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August 02, 2006

Comments

Fuse #8

My mother always had a theory that the only reason they taught Julius Caeser in high school was that it was the only Shakespeare play completely bereft of sex jokes.

Little Willow

Fantastic list, Shannon! I highly agree with many of your inclusions, such as

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is poignant and important.
Edgar Allen Poe is crazy and great.
Hamlet and AMSND are my favorite Shakespearian tragedy and comedy in turn.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman is fantastic. I also recommend Stardust to anyone who likes the book or film The Princess Bride. (I personally prefer Stardust.)
Fahrenheit 451 rocks. I spook kids by telling them that if the conditions in the book existed, then the book would not exist. (Say that three times fast.)
The fact that you included Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll makes me praise you all the more. Alice is undeniably amazing.
I like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, but I feel as though I'm the only person who dislikes How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff.

Ally

This is my first post here...hope that's all right.

I think you are exactly right, and this is coming from the point of view of someone who taught 9th and 10th grade English for several years (in UT, and in NY). What I in both places I taught was that teachers still taught the classics, but so many were trying new things. I learned so much as a new teacher from these creative people. Multi-genre research papers, YA novels (Stargirl, Speak, etc.) book clubs (the teacher would buy several copies of 5-6 different books and set up book clubs and discussion groups within class), etc. All of these things worked so well and were unbelievably fun to do as a teacher (and as a student, or so they tell you).

My husband (who grew up in Seattle) had the most interesting English experience. For his freshman and sophomore years, he had what you would consider basic English (research papers, classics, etc.). Then, as a junior/senior, he could take semester long electives in lots of fun areas. He took sports lit, science fiction, Shakespeare, and creative writing. How fun would that be?!? I wish they would do this in more places, and start earlier.

So the point of this long post? You are right on, and I think a lot of English teachers realize that, and have been and are heading your way. Hopefully, this trend I saw so often won't being stifled by people afraid of change (and the outrageous testing requirements...but that's a whole new post). :)

hwalk

Like the list, except I don't like Farenheit 451 and think that no one should be required read science fiction novels and should instead be introduced to the genre by short stories, especially Isaac Asimov's stories, which are amazing.

And I think that newspaper reading and blog reading should also be required reading, because you learn a whole lot more in a shorter time by reading these things.

And why don't we ever study nonfiction in high school? Fiction is always considered so important, and no one learns that nonfiction books can be really compelling and interesting as well. Biographies shoudd be required reading, as well as a range of nonfiction according the interest of the individual student.

hwalk

Annie Dillard's American Childhood (or something like that) should be added to the list. I read that for my senior English class and I still remember a lot of the ancedotes from it.

Libby

I think that in highschool, there should be a list of books kids CAN read per unit, and they have to read one, but they can choose which. there should also be required reading, but that way kids can choose, so they feel more liberated and likely will enjoy the book more.

i also agree that junior high books are stunning!

Jaya Lakshmi

In our school we did read some depressing classics,but not a lot. But really, what's wrong with some modern books like How I Survived Being A Girl or the Shredderman series?(Both are by Wendelin Van Draanen.)

What makes me really mad is that there's little to no emphasis on creative writing. Our ninth grade teacher gave us about ten in-class writings for the year. I heard we're getting even less this year.

janalee

LOL, wanted to post on the first blog dealing with the WSJ article. But there were so many comments...
I was (and am) a voracious reader- and have read almost every genre available, depending on what mood I'm in. But a friend of mine coined a phrase for those books that you read for pure entertainment: brain candy. Not so much because it rots your brain, but because it's like a snack instead of a full meal.
And the world would be much better if people like the WSJ author understood that a well-balanced diet includes snacks! About the only time I cringe at the books my kids read is when they're poorly written. As in they have incomplete sentences and spelling errors. And yes, a rather popular elementary school series contains both. Made me wonder about the editor...

sarah

I agree, a good mix of genres is right for school, cause even though I like to think that I am an avid reader, I tend to stick to genres that I feel confortable with (does that sound weird?). I sometimes find, however, when I read books that are of a different genre, I like them just as well and it expands my enjoyment and interest in reading. Other books I would suggest to be studied in high school are 'Noughts and Crosses', by Malorie Blackman, because it is a really amazing book. It also makes you think about the subject more and you really feel involved in the story, you know- they feel sad, you feel sad ext. I also think that 'Exodus', by Julie Bertagna- It is one of the best books ever! It's actually written in the present tense but it is still really good and you hardly notice it. The story is great but the subject of the book is also about Global warming and how that could majorly effect the planet so, in a class, it would spout some interesting discussions. Of course, all the Shannon Hale books would be on my list, simly because they're so good!

sarah

I agree, a good mix of genres is right for school, cause even though I like to think that I am an avid reader, I tend to stick to genres that I feel confortable with (does that sound weird?). I sometimes find, however, when I read books that are of a different genre, I like them just as well and it expands my enjoyment and interest in reading. Other books I would suggest to be studied in high school are 'Noughts and Crosses', by Malorie Blackman, because it is a really amazing book. It also makes you think about the subject more and you really feel involved in the story, you know- they feel sad, you feel sad ext. I also think that 'Exodus', by Julie Bertagna- It is one of the best books ever! It's actually written in the present tense but it is still really good and you hardly notice it. The story is great but the subject of the book is also about Global warming and how that could majorly effect the planet so, in a class, it would spout some interesting discussions. Of course, all the Shannon Hale books would be on my list, simly because they're so good!

sarah

Sorry! Posted comment twice!

Lauren A.

Ooh... thanks for the list. I'll have read some of those now...
So, here's my take on the "classics" debate. A healthy mix of both classics and more recent and/or YA books pleases students and teachers alike.
It's good to immerse yourself in some of the classics, because, let's face it: some of them are good. However, there are a lot of good books out there, and limiting yourself to just the classics could lead to a reader being reluctant later in life. So, enjoy what you like... right?

Sam fr Australia

I can relate to what Shannon said in her last post... I used to be an insatiable bookworm and at the age of 12/13, I was borrowing books from the adult section, rather than the children's section... one librarian told me that I was very well-read for my age and I would share those books with my mum. Even now (at the age of 22) I still visit the YAS section of libraries and bookshops to see what is there and read it if it appeals to me... If I hadn't done that, I would not be here now... I wouldn't have discovered the beautiful worlds that Shannon has written about. When I was younger I would read three or four books a day (I am a very fast reader) if I had the time to do so. Once I got to university I stopped reading so much because it lost the glamour. I am not a big fan of the literature taught at university... I just can't get my head around some of it.

However as I will be a qualified english teacher at the end of this year, this issue is something I have had to put thought into. To prepare students for classes in the higher levels of schooling, yes, they should be reading some classics. But there should always be a place for books the students choose to read... no matter what form or genre it takes. It can form part of their assessment as a wider reading project or as a book report. The most important thing is to get them reading... the classics will come in time with curiousity.

Sam fr Australia

Oh yeah, I love most of the books on your list, Shannon! There are some I haven't read or heard of but this gives me some ideas for extended reading this Christmas time. Thanks!

Becky Levine

You said it perfectly! Now, of course, you've got me worried about my son going to high school (Yes, he's got another four years, but why put off worrying?!).

I lucked out at my high school--I had lit teachers who considered themselves pretty radical (and to me, at 14+ they were), and I read Laxness, Scholzenitzin (can't spell it anymore!), Vonnegut, Kesey (didn't get that AT ALL!) and got to save the British/American classics for college...it only added to the world of my reading.

Jaya Lakshmi

You know what we did an seventh grade? Along with our normal books we sometimes had to bring in ORBS (Outside Reading Books) for class and write about them. This was how I got through the House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne and managed to return it on time to the school library.
Another thing: NEVER try to read the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin unless you are willing to read a lot of nonfiction and theory. I sure wasn't.
Books I'd recommend (other than Shannon's):
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
Something Upstairs by Avi
Nothing But the Truth by Avi
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Chocolate Fever by ???? (can't remember the author)
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Ramona series by Beverly Cleary
The Ralph series by Beverly Cleary
Frindle by Andrew Clements
Lunch Money by Andrew Clements
The Last Holiday COncert by Andrew Clements
The Landry News by Andrew Clements
The School Story by Andrew Clements (This is ESPECIALLY for aspiring writers!)

To be continued...

Laura

Funny you should mention Origin of Species, Jaya. A really great friend just gave me a copy a couple of days ago. I've already read two or three paragraphs. I'm going to pace myself, read it slowly. Really savor it, you know.

Jaya Lakshmi

That's the problem with most classics; you have to read them slowly. Read the Deerslayer to find out.

To continue:
The Magic Shop series by Bruce Coville
Armageddon Summer by Bruce Coville and Jane Yolen
Odder than Ever by Bruce Coville
Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat
The Anybodies duo by N.E. Bode
Interstellar Pig by William Sleator
Any Tamora Pierce quartet.
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King
Carrie by Stephen King
Misery by Stephen King (Beware of excess gore, however.)
Any book by Diana Wynne Jones EXCEPT Witch's Business (Wilkin's Tooth in the UK)
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

To be continued...

Megan Elbow

Sorry, I keep on bringing my English class up! But anyway, another thing that I liked that my English teacher did this year was that every Friday we would have part of the class set aside for reading. We could bring in our own books, or, if we forgot, she had a bookshelf filled with lots of books to read, and magazines, too. And, they were all sorts of genres, including some classics. That way, we had a chance to read every week. I think that it was a good idea, even for a Ninth Grade Honors English Class.

asha

here are some of my fav books:
-goose girl
-princess acadamy
-enna burning
-rowan of rin
-chronicles of narnia
-(i was going to say harry potter, but...)
-the starthorn tree
-the chanters of tremaris(trilogy)(very good)
-inkheart
-find me a river(which i actually read for a class assignment!)
-ella enchanted
-and many more which are buried somewhere in my head...

some of my fav authors:
-shannon hale (DUH!!!)
-tamora pierce
-emily rodda
-c.s. lewis

Jenna

I agree with most of these lists - I like Cornelia Funke and "The Princess Bride." I had a teacher back in fifth grade that did book-reading wonderfully. He read out loud, with everybody following along, and had great discussions afterward, about predictions. (Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and The Westing Game) I think that making reading enjoyable for a whole class like that is easier when you have a book that has a lot of funny parts or that has a lot of unpredictability - good for discussions.

Mads

Love the list Shannon! It has all of the important books with a few fun ones mixed in. Great!
Since everyone else is making a favorite bookss list, I will too!
Besides Shannon Hale's books, I like:
Troy By Adele Geras
Anything by Janette Rallison
Avalon High by Meg Cabot
The Princess Bride By William Goldman
Peter and the Star Catchers series
ANYTHING by Ann Rinaldi
Ella Enchanted By Gail Carson Levine
Pirates! By Celia Rees
Ghost Ship By Dietlof Reiche
And I could go on and on and on but I'll leave it at this for now. I really really really suggest 'Ghost Ship'. Even if it sounds like something you wouldn't really want to read, it is. It reaches out and grabs you, and once you start you really can't stop. Everyone I've suggested it to has loved it, and I swear I haven't seen my mom read like that for awhile!!!

Marcus Aurileus

-The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
-Songs of Earth and Power by Greg Bear (actually kinda "tome-ish" in nature. The two original novels, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage are both great books on their own, but the the two of them together as a single novel, wow.)
-Trader by Charles de Lint
-Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
-Bone by Jeff Smith (GN)
-Blankets by Craig Thompson (GN)
-My Name is Asher Lev by Chiam Potok
-Mage by Matt Wagner (ESPECIALLY if you can get the TPB with the epilogue featuring Kevin Matchstick kicking Kelpie butt in France. [GN])
-Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
-The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (Also tome-ish, but if you start it, you'll *prolly* finish it. His YA urban fantasy, Summerland, has also been a fun read, thus far.)

Off the top of my head. My "visceral" list, if you will. Your mileage may vary.

Jessica

It's not just that it's only the classics, it's only the SAME classics. From my Jr. year of high school to my sophomore year of college, I read The Scarlet Letter three times, The Great Gatsby twice, Heart of Darkness twice, and Hamlet twice. As though those were the ultimate in literate, and the only things worth studying. My oldest brother did not start reading until he was almost thirty, he now devours fantasy and sci fi books. Looking back, he also read The Scarlet Letter and Heart of Darkness in class, and for outside reading was recommended things like Of Mice and Men and Shane. Imagine a guy wearing a black t-shirt and a denim jacket covered in metal studs asking you for a book recommendation. Now imagine telling him to read "Shane". We know what Jeff was smoking, but was his teacher on?

Debbie

I don't have a list, but I completely agree! As a high school student, I've read many boring, and not-so-boring books at my high school. However, last year's Junior curriculum was entirely bereft of anything modern at all. It seemed that we all groaned as the teacher handed out "The Good Earth" or "Faerenheit 451" simply because they were yet ANOTHER classic. I plan on teaching English after college, and now I'm wondering if I should teach High School, if only to let those students know that there are other good books out there.

Carl V.

Very good thoughts, Shannon. I agree that high school reading should include a mix of the classics and modern works. I also think exposure to literature should come at a much earlier age. I took a literature class in junior high that introduced short stories and excerpts from longer novels and I loved it. I developed my love of Poe, Dickens and others because of this. Children need to be introduced to the wonder of books as early and as often as possible.

Carl V.

Oh, and great list by the way. One of the things I loved in high school was when we read Macbeth and Of Mice and Men and other books and then watched films of the stories afterwards. It was great to see how the stories came alive when someone was acting them out. This was especially helpful with Shakespeare in learning how the language is supposed to sound. I highly recommend coupling films with reading as it heightens the experience.

Jessica

How about:
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

The Sally Lockhart books by Philip Pullman

marki

Wow!! all these new book recomendations from everybody!! i am going to be busy these last two weeks of summer!!!

i just have to say that Princess Bride is amazing. i read it in two days... for my english class.

AUTHORS i love!!!
-Shannon Hale (of course why else would i be here??)
-Tamora Peirce (reccomend the circle of magic quartet and the circle opens quartet!!!)
-Tanith Lee (The Unicorn series is very good!!)
-Gail Carson Levine!!( I love her!! Ella enchanted and The Two Princesses of Bamarre!! and the fairy tale series!!)
-Hilari Bell (the Goblin Forest... i believe that is what it is called... it is really great!!)
-Nancey Springer (for anyone who loves King arthur stories... i am morgan le fay and i am mordred!!!!)

they are really amazing books!!!

Laura

And why not toss in a memoir?

Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam is terrific.

Tahlia

Finally! Someone who agrees with me on the classics! I am going to print out your post and show it to my English teacher who has called me "narrowminded" because I complained that all the books on our book list are depressing and boring. I think that the value of clarity of writing is completely overlooked in English class. It seems like the teacher's almost praise the writers of the classics for being confusing and longwinded. Personally, I have always been taught that "Why use ten words when you can only use one", so why are the classics the exception to this rule? BTW, I think that we should DEFINITELY have a book with a dragon on our booklists. :-) But I get the feeling that I'm setting my hopes too high. But I just think it's so wonderful to have someone speaking out on this subject--thank you so much!

Rachel

I luckily had many fabulous English teachers in high school who managed to make the reading always interesting and fun most of the time. In Americn Literature we read The Great Gatsby, Hemingway, Steinbeck, London, James Cooper, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Melville, etc. but luckily most of our exposure to those authors were through short stories. Our teacher encouraged us to relate the writings to ourselves in some way and always had creative writing assignments to go along with them. While I didn't necessarily enjoy everything we read, it gave me a good background in American literature and I came away with no hatred for the authors or their works. If we'd been forced to read The Last of the Mohicans or The Deerslayer in its entirety, I probably would have shot myself.
Once I got out of high school I read Steinbeck's East of Eden on my own and absolutely loved it. I don't know if I would have had the same reaction during high school however!
My senior year I had another fabulous teacher, for English Literature this time. She wanted us to get a good understanding of all the periods and genres that are in English literature and also to understand the themes and literary devices that authors have been using over the years. She always had us watch parts of the movie as well. We read/watched Pride and Prejudice and The Importance of Being Earnest for satire, Medea for classical, Wuthering Heights for something else, A Tale of Two Cities for serial novels, etc. We also had extra-credit worksheets with trivia about the greek and roman legends and even fairy tales. Almost everyone did them because they could raise your grade by 10% and we all came away with a better understading of the "myths" and allusions made to them in literature today. We learned new vocabulary words for each new book we read; harder words and literary terms (epigrams abound in Wilde!) We read some short stories that I'd never heard of before but that I came away loving ("Yellow Wallpaper," "The Lottery,") mostly because we all discussed them and she was willing to let us get excited and get into them. We watched Wilkie Collins' Woman in White and all got scared to death. We had heated discussions about what was really going on in Henry James's The Turn of the Screw.
This teacher didn't cram anything down our throats if we didn't want it there. She was willing to discuss it if someone said, "I can't understand what any of this means, is the author high or something?" She was the first to admit if an author was vague or hard to understand. Though not everyone in that class is still reading I don't think that it's from any hatred of the classics but rather because they believe they don't have enough time.
Personally I love the classics and I think they should be read in school along with some modern works. I've found that reading the classics gets easier as you go along. When I was thirteen I read mostly romantic vampire novels and when I tried to pick up Pride and Prejudice I couldn't understand it. I tried again a few years later and loved it. Tried to read part of Canterbury Tales in high school and couldn't make head or tails of it, but reading it in college was a breeze. I think that reading at least some "tough" literature, with symbols and lots of commas and sentences that go on for pages, conditions you for later on in life so that you can actually read and enjoy Dickens. If I'd continued reading only vampire novels and the Roswell High series I never would have gotten to the point where I finished Anna Karenina in four days and loved it. I also never would've gotten to the point where I am now, studying to be an English teacher, without the help of the fantastic teachers I had and the amazing works that we read. :)
That being said of course, I try to "balance" my reading diet with healthy helpings of the classics, YA fiction, non-fiction (Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer = so good), fantasy, modern fiction, and the occasional chick lit. Maybe part of what helped me get by in high school is that I read all the time so that while most of my fellow students were reading classics almost non-stop I was still having breaks where I could go read Goose Girl and Patricia Wrede and Nick Hornby.
Sorry for the long post ... reading, teaching, English literature ... all things I feel passionately about!
--Rachel

Nunnya business

Oh My Gosh! Marki I love Tamora Peirce! SHe is my second favorite author! (take a guess who's first)

What's your favorite book?


P.S. Just bought Enna burning! Poor Leifer!

Nunnya business

Shannon,

Had you met Nancy Farmer before the young readers thingy?


P.S. Will someone tell my what YA #5 is?

Nunnya business

Ok Nvm. Ya #5 is Book of a Thousand Days. But is there a YA #4 or #3? What does YA stand for?

Luli

L. Bookworm:

Young Adult #1: The Goose Girl
Young Adult #2: Enna Burning
Young Adult #3: Princess Academy
Young Adult #4: River Secrets
Young Adult #5: Book of a Thousand Days
Young Adult #6: Another Bayern book?
Adult #1: Austenland
Graphic Novel #1: Rapunzel's Revenge

Jas fr Aus

Off the top of my head, I think my list would go something like this:
To Kill A Mocking Bird - Harper Lee
Looking for Alibrandi - Melina Marchetta
A Midsummer Night's Dream - William Shakespeare
Tomorrow When the War Began - John Marsden
The Princess Bride - William Goldman
Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen

Rujie

I TOTALLY agree with you Shannon. You phrased that perfectly. Would you consider the Lord of the Rings trilogy classics? They're definitly hard to get through! At least for me. I won't make a list because i feel as if i hd read nothing compared to all these other lists. I msut say, though, that i love Tamora Pierce. I used to be really into her, but i almost have to be wary whan i read her books because she gets almost a little bit too romantic for me.

Nunnya business

Oh! Thank you Luli!

marki

Rujie!! tamora Peirce does do that doesn't she? I had to be careful too. that is why i love her circle of magic books. they are very clean and a great read!! did you read those??

marki

Lauren!! that is too great!! she is one of my favorite authors too haha!!! like i just said i love the circle of magic books!!!

lisette

Rujie--I just took a class on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I'd read the Narnia books before, and I read Tolkien's The Hobbit in fifth grade (assigned reading, actually!). But this was my first time reading LOTR. I'd tried once before, when the movies were coming out, but I didn't get past the inn at Bree. But if you can get past his slow beginnings (he had an incredibly slow one in The Hobbit), then the books start to speed up, I think. Believe me, if you can get through them, they're worth it.

But no, most people don't consider them classics. I disagree. Rather vehemently. As did the professor who taught the class. It's a completely original story, extremely meaningful. (Meaningful as in "it changes you for life," not "you have to decode it to get anything out of it.") It's fantastically researched--Tolkien writes as if he belonged to the cultures he borrowed from. And he obviously believes in the story.

Not to mention that this trilogy singlehandedly launched an entire genre. It should be considered a classic (in the best sense) for that reason alone.

Courtney

I agree with everything you guys have been saying about the classics. however, I love classics, honestly. Jane Austen being my top most favorite. I have to read Pride and Prejudice at least once a year! I love Tolkien though. I did a research paper on him last year in my British Literature class and I learned a lot that made me appriciate that man TONS! So, yeah! I get to study the Hobbit and LOTR in my Honors class next year so I'm looking foreward to that! Read 'em if you haven't!

Megan13

After reading the comments I feel as if I need to make an argument for the classics.

Upon first reading Shannon's post about the WSJ article, I agreed wholeheartedly (I'm being a bit misleading, as I still do agree). English classes need to grow and change along with the very thing that brings those classes together: books. I believe teachers should encourage their students to read books that book snobs, oops, I mean, book CRITICS denounce on grounds of frivolity. When that attitude prevails many students will walk out of their English classes with no desire to read of their own volition. And that's a shame. I think the practical way to encourage reluctant students to read ANYTHING is to give them an excuse. If they're going to be in class why not read something that won't induce brain injuries from thinking too hard(Deny to me that any Russian classic won't make you tired and/or irritable). So yes, English teachers need to introduce "genre fiction" into the classroom.

However. (This is the part I really wanted to get to). For argument's sake let's all agree that the classics are taught for good reasons. That there are essential and inherent truths about humanity and our existence that we learn through thoughtful readings of these classics. I know that I've been taught and edified by the books that I read in my AP English class as a senior in high school(THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by Zora Neale Hurston had a singular effect upon my life). For most high school students the classics can be hard to read, hard to understand, and hard to like. I really believe STRONGLY that English teachers play a huge part in helping students understand the classics. And even for the ones with a desire to read almost exclusively from the pool of classics, and with brains enough to understand them well, (good) English Teachers are able to enhance their insights into the novels. English Teachers (again, good English Teachers) spend valuable time in school learning to be mediators between the classics and their students.

Those are my thoughts. I really do think that teachers who only teach the classics are behind the times and not responding intelligently to the intelligent human beings they have sitting in front of them. All the same, I feel the classics should consist of the majority of what is taught in the classroom.

And no hard feelings about my jab at Russian classics, okay?

Merri

I liked some of the classics we read in high school (I am still in love with Walden, even though I have yet to read it all the way through - such a restful sort of book), but they weren't a patch on the diversity of books I've read since entering college. I wish my teachers had given a few more modern pieces and more genres a try. Anywho, my main point in posting is to recommend a book: Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Classics. It's still a classics-centered book, but the idea is to use YA literature to help make the traditional curriculumn books and play more understandable and to foment discussion. Foment is an underused word.

Heather

Wow, after looking over your list I feel so grateful to some of my English teachers who really tried to make reading enjoyable...we studied R&G are dead following Hamlet and watched the (new at the time) Mel Gibson movie, one teacher gave me my first copy of "To Kill a Mockingbird," we read "Ender's Game," "My Antonia," works by the Bronte's and Huck-Finn. I know that it was because of those teachers that I stuck with my decision to major in English. I think it's great for kids to read whatever interests them, and when it comes to "Classics," it's important to choose books that are varied and fun!

MsVerbose

I don't necessarily disagree with what you've all been saying, but I feel this desire to defend high school English classes. (And no, I'm not a teacher.)

First of all, not all classes are equal. That's clear from many of the posts that talk about how much they loved theirs. It seems to me that a lot of the complaints could really be termed a teaching quality issue.

Second, there is a reason for teaching the classics so pointedly in high school: entrance exams to colleges, and other tests. I took the AP test, and so in our school we had a 3-year prep program. Three years of intensive reading of the classics. I loved it. And yes, I passed.

I definitely don't think it's a bad idea to introduce other books ("genre books") in high school, but I do wonder what exactly would happen once the pendulum started to swing the other way. Just look at what happened to the teaching of grammar . . . it's practically non-existent in schools these days. And believe me, that's a problem. (I taught a research-writing class in college, and I had to re-teach the basics). I would rather have the classics overdone in a small 3-year period of life (which really isn't much when you consider that public education lasts 13 year), than have them become extinct.

And there is one other thing that is nagging me. Where are the parents in all of this? I understand that many kids get book recommendations from their English teachers, and I understand that not all families are equal, but I think it's just as important that good, fun reading material is presented by parents in the home. In my book, that should be of greater concern than the high school curriculum. But I suppose the argument there is that it's easier to change a school than a family. The world as it is vs. a perfect world

Anyway, just some food for thought.

Carl V.

Reading over your 'stab at it' list and your reasons why you mentioned the Greek plays and I started thinking about the fact that two things need to happen. Number one is that schools adopt this more open idea about the different types of literature to present for assignments. The second is to find creative new ways to teach old things. How cool would it be to take something like the Hellboy or Sandman graphic novels which are full of references to mythology and old folklore and study these in conjunction with these works of literature? I know I have a much greater appreciation for these stories because of the knowledge that I have of greek mythology, etc. obtained in high school and college courses.

nrkii

Very late commenter to this party, but I'll just say ...

If only all high school reading lists included The Princess Bride and some Stephen King! There is so much to LEARN from them.

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