Wednesday, June 16, 2004

In Honor of the End of the School Year

Last month USA TODAY carried an article called Contemporary vs. Classic by Greg Toppo, who is, I believe, an education writer. The article was about bringing more contemporary books into high school English classes, and mentions a book called Great Books for High School Kids by Amy Crawford and Rick Ayers. The Crawford/Ayers book talks about nearly 400 books they believe would enhance a high school curriculum. They are not, according to Toppo, suggesting that classics be replaced by contemporary books.

I found this article interesting for some personal reasons. I read classics when I was a teenager, but I read them on my own. I think I was on some kind of self-improvement kick or something. But the point I'm trying to make is that I didn't have teachers improving the experience for me OR ruining it. You run that risk when a teacher is involved. If I were the kind of blogger who talks about her own family a lot, I could mention the AP English class my son just finished in which he said the students ideas about what they read were regularly shot down in favor of the teacher's "correct" interpretations.

So my point is that exposure to a few classics could be a positive thing if the books were handled like books and not "classics."

On the other hand, I'm a big believer in recognizing and being part of the culture you're actually living in. Exposure to contemporary literature is part of that culture. Bringing that into a high school classroom will, in my humble opinion, encourage teens to be active members of their own culture by becoming active readers of contemporary works.


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