When you were in high school, did you ever question the required reading choices to pass your literature classes?
The other day I was helping my younger brother with his English assignment and noticed that he had a copy of Heartless, an Alice in Wonderland adaptation. Surprised to see it in his pile of school books, I picked it up and with a smile I asked him proudly if he was finally taking interest in reading on his own time. Being a fan of fantasy, I must say I was a proud older sister at that moment. He then took the book and told me “No, it’s the book we’re reading for one of my literature classes. The one I’m doing a research paper on.”
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I must have looked pretty confused because he immediately explained that his literature teacher had assigned modern adaptations of classics along for class assignments. The reason she gave them was that this would help them experience all forms of writing and open their minds to creativity. Although the school still had a set of required reading to be done in that year, she decided to try different approaches. The assignment was for the students to read both the original classic and the modern adaptation and write a report comparing the two.
While the study of classic literature does have its merits, it seemed like a great idea to take the kids out of the classic literature world because for too long young people have been taught only one type of literature in school. After all, it is an English and writing class, so why not broaden their minds?
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Art history, music appreciation, and other classes that focus on specific art forms in a historical and analytical way can be both beneficial and enjoyable for students, but they are not required. Language classes are a definite necessity since they are applied in most if not all professions, but the study of classic literature is unnecessary. Studying classic literature in language classes provides no future benefit for students other than personal enjoyment or preparation to become a professor of classic literature themselves. Furthermore, those who struggle with language classes will only be hurt further by being forced to read and understand books written in older English, which is vastly different from the language used today and will most likely never will be used at any other point in their lives.
In my experience, even as an avid reader and lover of the written word, the majority of these reading requirements weren’t enjoyable for me. Having to take history classes then coming to English class to read a book about a soldier going through the Vietnam war wasn’t a bit pleasant. Usually after finishing the book, we were required to see the movie adaptation to write reports on how the film and book were different. This did nothing for me.
With the world changing as fast as it is, maybe it’s time schools reconsidered reading requirements for kids. There are hundreds of different genres and in today’s world that could very well be used as examples of different thought processes and writing styles, especially if there are students who are interested in going into the field of English Literature and creative writing.
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