An Inexpensive Romance Novel Compared to "Of Mice and Men"

Source

Brain Training

Arguments have flared for over 100 years about whether certain classes in elementary through high school are useful. Many are quite beneficial, despite student protest, but many adults have not known in times past that these classes affect the brain for better functioning. They offered the weak argument that these classes made a "well-rounded student", which did not impress complaining students. In the 21st C. we know much more about what exactly is good about these classes.

Some students say that they see no need or use for Algebra, but the meaning in Arabic of this mathematical study is literally "to put broken sticks back together." It is the art of putting together puzzle pieces logically through mathematical expressions that are a type of language. Forgetting to record a check in your check register and figuring out how much money was on it is Algebra. Thinking of the most likely places your lost child may have gone and mapping the result - even in your mind - uses both Algebra and Calculus, without you ever writing a number.

Where Algebra is language, Geometry is pattern. Studying both changes one's brain towards a more logical thought process and more effective problem solving, each affecting a different side of the brain - or rather, Algebra affects both sides. Logical thought, understanding sequences, time patterns, filling in missing items in a sequence, and other elements of thinking and understanding are enhanced, whether a students successfully completes an entire Algebra or Geometry course, or not. Reading and speaking from an early age is a key to most other forms of learning and reading a variety of genres provides a larger frame of reference from which to solve problems and make choices.

Stating that a course or a book has no educational value from the stance that one does not like or understand it is illogical, a false premise.

Little Educational Value, But a Good Object Lession

In my 7th grade year, a social studies teacher treated students earning consistently higher marks very oddly. On one assignment, she issued all of them F's without reading their papers, because "they had never received a low grade before" and needed to experience that. I think we were experiencing prejudice or an experiment for a doctoral dissertation.

Later, the class was divided into six reading groups and assigned books from classic American literature or current popular novels, based on reading level achievement scores in 6th grade. This was odd, because 1) this was social studies rather than the American Literature class and 2) the teacher assumed that the more popular the book, the lower the reading level - not always true.

Our class included three girls displaying a grade 13.0+ reading level (1st year college, and the test could not measure higher levels). They were placed in the lowest reading level group to read a 6th-grade level romance novel. It was printed in large typeface, with misspellings and awkward sentence structure. The teacher laughed about it. The books had been donated and looked like those that were quickly written by hack writers to be sold in K-Mart stores at 2 or 3 for $1.00.

I read the first half of the book and the last chapter that hour, closed it, and said that it was stupid. The story was about two high school girls wondering who would ask them to the senior prom, followed by each having a date at the end. It did not offer information or entertainment in our day of kids overdosing on drugs on the school bus and a 13-year old giving birth to twins. I did learn why K-Mart sold books so cheaply, though - they were used in school rooms and then tossed.

Each reading group was to discuss the assigned book and make an oral presentation to the class through a chosen spokesperson. No one had much to say about the romance novel. The girl chosen to speak for the group was scheduled last to present, because the presentations were scheduled by reading level, highest to lowest. I kept my mouth shut, but wanted the school year to be over.

Each presenter gave a short summary, lessons learned, favorite character, message, and whatever else could be added in 5 to 7 minutes to earn a decent grade for the whole group. The last presenter had sat silently, with an impassive expression. The teacher called on her late, about two minutes before the bell was to ring. The class waited.

The presenter suddenly picked up the paperback book, raised it high, slammed it down on her desktop with a tremendous BOOM and shouted, "This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen!" The bell rang and all the students left - fast.

The entire class received an A on this assignment and I think it must have been a social experiment. Still, I learned something else from the useless book - it is not nice to play games with students' lives.

Film Versions

Of Mice And Men
Of Mice And Men

John Malkovich, Gary Sinese, Ray Walston

 
Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men

Burgess Meredith, BettyField, Lon Chaney, Jr.

 
Of Mice & Men
Of Mice & Men

Robert Blake, Randy Quaid, Lew Ayres, Whitman Mayo, and Mitch Ryan

 

Historical Fiction

Of Mice and Men, a novella by John Steinbeck, has educational value that a person forced to read it may not notice. Never required to read it in school, my first knowledge of it was from a Looney Tunes animation in which a large not-too-bright dog followed a shorter, smarter dog named "George." It was a direct parody of the novella, so having learned that from a magazine article, I read the book.

After reading Of Mice and Men, I read The Grapes of Wrath and learned even more about the Dust Bowl and its surrounding Great Depression. Censors attacked the first book as vulgar in 1937, and that is reason enough to read it - to learn what the commotion is about.

First, the novella can increase the reading grade level of readers in middle and high school. it can certainly offer additional vocabulary and the experience of Steinbeck's writing style. It also teaches about:

  • Goal setting and following one's dreams
  • Handling changes in plans
  • Prejudices
  • Mental Illness and challenge, maltreatment of the mentally challenged
  • Euthanasia
  • Southern politics
  • Poverty and The Great Depression
  • Survival
  • Justice

As I came to learn, the novella's title is based in a few lines from a Robert Burns poem called To a Mouse: On turning her up in her nest, with the plough, November, 1785

The best laid schemes of mice and men

Go oft awry

And leave us nothing but grief and pain

For promised Joy

.

 
-- inkeeper.net/burns/mouse.html

Used for decades now as a proverb in American and British literature and media, the lines are seen in numerous books and scripts.

MIce and Men - Poverty

Depression or Recession, we have poverty. Books teach us about it.
Depression or Recession, we have poverty. Books teach us about it. | Source

More by this Author


Share Your Odd Classroom Experiences 23 comments

graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 5 years ago

Great case for education. I usually liked learning new things (usefullness wasn't important to me), and so I've been a bit stumped when my students want to know why they should learn something. Now i've got a better answer. We'll see if they are impressed :)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

I liked it as well. And as Dr. Grandin from livestiock research says, she filled up her brain for years with information and then began to synergize it.

One hopes your students like the new argument. Or they may come up with a new rebuttal...


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 5 years ago from The Other Bangor

Great hub. Thanks for writing it--teachers who experiment with students' class time are taking advantage of their position.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thanks, Teresa - It was torture and the rules kept changing, day to day. I was glad not to have another class like it. I wonder if other students have ever experienced this.


maven101 profile image

maven101 5 years ago from Northern Arizona

This was required reading in my Catholic high school...later, it popped up again in a college course on critical thinking...Steinbeck's Tortilla Flats is probably my favorite novella ( 200 pages ) by him...The same dry humor and moral implications are apparent in this early publication...

I would also add Loyalty to your list of lessons learned through this novel...The loyalty shared by both these men...

Voted up and useful...Thanks for another interesting Hub, Patty...Larry


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for the information and addition, Larry! I have not yet read Tortilla Flats, but will do so.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country

As a teacher and a student I enjoyed this very much.

I'm glad the presenter had the guts to tell the truth.

I had a psychology prof who graded students down for various reasons of his own. One was, they were graded down if they sat in the same chair each time they came to class (it demonstrated mental inflexibility).

My friend who had her following class on the other side of the campus, about a 3/4 of a mile away, uphill, always sat in the last seat by the back door so she could make a quick getaway to get there on time.

Her reason for sitting there didn't impress the prof.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Yes, and loudly, too!

Sitting positions determining grades - pretty nonsensical I think. Your poor friend!


Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

Sylvia's Thoughts 5 years ago from Southern California

I wish kids today learned what we learned in school. They know nothing of the classics, be it literature, music, or anything else. We have become so youth oriented. But youth has no foundation, or experience to draw upon. I enjoyed this hub very much.


slyparadox profile image

slyparadox 5 years ago

very informative!


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Of Mice and Men was one of my favorite required readings, though I knew of Robert Burns usage of the phrase long before I heard of Steinbeck. However, that's not the point of your article, is it? You are discussing education and the treatment of students. I've often wondered about teachers who divide up the class into "performance" levels, and whether or not such pigeon-hole exercises do not ensure a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tell a student they are stupid and they will act accordingly.

These days, when all is dependent on standardized testing and teachers are judged on the students' performance thereon, I wonder how much real education is given. I always thought a teacher's first and foremost job was to instill a love of learning. Scrambling to ensure students know the answers to test questions is not the same thing at all.

Great article and much food for thought. Lynda


Lesleysherwood 5 years ago

I really enjoyed your hub. I never really looked at education this way. An eye opener. Thank you. Vote UP


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Very insightful comments and I appreciate them!

My middle and high school didn't require much reading, so I picked up many American and Brit classics after I began working. In college, it was Russian and Asian lit I followed.

@Immartin - I agree --The performance level breakdown is bad, I think, and worse when it's purposely incorrect for "kicks" or an experiment. A handful of us never trusted teachers again after the 7th grade. In 8th grade, we had another social studies class, this time in which we were not allowed to write or speak our names, buy only an assigned number. No number on a test = F. What was that about?

And standardized testing is a nightmare unto itself.

Thanks again for all the comments and ratings!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

You are so right about the algebra and calculus. I found that when I started studying a few years ago and had to do a calculus course I was better able to understand the other courses.

I never read OF MICE AND MEN BEFORE. I surely must read it now. This hub is certainly 'NOT THE STUPIDEST THING I'VE EVER READ!! LOL

Thanks for the great insight about 'the unusual classes' we have to take.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for your very entertaining and interesting response, Cardisa!


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi :)

That was a very interesting read ~ and very informative, too. I particularly liked the bit about algebra and calculus (I never studied the latter, so I shall have to look into it.)

I enjoy both studying and teaching, but I have, in the past, had to agree that some aspects of school subjects can seem to be pointless.

I have also had to tell some people that my own subject, History, is actually very beneficial, even though others apparently find it pointless ~ but it is sometimes hard to explain exactly why.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

A confession: I have never read 'Of Mice and Men' or 'The Grapes of Wrath'.


kafsoa profile image

kafsoa 5 years ago

Yes Patty, you're correct, we pronounce Algebra in Arabic Aljubr which exactly means putting broken sticks or broken bones together. Classes in all stages are still affecting our method of thinking, and even information are still helping us. Just kids always complain. I used to teach chemistry and I've heard "Why are we studying chemistry" more than a hundred time, although chemistry is very important and touched in every thing we use everyday. Great hub.


haikutwinkle profile image

haikutwinkle 5 years ago

I cannot imagine accepting such scores given unfairly by the teachers, where in some cases, the parents would be demanding an explanation from the school who would let teachers do such a thing to the students.

I enjoyed this hubpage ;) especially the part where the student slammed the book down and commented on it. If in the future, books were to be replaced by iPads or touchscreens, I wonder if one could still "slam" it down, make a BOOM sound, and then have the same effect of all that drama....

just an interesting thought.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

haikutwinkle! - I never thought of that - the kids will have to carry noise makers with options for applause, boos, BOOM! LOL


Hendrika profile image

Hendrika 5 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

I also enjoyed learning anything and I would also have been prepared to read anything even silly or stupid. I have learned now more about how kids feel about all the reading. In South Africa everything is so set that your teacher would have been banned for good!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Banned. Maybe she should have been. I was never so glad to have a school year end as that one. Some parents did complain, but the school administration supported the teacher. It was agonizing for those kids.

Reading should be fun and challenging, but not insulting, and if we had not had 2-3 other teachers also playing games with our heads and upping the irritation and confusion, perhaps we could have enjoyed even a silly book.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Thank you, Patty, for a well detailed and informative hub. It gave me a good insight of education in other countries whichn was interesting.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working