Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Favorite comments of '15: Cranberry and kim

On Do all students need to read fiction?

Cranberry said...
A researcher at the New School for Social Research did find that reading literary fiction improved students' theory of mind: http://www.newschool.edu/nssr/faculty.aspx?id=16180.

It's important to note that this improvement was not seen when students read popular fiction.

Scientific American report on the study: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/novel-finding-reading-literary-fiction-improves-empathy/.

An interesting question would be, whether students who do not read at elevated levels would be able to profit from reading literary fiction. 
kim said...
I was an English major in college and studied literature in grad school, so more than just about anyone, I see the value of reading fiction. Yet, when it comes to autistic students (my son is one), I don't think reading fiction is necessarily useful.

With visually impaired students, we recognize that they will learn less than peers when it comes to, say, art appreciation, because of the nature of their disability. Yet with a developmental or cognitive disability like autism, we think that if students just try harder, they will be able to overcome the wiring in their brains that makes interpreting other people's (or characters') emotions and motivations difficult to understand.

There is an enormous amount of literature that is not literary fiction that could be appropriate for autistic students. Philosophy, history, or political theory may be sophisticated or difficult, but it won't require students to understand what characters feel or why they act. Even classical or medieval literature, before the early modern period where there begins to be a more psychological or introspective approach to individual characters, could be appropriate to some students.

I am worried that I may have to homeschool my autistic child at some point because of inflexible standards like these may be. 

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