A reader who prefers to remain anonymous sent me the following comment.
Your talk of the approach to literature is endemic in all subjects. I know AP history teachers that are so lazy that they give nothing but multiple choice tests and never require a paper be written by their students. I know English teachers that consider Danielle Steele to be true literary fiction. Enter an English department, mention Martin Amis, his father Kingsley Amis, Olive Schreiner, W. Somerset Maugham and be prepared for blank stares. Talk to a teacher of current events and mention Christopher Hitchens, Mickey Kaus, Jonah Goldberg, or in fact anyone who writes for the New Republic, National Review, Slate, Wall Street Journal, etc. and get the same blank stares. The dumbing down is so endemic that in my "Inclusion Classes" (students with mild learning disabilities and traditionally low performers) I get more work out of students than most teachers with college prep classes. Ed schools today do not seem to understand that you can challenge students, hold high standards and still make it fun or relevant. When most teachers see the posters analyzing demographic data taken from the census bureau on the city I teach in, they initially think they were done by honors students. Finally, let me some up the idiocy with one last story. In order to obtain my "Professional License" in order to be allowed to keep teaching, I have to take a bunch of inane Graduate Ed School classes. In order to pay for those classes, I have to take on a part time job. The part time job I have to earn the money to take the classes I need to be allowed to continue teaching high school math? An adjunct math instructor at a local community college.