Out with the Old

Out with the Old

Claire Williams, copy writer

Our society loves tradition. Sometimes, it even favors tradition over a newer choice that is more beneficial. Such is the case in LT’s English curriculum. LT’s English curriculum is filled with classics from “The Odyssey” to “The Awakening” to “Hamlet”. However, reading classical literature is not only unnecessarily difficult but it is not useful outside of the classroom. Modern books are what we should be teaching our students.

Classical literature, as LION is interpreting it, are pieces that were written pre-WWII. Times were different then. Specifically, dialect was different then. People spoke and wrote in a way that is confusing in today’s English. Some common words or phrases of that time are no longer used, and some words have different meanings or connotations. The time we spend simply trying to translate the text could be better spent doing more in-depth analyses of modern literature or introducing students to tough vocabulary that is common today.

The time-consuming nature of reading classical literature becomes especially frustrating when you realize that outside of English class, you will likely never have to know how to read Old English. Unless you’re planning on becoming an English, History or Theatre major, being able to trudge through and understand classical literature probably won’t be necessary in your life. Because English is a core class, its material should be targeted toward the general audience of readers and writers, the majority of whom will never need to pick up a classic outside of school.

Admittedly, classics have become classics for a reason. They are great books with important and universal themes. But there are also a plethora of great modern books that express the same important themes in easier-to-understand terms. When students read of these themes in modern books, they often become more clear because they are not hidden by overly complex phrases. They can then better connect with the themes and even apply them to their own lives, which can lead to students possessing a greater awareness.

Students can also better connect with modern literature because it aligns more with our modern day culture. Many modern novels criticize the society we live in, forcing us to look beyond the text and actually think and apply as we read. Dystopian novels, such as “The Giver” and “Handmaid’s Tale”, are prime examples of this. Not only do they make us think about the problems in our society but they are also very popular among teenagers, according to NPR and The Guardian. Reading something that students are actually interested in would create a more engaging and participatory atmosphere in English classes. Furthermore, introducing students to more appealing books early on will help them foster a love for reading that could continue throughout their lives.

Classical literature has been the foundation of English classes for decades. But just because that’s the way it has been done doesn’t mean that’s the way we should continue to do it. Modern books are not only more popular among students but they more applicable in our society today. With modern books, LT can give the students what they want and what they need.