To clarify, books like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, or The Dark is Rising would NOT be considered "classics" in the way we've been discussing it. I certainly think they're classic children's lit or classic fantasy, but they are not part of the classics canon that are currently studied in most high school English classes.
To add another perspective to our discussion, I think it's very important to keep in mind that those of us reading an author's blog (books lovers) and those who make the high school curriculm (literate college graduates) are not representative of the majority of people in a high school English class. I'd like to quote a couple of paragraphs from Laurie Halse Andeson's blog that I found quite sobering:
"Read this from a report of the National Institute of Literacy: 'The ability to read and understand complicated information is important to success in college and, increasingly, in the workplace. An analysis of the NAEP long-term trend reading assessments reveals that only half of all White 17 year olds, less than one-quarter of Latino 17 year olds, and less than one-fifth of African American 17 year olds can read at this level.
By age 17, only about 1 in 17 seventeen year olds can read and gain information from specialized text, for example the science section in the local newspaper. This includes:
1 in 12 White 17 year olds,
1 in 50 Latino 17 year olds, and
1 in 100 African American 17 year olds.'
I wish we had all of our 17 year olds to the point where we could have them enjoy Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Thoreau, and, yes, Hawthorne. But to get them to that point, THEY MUST LEARN HOW TO READ. Their chances of developing into literate adults are greatly enhanced if we hand them books that are interesting, engaging, and written in the vernacular. Most of the Classics do not fit that definition." --LHA