May 20, 2010
College Prep. English
Classic Literature in High School Classrooms
Classics literature. The one thing high school students hate to hear their teacher say they are preparing to read. But is it the labels these books are given that make them so unbearable for students to be interested in reading, or is it something more. If you think about some of the most well known “classic” novels that are often read in high school classes throughout America, “Animal Farm”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “The Great Gatsby,”, “Fahrenheit 451”, and the well-known “To Kill a Mockingbird” may come to mind. But considering these books are labeled as “classic”, what exactly does that label mean and how does it contribute to these works as a whole?
Maybe typical high school English class focuses on these “classic” novels maybe because of their overall impact on students. Maybe the idea is that, student who read these novels may become a different person and have different ideas towards life. The students who read these books only get bored with them and read them as quickly as possible, or don’t even read them. Very few novels have the power to change students who read them and are not going to impact any reader. The content of the literature is not what students prefer to read about and hardly any student would learn a lesson from a book.
Jodi Picoult changed the view of literature through writing “My Sister’s Keeper”. This novel has issues about genetic engineering and the difficulties brought among the family through the stress. Although hardly any students are experiencing the same things Kate and Anna experience throughout the novel. These teenagers are faced with all sorts of challenges through life and are able to overcome them through love and support. Teenagers who read this novel are able to see how other teenagers deal with difficult issues and how they are able to lean on the ones they love. The lessons outlined in “My Sister’s Keeper” are very valuable to all teens who read this novel.
Most of classic books don’t have any characters the age of the students being forced to read them. If the students are in the age range, they do not experience the same things the students reading them do. As Don Gallo, professor at Central Connecticut State University, points out, "The classics are not about teenage concerns! They are about adult issues. Moreover, they were written for educated adults who had the leisure and time to read them. They were incidentally, written to be enjoyed - not dissected, not analyzed, and certainly not tested." But through reading these novels, students are able to pass a test, do some worksheets, and maybe even write an essay, but they do not gain knowledge or life experience through reading these pieces of literature. Teenagers are not very interested in reading about adults, but would rather read about people of their own ages.
As for “My Sister’s Keeper” by Picoult, this book has three teenager siblings as the main characters, and their two parents. After reading this book, in each and every perspective, teenagers have a better understanding for many things. They are able to understand how things are for their parents, their siblings, and themselves. Teenagers like the way that they are able to read about another teenager’s life and use the same things in the teens in the book do to help them with their life. The teenagers are better able to understand life after reading “My Sister’s Keeper”. Each and every “classic” book listed above addresses some sort of controversial issue from the time period in which it was written. “To Kill a Mockingbird” focuses on the trial of a black man, and the racial inequality during the 1930s. “Romeo and Juliet” dates back to the 1500s when love and marriage was a big issue and girls were still selected for certain men to marry and bear children with. “As an added bonus, their literary merit best prepared young students for national...
References: Gibbone, L., Dail, J., & Sallworth, J. (2003, Fall). Curriculum Today: Classroom Teacher Speaks Out. Young Adult Literature in English, 53.
Kaplan, J. (2000-2005). Dissertations on Adolescent Literature. The Research Connection, 51.
Smith, K. (2004, Winter). The High School Connection. The ALAN Review.
Porteus, K. (2009, Summer). Easing the Pain of the Classics. Young Adult Library Services, 16-18.
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