Does Reading Literature Prepare Students for the "real world"?

This article from NCTE comes at a good time for me, since I’m scheduled to teach a “Writing about Literature” class in the fall. It’s a PDF (booo!).

Of all types of writing, writing about literature may seem the least practical. Who apart from scholars and English majors analyzes poetry after the age of 18? Even book reviewers don’t write the kinds of essays commonly assigned in school. Why do teachers devote so much effort to developing an arcane skill? Because writing about literature disciplines the mind. It challenges students to look closely into what they read and express clearly and powerfully what they find there. Meeting this challenge entails more than identifying

Of all types of writing, writing about literature may seem the least practical. Who apart from scholars and English majors analyzes poetry after the age of 18? Even book reviewers don’t write the kinds of essays commonly assigned in school. Why do teachers devote so much effort to developing an arcane skill? Because writing about literature disciplines the mind. It challenges students to look closely into what they read and express clearly and powerfully what they find there. Meeting this challenge entails more than identifying correct answers to teachers’ questions. It requires deep reading and analytical thinking–skills that will serve students well whatever their
futures may hold. — Carol Jago (136k PDF)