I've been thinking about the failure of modern American pedagogy for a while, with a specific focus on how English and Math classes are especially bad. They seem to miss the whole point, focus obsessively on an irrelevant (but sometimes necessary) element of engaging with a larger process (reading comprehension and calculation, respectively) – when actually doing the thing (appreciating and reasoning, respectively) is possible for even young people without context or background.
One of the sub-thoughts about this is that there may not be a better way to produce letter grades for literature classes. Math classes can ask for proofs, or at least, "Statement X, is it true – and why or why not?" – that works well. Math has always been easier to grade. I'm more concerned about English classes.
You can help people appreciate and get a lot out of literature, but you can't really know if they did. They'd have to be world-class communicators to make it easy to notice changes in their heart, to have a full view on how something impacted them. It's not realistic.
But sure, you can have a bunch of kids write seven pages about the color green in The Great Gatsby. Sure. Who cares.
I was starting to despair that I'd ever be able to make concrete improvements to the system. Can you observe someone observing art?
But don't worry, it is possible to detect someone not understanding art.
And I can prove it.