Dante in Middle School? Why not?

At her blog at the Catholic News Agency, Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J., offers an eloquent defense of Catholic education, as well as literature and poetry. An excerpt:

Our students should be encouraged to make solid and uplifting books their close and constant companions.  Reading and memorizing poetry jog the mind.   Reading frames our thoughts and values.  It makes our world grow larger.  Children should begin reading the classics at their own level.  When they are in the early grades, children in Italy read a simplified version of Dante’s Divine Comedy.  As they mature, they read Dante in the original.
Memorizing poetry, presented in an attractive way, can be enjoyable as well as intellectually stimulating. I recommend reading an article in the New York Times (August 3, 2014) entitled, “The Case for Bribing Kids to Memorize Poetry” by Kate Haas.  She remains unapologetic for bribing her young son to memorize the classics—Shakespeare, Keats, Tennyson, and many other poets. The author ends her essay on this note:  “Educators and writers still make the case for memorizing poetry:  It teaches rhythm, improves vocabulary and instills a sense of ownership in kids.”

Well said. See here for the rest.  

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J Cosgrove
3 years 6 months ago
I just sent Sister Joan's and the NY time article to my daughter for possibly using with her two girls in Catholic school. Thanks for the link. An hour of minecraft for memorizing a poem. What an incentive.
Bob Baker
3 years 6 months ago
I revamped our school’s Religion program for the two upper grades so as to include altar serving, ecclesiastical Latin, Catholic History, field trips and (especially) increasing student knowledge of the basic tenets of our Faith. The latter includes such items as in-depth knowledge of the Deadly Sins, the Theological Virtues, Transubstantiation, etc; created projects such as newspaper articles on past Church councils; and basic discussions on St. Thomas Aquinas (Quinque Viae) and St. Augustine (Confessions). I have also required my 8th grade students to read a piece of fictional literature that deals with our Faith (Cronin's The Keys of the Kingdom) as an in-class reading book. All of these tasks have conveyed to students and parents, alike, that Religion is the prime subject in a Catholic school and the raison d’être for their presence. What I desired for all my students was for them to be able to defend the Faith and inculcate what they learned into their daily lives. Things went fine until a new principal arrived and proclaimed that most everything was available on the computer, so learning basic prayers and multiplication tables were unnecessary, classrooms looked too Catholic, stopped all other items and demanded to teach only what was in the book! Things went downhill from there. At a former school, we celebrated poetry every February by having each student memorize a poem, based on age. One fifth grade student memorized all of The Charge of the Light Brigade and another wrote her own multi-page poem. Every school should do this!


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