you have to let them discover and help them through discussion – NOT replacing the text. We truly demand so little of our kids these days; whatever happened to excellence and enlightenment? Nah, it’d be easier just to excel for them and make it easier on them because we love them, right? Geesh. Rant over, for now.