Daily EIC na’ve in criticism of reading lists, Shakespeare
To the Daily:
Does Michigan Daily Editor in Chief Karl Stampfl really think that having students read contemporary novels will solve America’s writing problem (Why you probably can’t write well, 02/21/2007)? I agree with some of his suggestions regarding these contemporary texts, but unfortunately, writing problems stem from sources deeper than what we read.
For example, consider the analogy that public education institutions in America are like cars. Teachers are the engines of the cars, books are the tires and students logically sit in the driver’s seat. If the engine doesn’t work properly, you can’t get the car to go, regardless of what kind of tires you use.
If we have to blame something, blame poor instruction. Blame teachers’ inability to teach texts in ways that actively involve and relate to students. Numerous works by Shakespeare, for example, focus on tragedy. Who can’t relate to that? The English canon, or “classics,” has one thing going for it that many of Stampfl’s suggestions do not: Those books have withstood the test of time. Many think that contemporary works need to do the same – prove their own, if you will – before they make their way into the classroom.
Like I said, I do agree with some of Stampfl’s suggestions. But he bases his distaste for the canon only on what he has seen recently – i.e. what types of literature he has seen taught here at the University. If students didn’t learn to write well during their primary or secondary educations, chances are they won’t improve much here. I advise Stampfl to look into the classrooms of today’s public schools. Even in Michigan’s current state, I highly doubt that you would ever see “an entire English curriculum (based) around an author (Shakespeare) whose prose bears no resemblance to the writing students will be expected to do once they graduate.”
It’s not so much what students read in schools, but the quality of instruction they are given that matters. Frankly, if the pedagogy is broken, it won’t matter what a teacher puts in front of a child to read. Good writing can only be taught through great instruction.
Stop being so hard on my friend William. He’s done a lot for us.
Daily fails to see the many fruits of campus activism
To the Daily:
As a student activist here at the University, I am quite annoyed by the recent editorial that said campus activism has been largely dead for years (SDS Redux, 02/20/2007). The Daily’s lack of knowledge about the political activism that thrives on this campus is staggering. To say “viable grassroots activism has long been absent from university campuses” is to ignore all the things college students have fought for both across the country and here at the University throughout the last 10 years. Student activism is and has been quite vibrant. The Daily just needs to know where to look for it.
Since the late 1990s, the anti-sweatshop movement has been spearheaded by college students unified under the national organization, United Students Against Sweatshops, which has forced universities to adopt measures to attack this problem. Here in Ann Arbor, Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality has been fighting this fight for almost ten years. During that time, every anti-sweatshop measure the University has adopted has been due to SOLE’s efforts.
However, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to recent student activism. Other examples include the Killer Coke Coalition, which got the University to cut its contract with Coke for a while last year in response to the company’s human rights violations. Students also recently got dorms to serve fair trade coffee, and the mass mobilization against Proposal 2 on campus got over 80 percent of students to vote against it. Currently, campus environmentalists are trying to get the University to use more renewable energy. Although the return of Students for a Democratic Society is a welcomed development on campus, the society is not entering into a vacuum.
Daily fails to fairly cover ‘Vagina Monologues’
To the Daily:
My anger is directed toward Friday’s articles about this weekend’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” (This year, a role for men in ‘Vagina Monologues’; Reconsidering Eve’s V-day ‘Monologues’, 02/16/07). The news article dealt only with the inclusion of three male extras, who were onstage for less than five minutes total. The arts story skirted around the same issue, focused on last year’s production and denounced the talent in the show (before the writer had even seen the production). There was not even one reference to the theme of this year’s production, “The Beauty of the Individual Woman.”
A reporter spent half an hour interviewing cast members at one of our rehearsals, and the only comment she chose to use was about the male extras. Although I recognize the importance of the three men in our production, they were in no way an overpowering force and did not take attention away from the 33 female cast members. The Daily’s stories however, did just that.
As a cast member, I feel extremely misrepresented. It’s obvious the Daily focused on minor details as a result of knowing absolutely nothing about this year’s show – or maybe just not caring to find out. Regardless of the Daily’s apathy toward “The Vagina Monologues” and its refusal to mention anything significant about our production, our performances were tremendously successful and powerful. I challenge the Daily to ask a member of this weekend’s audience if he doubted any cast member’s talent or was distracted by the male actors.
I hope that in the future it will write articles about this event that are of real significance.
LSA and Music sophomore