Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: In high school, teens are made to read the classics - Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Bronte, Dickens - but there are a lot of books out there never taught in schools. So if you had the power to change school curriculums, which books would you be sure high school students were required to read?

I'll be honest: When you're a teenager, and you're sitting in a stuffy classroom with a droning teacher and you're thinking about your after school job/boyfriend/friends/gum that you left in your backpack, the last thing you want to do is read another short story by Flannery O'Connor, or listen while the teacher explains Shakespeare, or dissect Heathcliff and Cathy's relationship. There are just so many other exciting things going on!

Now that I'm older, however, I've come to appreciate the fact that I've read the classics. A lot of people my age don't understand my references to Moby Dick. They haven't read Charlotte's Web. My jokes about Oedipus Rex lovin' his momma go right over their heads.

Unfortunately, like so many other things, I really did understand when I got older. Over the years, the classics worked together to stew and simmer in my brain, deepening my understanding of how literature was shaped over the years, how common threads (like love and revenge) shape humanity, until now I reach for them willingly.

Can you really understand star-crossed lovers without having read Romeo & Juliet? Does seeing the White Rabbit in The Matrix mean more to the person who's read Alice in Wonderland? (I think so.)

But let's return to the question. I suppose it's really asking what I would add to the current curriculum, although it is my understanding that teachers do have some freedom in this. (I know a dear friend of mine who added Twilight to her class curriculum, much to the delight of her students, I'm sure.) For me, it would probably be The Golden Compass. Perhaps a bit controversial to some, but surely that's the point: to encourage young readers to ask questions and consider new ideas. 

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