Classics/Contemporaries in the Classroom

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It's no secret that English has remained my favorite subject throughout all of high school.  While other subjects sometimes felt like a series of closed doors with pre-worked math formulas and innumerable facts to memorize, English was whatever I wanted it to be.  Sure, I had to learn (and still am learning) the fundamentals of grammar and the little nuances of the language, but many of the assignments I faced didn't feel like assignments.  They were open-ended questions for me to answer in any way I pleased through writing.

I still love English.  And I'm beyond grateful for all of the courses my school has offered me in the subject.  However, I've noticed that the courses offered at my school hardly ever touch upon contemporary novels.  I'm not sure if this is an accurate reflection of other schools in the state and across the country, but seriously, what's up with that?


You can't tell me that the only books worth reading in an English classroom were written before the 21st century.


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Last year, I was enrolled in a course called "Young Adult World and Perspective," and I thought it would be my answer.  Unfortunately, the class wasn't quite what I was looking for.  Although we read a couple of more modern books, they were both very mainstream and written around five years ago.  Additionally, my class didn't discuss the text or go very in depth, so many of my classmates didn't even bother to read the books.  (I feel like the course may have actually turned off some of my classmates from picking up a YA contemporary novel again.)


I just wish more emphasis was placed on these contemporary reads when given the opportunity.


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This year, I'm currently enrolled in a course called "Senior English Honors."  It's Young Adult World and Perspective's polar opposite with a sole focus on classics.  So far, our class has read Oedipus, King Lear, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, The Sound and the Fury, and we're currently in the midst of reading The Power and the Glory.  My class has assignments nearly every night that require students to immerse themselves in the text and think critically about the author's words.  In class, we flesh out each section and discuss even the most minute of details.


The course is intense and interesting, but I can't help but wonder why even just one contemporary novel can't be considered honors material?


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I definitely see the value in reading classics, but I also see the value in reading contemporary novels.  Based off of personal experience and everyone else in the book blogging community, I know that contemporary books are just as deserving of being respected and discussed.

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Stop excluding contemporary books from the classroom.



Julia's a dreamer. She often zones off periodically throughout the day thinking up plans for the future, pining over fictional characters, and concocting up possible plot lines for stories.

You can find Julia on her main blog, Peach Print, on Twitter @peachprint, on Instagram @yapeach, and of course, right here on the APCB blog.

3 comments:

  1. I'm a upper school librarian and this is a discussion I have A LOT with students and teachers. There is, of course, a huge bias against YA books that has to be overcome. It upsets me to no end when people harp on how important it is for children to grow up loving literature, but turn around and bash children’s books and authors as being subpar. Because making someone feel stupid for enjoying books is how you get them to love books.

    Depending on the system/country/state you live in, it's not as easy as saying "I want to teach this book instead of that book." At my previous school I was working with a group of high school English teachers trying to address this. It's really boring to teach the same book year after year, and eventually you run into the problem of students turning in assignments that their older siblings wrote when they had the class. But it can be hard to get more contemporary books approved for use that meet curricular needs and fit well into skills development. Detailed proposals need to be written to prove academic suitability, how the book would teach and further develop critical thinking skills, how it supports the skills students needed to be mastering at this point in the curriculum, etc. It's a lot of work, but it's something that the staff was willing to take on because they wanted to stretch themselves and this was a common complaint among students. Don't be afraid to speak up and discuss it with teachers, it can get the ball rolling.

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  2. I 100% agree! When I was a senior in high school, instead of taking AP Literature, I decided to take the 'fun' English classes because I had done honors English classes all throughout middle and high school. They were two semester courses: Science Fiction and Fantasy and Heroes, Villain's and Quests. While you'd think they'd focus on newer books, I had the same experience as you: they were all from around 5 years ago and longer. However, my classes did go deeper in depth discussion wise which I loved. It annoys me that it's assumed that only classics have incredible metaphors and themes worth discussing in depth. I was so grateful to have that experience in a formal classroom. Hopefully you'll find a class that does emphasize the significance of current works (or perhaps you could help develop one yourself! That would be so cool!)!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

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  3. I agree with you! I was lucky because when I was in school we read a lot of the classics, but there were a few contemporary reads thrown in. I am sorry your courses are lacking in that area- because I think it just helps make more well rounded readers. Hope the books you are reading are interesting. :)
    ~Jess

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