Mr. Denby captures well how teenagers today struggle to grapple with the serious thinkers of the past. Yet he fails to mention that more than 40% of teachers leave within their first five years on the job and that 15% of the teaching workforce leave their posts every year. The classrooms the author joined were led by extraordinary, committed and experienced teachers. Their students are clearly the lucky ones.
Denby doesn’t provide a convincing answer to his question about the future of advanced literacy in today’s youth culture, in part because his own enthusiasm for literature overtakes the voices of the students. In the end, it isn’t clear whether the students are getting as much out of the books as he believes they are.