In the American education system, a majority of people have had the experience of reading classic literature. Most complain that the material they are reading is irrelevant, so why should schools continue to enforce us to read it?
Personally, I believe the literature we read has the potential to be a great learning experience, but way that it is taught and its lack of diversity prevents students from gaining much from the experience.
In the average high school English class, at least one work of Shakespeare is read and analyzed. This is done because Shakespeare’s work is said to have countless themes that have remained relevant. Students are expected to read the text and derive those concepts, as teachers often neglect the aspects of the works that would actually appeal to high schoolers. For example, most of Shakespeare’s works contain humor and comical euphemisms. Challenging students to find those parts in the text would be very entertaining and would create some motivation for students to read the text. However, those interesting aspects are usually glossed over and students are expected to strictly dive into the same themes and motifs that have been analyzed for years. That gives students an opportunity to simply search up the text they are reading and find the analysis online. Because students are not encouraged to be original or appeal to their points of interest, appreciation of old literature is hard to cultivate amongst high schoolers.
This is not to say that the themes in old literature are not important; they definitely are and that is why they were even selected for the English curriculum. The stories of the past are passed on for a reason; to teach people lessons, bring attention to important issues, and so on. But in our current age, we need something more than just generic themes to form the bridge between the old and new generations.
Furthermore, most of the literature read in school is usually written by males and predominantly comes from Europe. This is the result of the great influence Europe came to play on the rest of the world’s history. The world received the most exposure to these types of texts, making it easy to forget that other types of literature exist in the world. Many students feel underrepresented by the stories they read in class, increasing their level of disinterest. Reading more diverse types of literature would help build a real connection between students and what they need. The number of people that dislike reading and writing is rising, and it seems to be stemming from this source.
Overall, I believe students should be allowed more freedom regarding the literature they read. Certain aspects of the student curriculum should be maintained, but it definitely needs to be altered to specifically cater to helping students’ interests and understanding. As for the literature itself, it also needs to be more diverse so it can appeal to a greater number of students and share all the neglected stories that were meant to be shared.