Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Fitzgerald.
We’ve all heard these names and many others countless times in our English classes. While their works have rightly earned their spots on the golden shelf of timeless classics, they tend to elicit groans from students who have been assigned the grueling task of interpreting their works.
A student can’t help but wonder where all of the contemporary authors have gone. Does modern literature still have a place in the classroom?
Many teachers and students think it does.
Izumi Yoshioka, an English teacher, claims that she was “a little bummed” when she first began teaching her students because the novels that had been assigned were very foundational.
However, she also argues that she understood the position that the curriculum takes because it strives to make students “culturally literate” and to provide “exposure to canon.”
After all, it is certainly advantageous to be knowledgeable about famous writers, but does that mean that we should neglect modern works? Many contemporary novels would allow students insight into themes that are relevant to today’s society, shaping how we view the world.
Ultimately, there should be a harmony between the old and the new. It is undeniable that many students cower at the sight of what seems to be ancient literature, racing to SparkNotes for refuge.
“A lot of kids don’t do the readings because they are hard to understand, so I think there should be a balance,” said Katie Brewer ’14.
It is possible then that students might be more invested in their reading assignments if they found them to be more understandable and written in layman’s terms.
Louis Hubela ’17 argues that he’d like to see historical fiction readily available as well as novels “that will prepare us for the real world.”
This is an achievable goal. There is no doubt that we can bring authors that write for young adults, such as John Green and Markus Zusak, into our classrooms if we make an effort and encourage students to read and experience life through the eyes of the modern-day writers that surround us.