Culottes, hymnbooks, and A Beka curriculum. If you didn’t attend a private, Baptist school, these words mean nothing (unless you made fun of the kids who did attend such a school). In 2000, I graduated high school alongside thirteen friends who made up our class body since their kindergarten years in my ultra-conservative K-12 school.
I can probably count on two hands all of the writing assignments my teachers gave me during my middle and high school years.
A sixth grade research paper on the pony express.
A middle school poetry project.
A couple of book reports.
A senior research paper about abortion.
Okay, so apparently I only need one hand.
While I am grateful for the education I received, the friends I made, and the teachers who sacrificed their salary on the altar of their calling, I went to college completely unprepared for the reading and writing demands placed upon students.
In college, I taught myself how to read. I taught myself how to write. I taught myself how to properly format a paper according to MLA format…and APA, and Chicago, and Turabian.
Dr. Laurie Nutter, one of the few teachers I remember from my college experience, assigned The Odyssey in my first literature survey course. Almost all of the students in my class had already read this classic. Me? I couldn’t even spell the title properly. My high school literature experience was reading aloud in class from an anthology that censored anything with language, sensuality, or violence. It didn’t help that I was raised in an area of the Appalachian Mountains where “country dialect” was considered proper English. Dr. Nutter’s short-answer quizzes focused on the minutest details. After a “D” on my first quiz, I picked up a highlighter and pen and began studying the text as I read. At the beginning of class, I reviewed my notes. I carried this habit with me the rest of the way through school.
I continued to take literature courses as electives because I couldn’t get enough of all the gems that had been hidden from me during my high school career. It was my faulty belief that anything labeled a classic must be synonymous with boring. And archaic.
During my college literature courses, I learned that human nature is ugly, I learned that there is redemption in the ashes of destruction, I learned that it is okay to have compassion for the unlovable, I learned that the face of human perfection is a façade, I learned that problems sometimes don’t resolve.
I learned about life.
What does reading have to do with writing?