Critique on "I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read"

Topics: High school, The Great Gatsby, Writing Pages: 3 (956 words) Published: December 6, 2010
In Francine Prose’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read: How American High School Students Learn to Loathe Literature”, the author is trying to explain why high school students are not asked to read more quality pieces of literature now a days. In my opinion I agree with Prose because I think the texts we read in high school are not challenging and not a lot of students enjoy the readings because they cannot relate. Prose uses the rhetorical strategy of degrading the books high school students are reading and she uses her own personal experiences to support her argument.

Throughout the essay, Prose argues that literatures in high schools are dumbing down the English curriculum. She says books that are “chosen for students to read are for ‘obvious lessons.’” However, Prose does not mention “great” books that students should read and that will help them to understand what the characters are feeling. “…The weaker novels of John Steinbeck, the fantasies of Ray Bradbury,” (424). Prose explains how her sons never read the better of Steinbeck’s novels in high school and she makes the assumption that all high school students read the so-called weaker Steinbeck novels. She also makes an argument that the English curriculum is an important issue both culturally and politically. If both the teachers and books are not challenging the young students minds, then how can we expect them to understand challenging books. “We hear the more books are being bought and sold than ever before, yet no one, as far as I know, is arguing that we are producing and becoming a nation of avid readers of serious literature” (423). Again, Prose brings up her own personal experience and what she has heard. From what she has heard, people today are not reading “serious” literature. She does not even go to defend her argument and further explain what she means by “serious literature” and “avid readers.”

The first point that Prose makes in her essay is that she is not satisfied with her two...
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