|About the Book|
“Salvaging anything from my punk youth,” the high school dropout Roland Cheek says, “required lots of help from lots of people.” But he credits a major share to a saving love for reading. “Actually,” he adds, “it was more than merely a love forMore“Salvaging anything from my punk youth,” the high school dropout Roland Cheek says, “required lots of help from lots of people.” But he credits a major share to a saving love for reading. “Actually,” he adds, “it was more than merely a love for reading, but an obsession for reading good, entertaining stories. It’s the kind of reading that becomes habit forming, and thus educational.”Armed with his own experience, the guy turned from appraising his personal learning curve to analyzing the material utilized in the classrooms of his youth. From there, it was but a short step to evaluating texts used in schools today. Most, he believes, are inferior or inadequate. Over time, Roland turned disdainful to both the idea and the the system that force-feeds dry, boring texts to secondary school students, driving them away from a love for reading, instead of delivering them the world by providing texts that will inspire and entertain, instruct and energize, enlighten and excite.He decided most producers of dry, boring texts do so because they learned from dry, boring teachers, who learned from dry, boring professors, who learned from dry, boring . . . ad infinitum. As a writer producing both fiction and nonfiction, newspaper columns, radio commentary, and magazine pieces he has a secret to share: that the English language is more versatile and compelling than that being served in many school curriculums. He’s convinced that, with the ever-growing competition for our youths’ minds and manners, writers and publishers must meet the competition head on with a focus on presenting the written word in a challenging and exciting way that can compete with the ecstasy of playing video games or thrill of watching the next installment of comedy television.Chickens & Eggheads delves into the running debate Roland has with most historians over what constitutes readable, enjoyable history. He takes umbrage with the idea that historians must insist on dotting every “I” and crossing every “T” on their way to producing texts for public schools.Along the way, he quotes Dr. Jill Lepore, Professor of History, Harvard University: “Every history is incomplete, every historian has a point of view, every historian relies on what is unreliable—documents written by people who were not under oath and cannot be cross-examined. Before his imperfect sources, the historian is powerless.”And he cites Englishman William Godwin, who, in 1797 wrote: “There is not and never can be any such thing as true history. Nothing is more uncertain, more contradictory, more unsatisfactory than the evidence of facts. . . . [A historian] could decide merely to reproduce his sources, to offer a list of facts. But this is in reality no history. He [the historian] that knows only on what day the Bastille was taken and on what spot Louis XVI perished, knows nothing.”Charles Brockden Brown chose to go farther in an essay published three years later by lamenting the fact that historians’ “. . . greatest deception is promoting the idea that only the great are good. “Fiction,” Brown claimed, “can do what history doesn’t but should: it can tell the story of ordinary people.”Plutarch, perhaps the most famous historian of the ages, would be dismissed by today’s crop because he included dialogue in histories of Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Anthony and Cleopatra, though he arrived from his mother’s womb many years after all were dead.Down with boring school textbooks! Up with more excitement and color! Focus on students reading for pleasure. Education is sure to creep in, if for no other reason, by osmosis.Chickens & Eggheads / Another thought provoking 99-cent essay by Roland Cheek.