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我如何取代了莎士比亚,而为何我们的孩子们可能从不读“像树一样美妙的诗”
How I Replaced Shakespeare And Why Our Kids May Never Read A Poem As Lovely As A Tree
2019/7/30 14:00:15 来源: 世知网

By Joel Stein

I was not worried about the American education system until after I started writing a column, because that’s when I found out there are English teachers who assign my column as reading material. I regularly get e-mails from students asking about my use of anastrophe, metonymy, thesis statements and other things I’ve never heard of. To which I respond, “Transfer high schools immediately! To one that teaches Shakespeare and Homer instead of the insightful commentary of a first-rate, unconventionally handsome modern wit! Also, don’t do drugs!”

我本不担心美国的教育体制,直到我开始写专栏,因为那时我发现有英语教师把我的专栏文章列为学生们的阅读材料。我经常接到学生们发来的电子邮件,问我是如何使用词语倒装、转喻、论题陈述以及其他我从未听说过的东西。对此,我的回答是:“马上转学!换一个不教超凡脱俗的一流现代才俊的精辟评论而教莎士比亚和荷马作品的学校!还有,不要吸毒!”

I can expect to be sending more of these e-mails thanks to the Common Core State Standards, with which public schools are encouraged to comply by 2014. The new curriculum standards dramatically shift about half the nation’s high school English reading lists toward an emphasis on nonfiction. In a speech last year, David Coleman, the new president of the College Board, who was one of the chief creators of the Common Core, worried about students’ focusing on opinion over analysis in their writing. “As you grow up in this world, you realize people really don’t give as…about what you feel or what you think,” he said. “It is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.’” I agree with this, but only because no one has ever asked me for a market analysis.

我估计还会发送更多此类电子邮件,这要归功于《共同核心州立标准》,当局鼓励公立学校到2014年照此标准行事。这个新课程标准一下子让全国中学大约一半的英语阅读书目将重点放在非小说类作品上。《共同核心州立标准》的主要创建者之一、美国大专院校委员会新任主席戴维·科尔曼在去年的一次演讲中对学生在写作中重在见解而不重于分析表示担心。他说:“你在这个世界上成长的过程中,会发现人们真的不给你(机会)……谈你自己的感觉或想法。在工作场合,极少有人说,‘约翰逊,我周五前需要一个市场分析报告,不过之前,我需要一份关于你童年的动人介绍。’”这话我同意,但只是因为还从未有人要我写过市场分析报告。

Coleman’s idea is that by reading clear, tightly structured nonfiction, kids will learn how to write clear, tightly structured nonfiction, hopefully without hitting Reply All. And indeed, the first time I write in a new format—travel essay, screenplay, apology e-mail—I read a bunch of examples. But when I want my writing to improve, I read something that forces me to think about words differently: a novel, a poem, a George W. Bush speech. Sure, some nonfiction is beautifully written, and none of Jack London’s novels are, but no nonfiction writer can teach you how to use language like Willliam Faulkner or James Joyce can. Fiction also teaches you how to tell a story, which is how we express and remember nearly everything. If you can’t tell a story, you will never , ever get people to wire you the funds you need to pay the fees to get your Nigerian inheritance out of the bank.

科尔曼的想法是,通过阅读清晰明了、结构严谨的非小说类作品,孩子们将学会写作清晰明了、结构严谨的非小说类文章,好在没有以偏概全。而事实上,我第一次用新的文体——游记、剧本、电子邮件道歉信——都要读一大堆的范文。但是,当我想提升自己的写作水平时,我读的是迫使我从不同角度考虑遣词造句的东西:小说、诗歌、乔治·W.布什的演讲等。当然,一些非小说类作品文笔优美,而杰克·伦敦的小说无一精雕细琢之作,但没有一个非小说类作家能教你像威廉·福克纳或詹姆斯·乔伊斯那样运用语言。小说还教你如何讲故事,这是我们表达和记住几乎一切事情的方式。如果你不会讲故事,当你需要钱向银行支付手续费以提取你在尼日利亚继承的钱财时,你将肯定、绝对说服不了人们给你电汇所需钱款。

When I asked Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers—which, along with the National Governors Association, created the Common Core—he told me that CEOs and university professors championed the shift to nonfiction. Only a small, vocal group objected. “It upset people who love Iiterature. That happens to be a lot of high school teachers,” Wilhoit said. But students aren’t reading nonfiction on their own, he added, and their history-class assignments tend to be short textbook summaries, not primary sources. “It’s not a good trend,” he said. “I guess it’s a by-product of the media world we live in.” Students are clearly not getting examples of how to make a persuasive argument by, for instance, avoiding insulting the media world that is interviewing them.

But if you ask me, that’s a failing of history classes, not English. Among the nonfiction the Common Core curriculum suggests areFedViewsby the Federal Reserve of San Francisco. I’ve never readFedViews, but I know that unlike my late-night high school sessions helping other kids parse “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” no amount of discussingFedViewsis going to get you to second base.

School isn’t merely training for work; it’s training to communicate throughout our lives. If we didn’t all experience Hamlet’s soliloquy, we’d have to explain soul-tortured indecisiveness by saying things like “Dude, you are like Ben Bernanke in early 2012 weighing inflation vs.growth inQuantitative Easing3.” Teaching language through nonfiction is like teaching history by playing Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” or teaching science by giving someone an unmarked test tube full of sludge and having him figure out if the white powder he distilled is salt or sugar by making Steven Baumgarten taste it, which is how I learned science and how Steven Baumgarten learned to be more careful about picking people to work with. Something he could have learned by readingOthello.

But if our nation is going to make this horrible mistake, I’d like to get something out of it, like selling copies of my book. So I asked Wilhoit if he would consider including my writing in the curriculum, to which he said, “It would be interesting to take your article on a specific subject and compare and contrast it to another author writing about the same subject. That would be ideal. We will use it. I promise you.” Now I just have to find another writer who has written a compelling account of my childhood.                                                 

(刘宗亚 译注自TimeDec. 10, 2012)来源:《英语文摘》2013年4期

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