Counterpoint: Classic Books in Classrooms: Embrace or Replace?

Jade Wood, Staff Writer

   Simply put, the classic books that English teachers have taught for decades upon decades are outdated. They should be replaced by more modern books that may teach the same values (or not), but from different and diverse perspectives. These would be more relatable to students than the books written by old white men 50 or even hundreds of years ago, and this would contribute to a more engaged classroom. Let’s move forward from old-fashioned books and teach students contemporary works with inclusive representation.

   There needs to be more diversity in the authors whose works are taught in classrooms. If we had more books from authors of color and women, it would create a more inclusive environment and students would feel more comfortable reading them. San Diego Unified Secondary Literacy Resource Teacher Jayme Wynn said, “Intentionally increasing the amount of books by diverse authors honors and recognizes the contributions and experiences of people of color.” It is important that we create an inclusive environment at UC High and the District as a whole, and acknowledge experiences of women and people of color by including works by them. Sophomore Nicole Castro said, “Sometimes books make people uncomfortable, making students not feel so inclined to engage in learning. Removing some of these older books from the curriculum can improve how students engage.”

   Including contemporary books by women and people of color would have a positive impact on students. “[Contemporary books] celebrate and value the stories that have often been overlooked. Students of color will now see themselves represented [or mirrored] in the literature at school, which is affirming,” said Wynn. “The hope is that in the future, teaching books from diverse authors will be the norm or expectation and the need for this discussion will be irrelevant,” Wynn added. This should become the expectation in the advancement of education systems, and both teachers and students should expect diversity in the classroom. New books about new topics, written by more diverse authors, will motivate students to read and feel comfortable participating in class. Modern books told from perspectives not previously taught can provide diversity and be eye-opening to students unaware of particular identity groups’ experiences.

   Some teachers argue that the classics need to be taught because they are, well… classics, with artistic value on their own. Some may even believe that traditional American values can be taught through them. Yet contemporary books can teach the same values, and some values may actually be out of date. More modern books will be able to  impact youth more than older books that students find irrelevant. Sophomore Vanna Ngyuen said, “These books teach knowledge most students already know of or learn in a history class, but students are not always aware of the important things happening in society today.” It’s time to recycle some of these old books and replace them with new authors of color and women so students are exposed to  different experiences.

   The current curriculum is outdated and needs updating. The older books that are taught in the English curriculum are not informational on what’s important in today’s society. Too many teachers want to give historical knowledge, but history is made every day. Not only does teaching contemporary books address this, but it also may contribute to a better and more engaged learning environment. Make what is taught more relevant and relatable to today’s student.