Debate over what books students should read in high school culminates at the beginning of each school year.
As parents go through school text lists and collect books for the next year of teenage years, they inevitably find that their school reading and their child’s learning are influenced by teachers, schools, and mandated curricula. Compare with the literature selected for
Some people are surprised that teenagers are still reading the same books they read in school.
everyone has an opinion
Last week, one of the fathers of a 9th grade daughter wondered why at the start of the 2023 school year, he was assigned “boring” Animal Farm, Romeo and Juliet, and Wuthering Heights. (His original post was so overwhelmed with responses that it was overwhelmed and deleted.)
Some of his fellow parents agreed with all the classic diets that threatened to keep teenagers away from reading, asking them to replace old texts with modern ones that reflected teenage life. Some raised the issue of diversity in the so-called predominantly white male “canon”. Others wanted a blend of classic and modern books to tick all the boxes.
But everyone had an opinion.
Compulsory education has done wonders for our collective skills and knowledge. It has become common, even natural, for adults to have strong beliefs about the “right” kind of literature to occupy.
In the age of social media, it’s easier than ever for parents to share these opinions. Their concerns are also tied to their near-constant anxiety about young people and their futures.
backlash against diversity
These anxieties are not helped by political leaders who use the opportunity to politicize school curricula with the aim of taking advantage of dissent and stirring up foundations. Attempts to read and study in the classroom are met with intense and persistent opposition even in Australian classrooms.
When former Prime Minister Tony Abbott appointed a staunch conservative to review English in the Australian curriculum, the resulting report was flooded with racist comments about “the wrong kind of literature.” , called for a greater emphasis on Western literature.
Recently, Mark Latham, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, attempted to amend the Education Act. This led to the firing of teachers who taught gender fluidity, including choosing texts with gender fluid characters.
These examples show the precarious grounds on which teachers must decide which literature is best for their students.
Read more: In 20 years of the award-winning picture book, non-white people made up just 12% of the main characters
what are they reading at school
Worryingly, no research has been conducted in Australia to gather reliable data on what a typical high school reading list contains. is based on observations, anecdotes, and conjectures.
we know what our students are like Taught.
The Australian curriculum, along with various state iterations of its instructional documents, makes suggestions about the types of literature students should be exposed to. Classical and contemporary world literature, including texts from Asian and First Nations peoples. And about the forms that literature should take: novels, poems, short stories, plays, youth and children’s fiction, multimodal his texts such as films, various non-fiction, etc.
However, these documents do not identify specific titles. The Australian State and Territory Senior (Grade 11 and Her 12) English and Literature curriculum provides more guidance and most jurisdictions require teachers to select texts for their classes. A very restrictive list of
Some of the limited evidence we have from the past and present suggests that we have a long way to go in developing reading lists that reflect modern realities. During 1948 studied the content and usage of textbooks in Victoria.
The early School Papers (1896-1928) tended to favor British content, reflected conservative social views, were royalist in tone, and contained a small selection of Australian authors. . A Victorian in 1928 His Transition to Leadership, his eight-book series commissioned by the Victorian Education Authority, reflected a strong sense of Australian nationalism, with a much lower emphasis on empire. It is Titles included: John and Betty, Playmate, Holiday.
More recent research suggests that “traditional” literary texts are still the foundation of high school reading. A decade-long study of Victorian advanced English text lists found that indigenous literature was rarely included in these lists, and that the prescribed list does not reflect our diverse society. rice field. Nearly 10% of all texts listed are from the writings of William Shakespeare, John Donne, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Charles Dickens, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, and Ernest Hemingway.
According to another study, it was common in New South Wales to reuse “the same old texts” like Great Expectations, and some concluded that Australian literary teachings were inconsistent. .
Research also suggests that there is an almost complete lack of opportunities for students to read and study literary works in digital form during the final stages of schooling.
Those who mourn the death of the classics seem to have nothing to fear.
Read more: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: Class Prejudice, Convict Blots, Corpse Bride
Why is it important?
Given that students aren’t sure what they’re reading in school and the world keeps spinning on its axis, is this really a problem?
On the one hand, it is very important. Schools have a powerful role. It is the consecration of some stories and knowledge at the expense of others. As the eminent French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu established through decades of research, schools and educational systems are the basic tools of the state. They actively contribute to the production of a certain type of “nurtured” people.
Including and excluding literary works is just one way this tool works. This upbringing is based on the idea of the so-called classics.
Discussing the texts teenagers read in school is a perfect example of what Professor Emeritus Bill Green calls the ‘representation’ problem.
You can’t fit the whole world into a classroom, so you have to use the curriculum to choose which forms of life to represent. Discrimination is inevitable and always political. This discrimination is evident in decision-making about which children’s picture books win awards, as well as the controversy over the narrowly chosen jury of adult literary awards.
Adding all texts and all text modes to the school reading list is impossible. The challenge is for teachers and other stakeholders to be honest about their current situation and priorities, and also to ponder what might be missing and need attention.
Australian schools were lucky enough to avoid a wave of book bans sweeping across America. The latest iteration bans the study of African Americans and even the use of the word “gay” in the classroom.
Such prohibitions reflect highly outdated and uninformed views about how children read and the purpose of literature in schooling.
Read more: What is BookTok?
It’s not what you read, it’s how you read it
Another way to tackle the big problem of reading in schools is to focus more on how these texts are taught rather than what they choose.
The confusion between literature and literacy means that school reading content contributes to ignorance of the importance of reading education, at least outside of school staffrooms and teacher training courses. .
School reading is more than just reciting details related to the characters, quotes, and events of the story. Gender is difficult to determine.
These approaches include, for example, reading for fun, reading to explore issues of identity and belonging and marginalization, or reading (and writing) to understand the explosion of social media and digital culture. .
Despite evidence that standardized tests such as the NAPLAN cannot improve school performance and that high-stakes or high-stress exams are not necessary to determine grade 12 end-of-year scores. Instead, the narrow-form reading dominated by these approaches is barred. A space for a rich and diverse school reading.
trust the teacher
We have to be honest with each other and realize that we really don’t know if reading literature makes us better people.
Here I am reminded of the French-American literary critic and philosopher George Steiner. By spending his evenings listening to Bach and Schubert, reading Goethe and Rilke, and in the mornings reminding him of the SS officers working in the Auschwitz concentration camp, he questions the idea that high literacy can civilize an individual. I’m here.
If school reading helps us heal, process our emotions, and develop empathy, that’s great.
For now, we have to trust our English teacher. Choosing texts for teenagers requires trusting them without interfering. They know better than anyone else how literature can support the learning needs of their students. I’m here. And they have spent their entire lives specializing in the art of teaching and supporting reading.