[Milton-L] Why teachers retire early if they can afford it

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Wed Jun 11 16:31:45 EDT 2008


I agree with Fish that knowledge of literature is "useless" on
utilitarian grounds, in the sense that it does not provide immediately
obvious help in the execution of tasks that will lead to some kind of
marketable product or service.

But I think reading and writing about complex literary texts do
develop significant skills and communicate knowledge of history,
philosophy, law, psychology, language, and different societies with
different ways of thinking about the world (ethically, etc.).  English
majors would ideally be among the best writers most capable of
grasping complex verbal tasks.  So studying Milton won't teach you how
to do a job, but develop your ability to more effectively do any job
involving language, including people management.  Lit. degrees are
probably very good background for grad work in law, business, etc.

I don't think my wife's student was necessarily opposed to learning at
all (she had some of those), but opposed to learning subjects with no
obvious utilitarian value.  I think if we point out the intrinsic
value of learning complex literary texts (in terms of developing
complexity of thought and of expression), we may have a selling point
for more pragmatic students.

Or, they may just say, "yeah, right" and plug in their iPods.

Many of her students, by the way, are very low income, and several are
on probation.

Jim R


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