I find that the more I read about education, the more I need a good book. For me, one of the pleasures of reading good writing of any kind, and especially fiction, is that it’s a respite from the falseness and emptiness of so much of what we hear and read, from politicians and bureaucrats and advertisers and public relations departments and much of the media, and so on. (A teacher of mine called fiction “the last textured place.”) A few pages of Virginia Woolf can go a long way to cleansing the system of phrases like “increasing achievement” or “student success” or “parent-teacher bidirectional communications.”
It seems to me that good fiction tends to treat the enterprise of school with much greater skepticism than we generally hear elsewhere. Maybe that’s inevitable, given the one-dimensionally sunny way in which education is usually discussed; just about any complication of the usual portrayal would require some darkening. The other day I mentioned The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Charles Baxter’s short story “Gryphon”—both pretty dark. George Orwell’s essay “Such, Such Were the Joys” also comes to mind. Then there’s Donald Barthelme’s great short story “The School.”
Readers: any recommendations?