Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Free Book Reports Here (or a rant about the modern value of book reports)

Just kidding! You'll find no book reports here.

Any post I've written on a book is certainly not detailed enough to earn anyone a decent grade, or provide enough details such as quotes, character analysis, or in depth discussions on themes or symbols.

I don't know why it surprised me, but in the first day after writing my post over the book The Wettest County in The World, I noticed some early hits to my blog with searches for "Wettest County in the World Book Report."

So, I'll apologize off the bat for what will likely seem as an unsolicited blog rant that follows about book reports, and how the further I get out of high school the more ridiculous book reports truly seem to me.

I remember when the internet first came into prominence there was definitely a fear and a market for pre-written book reports, not just that, but I remember reading about computer programs that would analyze essays for online plagiarism.

It is certainly a consideration teachers make when reading and assigning writing projects, knowing (hopefully) that if they're not careful their report might be overly added by a Wikipedia entry or an overly detailed amazon book review.

It is clear that in today's world writing is increasingly important. Even this week my wife and I have discussed the variations we see in e-mail writing among different professionals we know.

There's clearly a difference between a book report and e-mail writing, but I can't help but think about how the role of the internet and technology impact writing, and if the internet can help you write (or fake your way through) a book report, can the internet help you do professional writing?

In my world, it seems that the writing I do is different than a book report, it's more like providing status updates, communicating options, choices, or complex information to support a decision. It's often documentation, that includes numbers, reports, and details. Sure, perhaps functions of the modern book report, but more of a distant cousin than a direct relationship.

I'm a fan of literature and think it is valuable, and would never cut it from a modern education. Yet, the value of literature to me rest largely on aspects of understanding other places, ideas, and capturing humanity through the telling of stories. Yet, book report seem to hardly capture this value. Instead, they seem to be more of a test for completing a reading assignment, and the perfect basis for writing the five paragraph essay with thesis, three points, and supporting facts and quotes in-between.

I'm not proposing that we throw out the baby with the bath water, but more that a fresh look at the idea of the "book report." I don't run in circles education researchers, but I hope that as academic writing on literature is reviewed, that the role and influence of technology isn't just fought, but that a separation of literature and technical writing can be perhaps separated. Perhaps infusing writing of a technical nature into other disciplines at the secondary level, while relieving literature teachers of the burden of combining literature with technical writing skills.

1 comment:

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