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Should classics still be taught in public schools? (Op-Ed)

The Catcher in the Rye, Frankenstein, Lord of the Flies…

Sorry. Dozed off for a second.

We all know the classics, we all hear about how ‘great’ they are. But, let’s be honest, upon reading the, did they ever live up to the hype?

For me, the answer was, usually, no. Don’t get me wrong, some were good: Some fiction books like The Outsiders and true stories such as Elie Wiesel’s Night are amazing. Besides books such as these, should classics still be taught in school?

Honestly, I’d say no.

Looking back on my high school years, I always hated deconstructing and annotating books in English class. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read, I’m a major bookworm, just not when it comes to how English class taught me. I hated whenever teachers were telling us about the book. They always had a ‘This is right and everything else is wrong!’ vibe coming off of them. At such a young age, we should be encouraging students to become interested in reading, not pushing them away from it with books they can hardly comprehend.

Books and plays that have been passed down across generations, Frankenstein and Shakespeare for instance, are nearly impossible for teenagers to comprehend. Unless they’re an English prodigy or a big fan of a challenge, I doubt any freshman or sophomore will understand the nuance or symbolism in these difficult reads.

Additionally, while books like The Catcher in the Rye and The Lord of the Flies were ‘relatable’ or ‘shocking’ upon original release, those feelings aren’t the same decades later. Times change, more events play out, and we live in a different world. While imagining what these books meant at the time is possible, doing so won’t have the same effect as it did for original readers.

I’m not saying we should completely forget the classics. If someone wants to read them, by all means, they can do so. However, forcing students to read increasingly hard material isn’t the right way to get them interested in literature. It’s time to change the course of school English courses, whether this means choosing more modern books or asking the students what they want to read. I’ve never had to use what I ‘learned’ from reading classics, I think other generations will survive without them.   


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