Daniel passed along this proposal from Yglesias, that grade schools focus more on non-fiction rather than fiction when teaching reading and writing skills to their students. This sounds like an interesting idea to me. As someone who barely ever reads fiction anymore, I'm biased towards liking the idea. At the same time, a properly-managed literature curriculum strikes me as more or less essential for a child's education. It was suggested in the comment section that English and History courses work together, and this is a set-up that Daniel and I benefited from greatly during high school. Perhaps what might be best would be to replace textbooks with historical or biographical texts in non-English/Lit classes... and, I think, to get rid of crappy books from the literature curriculum rather than replacing them with non-fiction. There's no reason that I can see to get rid of Hawthorne or Hugo or Dostoevsky or Poe, but I could have done without Catcher in the Rye, Ender's Game, or anything written by Toni Morrison... although to show that I don't completely lack any appreciation for more recent literature, I'll say that I'm glad we read Their Eyes Were Watching God and One Hundred Years of Solitude.
What do others think of this idea? It's a bit provocative, and I hope it pisses off enough English majors for them to respond. What texts do you think would be appropriate and important for grade school students to read? I think that a bit more philosophy would make sense... at least get some Plato and Aristotle under their belt. We read Daniel Borstein in history, and I think that would benefit any curriculum, too. What else?