Every student and teacher in the classroom is brought down by this: the non-reading problem. We all know the one, even if it isn’t caused by every person. It varies from student to student. Maybe it’s skimming, missing important points and forgetting immediately. At least that’s honest, as opposed to consulting poorly-written summaries. Don’t fall into this damaging habit. It’s nothing to be proud of.
A lot of us have been engaged in an elaborate game of fakery: You come in pretending to have read, and I pretend not to notice. It’s exhausting. It’s far more important to your intellectual and innermost spiritual self to live genuinely. Imagine coming to school without a pit in your stomach caused by knowing you haven’t done what you were supposed to. Whether or not there’s a reading quiz, you wonder if your teacher knows (she does). Suppose you truly earned every point. Envision comprehending the value of literacy, and embracing it. Imagine the moment when you catch yourself...enjoying reading. It's magical.
You’ll have to read here, and read closely. The worst thing to do is take the shortcuts, then tell yourself that you’ll actually do reading “when it counts.” The problem with that is, when you need those reading skills, they just won’t be there. S@#%notes, for example, are written at a fifth-grade reading level. The harsh truth: if you have been relying on them and never reading actual books, then that’s where your reading level is, and it’s no wonder if you then struggle with more challenging texts. The best thing is to be honest. Resist the allure of the glowing screen which promises easy, quick answers. Know that the quick, easy answers provide data, but not wisdom. Now is the time. Carefully assess your skill and your effort. I am here to help you do just that. We will get there.
Most likely, your schedule is packed, but true literacy is a skill that just cannot be falsified in the world beyond. Everybody knows a faker. This year, you are expected to work hard and honestly on improving your reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Don’t let yourself graduate without them. Don’t kid yourself—you will need them no matter what you pursue in life.
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Again, I know this doesn’t apply to everyone. Maybe you’re frustrated because you do the work and no one else does. The day reading is due, you dread an awkward, dull class, yearn for a good conversation, and brace yourself for being pestered by people asking you to work with (meaning for) them. Maybe you die a little on the inside when the first thing a group member asks is, “Did you read?” I see you. Hello and welcome. Because of course you need to read. It’s no longer a question.
I know that I’m in a profession that in many ways has become antiquated; what I ask you to do every day may as well be the equivalent of having you do algebra on an abacus. While I have grown more grey of late, I'm certainly no Gandalf, here to bar your way as I thunder, "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" You hear your teachers emphasize the importance of reading, but so little in your world validates this claim. The humanities aren’t considered lucrative, high-profiled, or powerful. But they are real, they are profound, and they provide us with universal truths that are eternal. There's such joy and wonder waiting for you.
You each possess the potential to be epic. Together, we link arms and dive into the nihilistic abyss of modernity, returning with the elixir of life. We touch eternity. It is up to us to carry the fire. We are the knights of the old order.
There are many reasons why students today just don’t read the way they used to. We will talk about this throughout the year; I want to hear from you about this as well. Meanwhile, just be real. Give up any counterfeit swindles you may be pulling on yourself and others about your efforts and literacy. Authenticity takes work. I will help you and work incredibly hard alongside you. You will improve. It will be liberating.