Gone Missing
Gone Missing
by Elwood Holm

Something strange has happened in English departments at community colleges. First there was a refusal to address the reading and writing problems brought to these colleges by anyone other than literature teachers. Now there is a refusal to use literature to provide foundations for the skills of reading, writing, and thinking.

Literature is being rejected as a means by which community college students (particularly those with an urban public school education) can gain an understanding of their lives, the society in which they live, and the other societies which comprise the world. This dismissal is accompanied by the snobbery of a liberally educated elite which can take two forms, neither of which is overtly avowed. Either Literature is an adornment in which only the wealthy and leisured can indulge and from which only they can benefit, or it is a metaphor for class and is not to be accessed by a class lower on the socioeconomic ladder than the one from which the teacher originated. There is also a more overt assertion (in part intended to cover these covert beliefs) that the working class, lower class, and underclass cannot benefit from literature because it (a) describes societies to which they cannot relate, (b) deals with ideas that do not and cannot apply to their lives, (c) is innately too alien or too difficult for them to read, and (d) is simply not relevant to anything.

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