By Zoe Hyland
With the world of education continually modernizing, many students may wonder why the English curriculum is still stuck in the past. English classes at Novato High require students to read various classic novels recognized as critical pieces of literature such as To Kill a Mockingbird, A Raisin in the Sun, Romeo and Juliet, The Great Gatsby, A Tale of Two Cities, and Of Mice and Men.
Classics refer to novels written in a previous era, which are particularly noteworthy.
Senior Emma Wynkoop has conflicting views about updating the reading requirements in English classes.
“I think we could learn from these novels that have withstood the test of time. Although I do wish I had more freedom in choosing what books I could read for school,” Wynkoop said.
Nicole Slavin, who teaches English 9 thinks incorporating modern literature into our English classes would be even more strenuous on students minds, and would also come with the need for a refined curriculum.
“A lot of the more contemporary writers who are writing the novels I think will get taught 100 years from now, are not as accessible as they might be to student readers today,” Slavin said.
Senior Maya Virshup believes while classics do have a place in our English curriculum and establish the ground layer for many genres of reading, a balance is definitely necessary.
“I think having an equilibrium between current novels and classics is important so that people can be introduced to current authors from which they can read new material but also have a knowledge of the founding authors,” Virshup said.
Junior Adam Bernardini thinks sticking to the classics allows you to become more knowledgeable about the past.
“If I had the choice between modern and classic books I would stick to the old ones, because it is like learning about the history of literature while also getting a good read,” Bernardini said.
A lot of students appreciate the classics, however many would be more content with a balance between the two. While reading these classics may be beneficial for expressing how certain attitudes towards our society have changed over time, many students aren’t able to directly relate these to modern times.
Sophomore Tatianna Warren says it depends on the book, but she would much rather read modern books in her English class.
“Newer books relate to our generation more, so we can connect to our society on a certain level,” Warren said. “We can benefit from reading about what has recently happened, and it makes teenagers intrigued to read more.”
While teachers may be given little leeway on their book options, all books the teachers choose to teach to their students must be approved by the school board.
“We have a number of titles that are agreed upon for each grade level. Occasionally a book comes along we feel strongly about, like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and if there is funding for a purchase we try to get it,” Slavin said.
This funding comes from the English Department, but if there is not enough funding to purchase new novels, then the teachers usually stick to the classics.
It seems that based on the requests of many students, our English department may be in need of revised reading lists, despite skepticism towards assigning modern novels. This list of modern novels could consist of some of the most read by teenagers such as Looking for Alaska by John Green, The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.