The teacher, the student and other stories: Images of schools in contemporary American short fiction
By looking at contemporary American short fiction through a set of theoretical lenses that includes the work of Jerome Bruner and Louise Rosenblatt, I add to the discussion of teaching and learning in American culture and argue for augmenting the language we use when we talk about American schools. I examine the last 25 years of the annual Best American Short Stories anthology (1986-2004) to assemble a corpus of "school stories" contemporary in subject but rooted in a genre that stretches back to the Victorian era. My questions include the following: How, according to these short stories, do the roles students and teachers play in institutional settings encourage and impede learning? What images of schooling are presented in contemporary short stories, and what do these stories represent as the place of schooling in American life? How might we use these images to educate students, teachers and the public about what takes place (or what should take place) in schools? These questions are significant first of all because they encourage us to look closely at narratives of extraordinary craftsmanship that capture complex portraits of American education, portraits that are imbued with the quiet intelligence of art and archetype, reaching back into our history and mythos to illuminate, and sometimes trouble, our culture's notion of schooling. In addition, these questions have the potential to reinvigorate and reshape the language we use to discuss American education: by valuing and investigating the complexity of American school stories, we may be able to add complexity to our culture's understanding of education and its purposes, inside and outside of the classroom.
0591: American literature
0998: Educational theory