Classics, classics, classics…

Whether you graduated high school already, are currently enrolled in high school, or maybe about to enter high school, it’s common knowledge that books are assigned by teachers for the purpose of giving the student a painful death testing the student in numerous ways. However, has anyone wondered why we’re assigned these specific classics when there are plenty of new books being written every single year? Is there a legitimate reason or is it just tradition?

Whatever the answer, why is not the question we’re focusing on today. The question is: should we? Should we be forced to read classics?

What makes what people deem as classics more fit to be taught in a classroom than what is being written today? Is it the tendency to think that old equals wise? Is it that what is being written today is not as powerful? Or is it that classics have a certain influence over what is currently being written?

Personally, I am not the type of person to discuss a topic without at least compiling information and opinion from outside sources. I strongly believe roles influence attitudes. After all, the teacher would have a completely different perspective from the student and vice versa, right? I wanted to represent both sides equally, and so I spoke with both teachers and students. And truly, I’m glad I did. It was so heartwarming to see teachers’ faces light up as they spoke about their passion and why others should acknowledge the art in classics. It was funny to see the faces of annoyance on most students’ faces as they spoke about why classics suck. All teachers interviewed argued that students should be forced to read classics, while about 80% of students interviewed argued why students should not be forced to read classics. Below are the top three reasons/responses both to why students should and should not be forced.

Should:

  • Classics are a one-way mirror to our history. Whether fiction or nonfiction, classic novels incorporate the conflicts both personally and socially at the time it was written, giving the reader an insight to society, events, and culture. Also, and much more interestingly, it allows the reader to see the advancements and changes developed in society from the time of publication to now.
  • Classics have influenced modern works and styles of writing. Example: Shakespeare… enough said.
  • Classics enhance your brain power. It’s true what they say; knowledge is power. The reading of classics, even though challenging at first, will expand your vocabulary, will allow you to understand and even take part of literary references and jokes, will boost your confidence both socially and academically, and will exercise your brain.

Should not:

  • If schools and teachers wish to promote reading and writing, they should not force students to read what they simply do not enjoy or will ultimately hate. The hatred toward literature, and overall reading, has become a trend, and many argue that it is due to the lack of expression and discovery in reading and writing allowed by schools.
  • Classics should not be read for the sake of tradition but rather for its relevance. Why should an individual be forced to read what does not relate to the current situation?
  • Modern books are just as effective at teaching the skills necessary to do well academically and grow as an individual. And they’re more likely to be enjoyed.

Please comment below and share with me your thoughts. Do you think students should be forced to read classics? Why or why not? Feel free to add to my ‘Top Three Reasons’ list!

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About Sara

I’m Sara, a Colombian teenager with a never-ending enjoyment for reading. I’m a Netflix and Disney enthusiast and my monumental obsession is coffee.

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52 thoughts on “Should High Schoolers be Forced to Read Classics?

  1. Many classmates in my school actually find classics boring! And they usually end up not understanding the old fashioned way of writing. I admit I used to be one of those students but then after I’m done with school and could focus on more reading I found out that classics aren’t so bad when you really want to read them instead of being forced to do an assignment on it by a teacher. Reading classics is way, wayyy more enjoyable when you aren’t pressured to interpret the language or when your school marks hang on a balance based on what you understood out of the book.

    So I don’t think people should be forced to read something they don’t really want. Not just the genre classics but any genres for that matter!

    I agree 100% to all that you pointed out!

    Do you like classics? :D

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    1. It’s common for a person to dislike a classic in high school but appreciate them when older. I guess age can also be taken into consideration.

      And I personally LOVE classics. I love that they pose a challenge and encourage me to actively better myself in reading and writing.

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  2. I’m on the fence about it. On the one hand, people should stretch their minds a bit, and I think classics can challenge people who have not been exposed to them before. On the other hand, too many classics can push people off reading. So if that is the only types of books people are reading in their curriculum, then they will think reading is hard, boring, etc.

    So, I think there needs to be a balance. Two of my friends are high school English teachers, and I know they mix it up.

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  3. I don’t think people should be forced to read classics. I’ve had to read classics for school and it’s so tedious getting through some of them. However, there have been some I’ve loved, such as To Kill a Mockingbird and The Importance of Being Earnest, but the writing style and the plots can be quite boring for me to read. I definitely think forcing people to read classics puts people off reading, especially if the books they’ve been assigned to read in class have been dull to them. It won’t persuade them to pick up a book as a leisurely activity as the student might be under the assumption that all books disinterest them as the classic did.

    I think we have marvelous authors in this day and age that write utterly magnificently and who write about topics relevant to us in this century that could help students who are going through the same thing feel more understood. Also, if events that take place in today’s times really resonate deeply within the reader, they may feel really passionate about helping that cause or finding out more about the issue and becoming more involved in helping with current problems that were featured in the book or similar ones to that.

    I do think there are positives to classics, like broadening one’s vocabulary and learning more about how life was in that particular time period but I think people should voluntarily pick up a classic and see how they like it, as some people love classics and others don’t. Being forced to do something that you don’t enjoy is a surefire way to produce loathing for that activity in someone’s heart and it saddens me that because people are being forced to read certain books, it could turn them away from literature.

    This was a very thought-provoking post! <3

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    1. Some classics are just absolutely fantastic and I personally believe people should be exposed to them, even if it’s voluntary. Yet at the same time, I agree that forcing people to read classics puts people off reading.

      You raise some very good points. In this day, we do have amazing writers who impeccably incorporate relevant topics that most people can relate. You’re completely right!

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  4. I am not really a fan of classics, and when people find that out, they feel like they are more “educated” than me. Although it does mirror what the society was before, it doesn’t mean that that’s the only medium to learn about it. I think there should be a balance. Teachers should give us both classics and some books that are published today. Also, I think it’s better if we have a choice of classic books to read, instead of being forced to read one. It opens more discussions in the classroom.

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    1. That’s a major point which I didn’t actually touch upon. You’re absolutely right; people who read classics often believe they hold power and authority because they are more “educated” and view others with contempt. It’s a serious flaw, in the same way that adults view Young Adult as “not a genre of actual works of fiction.”

      Oooh, choosing… I never thought about that. It would be grand if we could choose out of a set of classics.

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  5. I think it’s important to have a mix of both modern and classic literature in the classroom. Having said this, I know that if I had not been encouraged to read many of the classics that we studied in class I would have never read them. It can also be argued that books such as To Kill a Mockingbird should continue to be taught because they are still relevant today. It’s the same for why we still study history rather than current affairs – we have ways of discovering what is occuring right now in the world, but the past is a key way of helping us understand that. Analysing what has happened before can prevent us from making the same mistakes we did in the past.

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    1. You present valid and convincing arguments. Balancing modern and classic novels should be a practice in the classroom as they both promote relevance, history, and increased abilities.

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  6. Wow! Impressive post. I think that if the students and teachers could meet half-way. I think a mixture would be best. Teachers should be aware of up and coming books that have the potential to be classics. Students should have an open mind about reading more classics if they have the choice of also reading what is current. It’s all relevant in my opinion.

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    1. The mixing of modern and classic novels in the classroom seems to be the most favorable answer. I agree, it is all relevant. The freedom to choose the book out of a list should be given while still staying true to what is supposed to be taught.

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  7. I believe that it should be a compromise. Students should have to read some classics and some modern literature. It would make things more interesting. However, last semester I took a Introduction to Literature course and found that I didn’t care for most of it. Although, I do agree with your point that classic literature should hold some kind of relevance toward today’s issues. I believe a compromise would solve everything.

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  8. Well, this is definitely a well-argued post! I have to say that I don’t think classics should be all that English teachers force students to read. Maybe because I am a high schools student and am still suffering the pain that is assigned reading, but I really think that they’re are some great modern books out there that provide the same punch as classics. I don’t think classics should NOT be read, just not only classics. Does that make sense?

    Personally, as of right now, I haven’t enjoyed a SINGLE classic I’ve read – and the reason for that? Probably because we are forced to over-analyse every single word of the said classics. And this sort of reading put students off. I know that for a fact. A lot of the people in my class don’t read because of their experiences with assigned reading.

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    1. Yes, you are absolutely right! I did not enjoy “The Great Gastby” nearly as much in HS as I did when I picked it up on my own after college. I came to the book on my own, without my perspective of it being colored by the feeling of it being ‘required’ and the need to over analyze everything on the page. I was able to enjoy the prose more and the beauty of both Fitzgerald’s writing and the story far more than I ever had an appreciation for in HS. And I agree that there should definitely be more modern reading allowed in the classrooms. With so many excellent books being published each year, there should be some allowance to bring those texts in as well, if only to show students that not all books are ‘boring’, lol, as some students might assume if they are only really ever exposed to ‘required’ readings.

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      1. Exactly! I’m glad that there are more people out there with similar experiences. I haven’t read The Great Gatsby before, but if I do, I’ll make sure it is BEFORE we have to analyse it in school. And yes, it’s true and it saddens me that a lot of students automatically think reading is boring because of assigned reading. Why would you want to discourage possible readers? There are plenty of modern classics out there to choose from. Change up it, teachers! :)

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  9. I love this discussion and I think a love of reading should be firmly established first within the school system, because forcing classics on people just isn’t working for the majority of students. I believe helping students have an enjoyment for reading would reduce the amount of confusion and the ‘unapproachability’ factor classics have. Rather than students struggling with the vocabulary, the structure or the concepts of these works, I feel like after being good readers when the classics are introduced later on, they will just view these words as more ‘advanced’ forms of the types of books that they have already read and enjoyed before. Unfortunately, somewhere along the lines, reading stops being encouraged, and STEM fields are pushed more (which are definitely important) but reading is crucial to good writing, which is a part of being able to think critically. So, while I believe classics are important, I don’t think they should be forced on students and instead the education system as a whole needs reform, placing emphasis on establishing firm foundations in core topics in a way that encourages enjoyment in learning rather than the suffocating environment that the school system tends to promulgate.

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  10. I’m an English major right now so I’m kind of biased. BUT I think that reading classics is so good for high schoolers. And, yeah, in high school I definitely *did not* like some of the books I was supposed to read. And some of them I didn’t make it through (*cough Heart of Darkness cough*). But having required reading in schools challenges students to read something that, let’s be honest, they’re not going to read on their own. Classics give them new perspectives on history and how a previous age’s culture developed into the culture we take for granted today.

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  11. You make good points about being forced to read classics leading to a lack of interest in reading – which makes me so sad! Plus there’s this snobbery around classics that annoys me. We used to have this thing called “wide reading” in school where there were all these topics, and you could choose a book from each topic. A lot of them were classics, or modern classics, but you got a choice which was pretty cool :)

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  12. I think that classics should be read. We haven’t read full classic novels in high school but we are now that I’m in college. I actually felt pretty stupid because my friends are reading them and I’m not. But I’m reading The Great Gatsby now and it is actually good. I didn’t like The Catcher in the Rye but I’m glad I checked it off my classics TBR. I’m an education student and I can see that classics are feared by students so maybe they can introduced in the genre by reading historical fiction written at present times.

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  13. I think a healthy mix of both is good. I don’t see why high schoolers should suddenly be forced to read something beyond their skill level, which is what happened in my case. We were assigned to read the Iliad, and everybody just looked it up on Sparknotes. Now if we had been assigned to read Percy Jackson, though, it would have been far more fun, and people would actually read the book. But classics are classic for a reason, and high schoolers should be slowly eased into it, instead of suddenly being forced to read something hard.

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  14. Oooh I like this post. I think it’s great that you’ve got both sides of the argument.
    I think students should read at least a couple classics throughout their school days. Sure, it sucks that a lot of people will end up hating those books, but at least they will have got to experience something that is out of their comfort zone. I know I really disliked a lot of the classics I had to read for school.
    I live in Australia, so maybe it’s different here, but I have to say that in my classes, when we read classics, we always linked them back to the present. For example, if it was a book about war, we would look at similar situations that are happening in the world today. So I don’t think that classics are necessarily irrelevant to today’s society.
    I do think that modern books need a larger space in education though! I hardly got to read any modern books when I was in high school.

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  15. Confession, I had a lot of trouble with enjoying classics. I wanted to enjoy them, but that annoying part of my teenage self rebelled.
    Happy to inform you that I am in my mid twenties and read classics for fun now. I think its best to let students find a book they can better relate too. If that’s a classic or modern novel it should be OK.

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  16. I understand where the teachers are coming from, but in this day and age, I think it would be better if we created a better image for reading. I feel like most people, those who only are forced to read classics, view reading as nerdy and boring, when in reality it’s not. And they’re missing out because they’ve been taught that classics are the ONLY books out there. When that’s not the case at all. This also affects the YA genre as well, because I bet most teachers out there view it as a disgrace to literature, when that isn’t the case at all (it would be really sad if that were true). So it kind of creates a gap between literature, and YA.

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  17. Required reads (whether they’re classics or not) are basically the bane of my existence. Personally, I don’t see the point in them. No matter how brilliant a book is, as long as I FEEL like I’ve been FORCED/required to read them, I bound to hate it. Especially if there are reading deadlines.

    And yes, your third point in the “should not” area is spot-on. I don’t get why some people associate modern reads with “illogical.” Heck, my dad and Chinese teacher think all fiction reads are superfluous, which is just ignorant of them, really. I’ve learned more life lessons through modern books than I did in Religion class, honestly. >_<

    Awesome post, Sara! <3

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  18. I personally believe there should be a a variety of old classics and modern literature within our schools. I believe in the value of old classics for many of the reasons mentioned in your post as its such a beautiful way to glimpse and get an idea of ideas of the past. Classics can also be very relevant in our world today, I’ve seen it through my reading of classics this year.
    But I think we should be forced to read classics because I regret not reading things such as To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s also all about your perspective. Of you believe you will hate a classic, most likely you will hate it.
    BUT saying that, we should be incorporating new, modern literature in our curriculum now. Our world is changing rapidly now and classics we study do not focus on issues in our world surrounding things such as gender and sexual identity and mental health, and I believe we need that. Also, having a study of an old classic, together with well written modern literature would be a great way to also explore the contrasts and comparisons of the messages, issues and ideas explored within each!
    I love this post! xoxo 💋

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  19. This is a really great post, and an important question. I am a high schooler and I have been forced to read a lot of classics (a midsummer nights dream, romeo and juliet, animal farm, to kill a mocking bird). Personally, I think Shakespeare is overrated. I know he’s wonderful, and a good writer, but we do not. need to read. a shakespeare. every. year. It’s stupid. Other classics I’ve been forced to read include animal farm (basically retelling the Russian revolution with pigs, seriously, it’s not even that creative) and to kill a mockingbird, which is now one of my favourite books. I don’t think I would have picked it up had I not been forced to read it, so I think that is worthwhile. But I’ve read a few classic in my own time, and found them good. I think one point you missed (or maybe nobody brought it up) was that classics are classics because they’re still read today, even if they’re really old, whereas contemporary novels might be forgotten in a century. Anyway, fascinating discussion!

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  20. This is a fascinating discussion post! It’s curious that you guys have to study compulsory literature, because hereabouts we focus on language acquisition in compulsory part (e.g. comprehensions, compositions, listenings) with literature as an elective. So we’re not really forced to read classics.

    I definitely think some of the magic of classics vanishes when it’s forced; but at the same time, it’s difficult for us to learn how to love classics without being exposed to them. So as in all things, I’d say that the key is moderation — perhaps one text per year in middle school or whatnot is fine, with the option for students to take an advanced course in high school

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  21. All we read on my high school were classics and I HATED them. I was an avid reader in high school but English class was one of my least favourite and worst classes because it was all classics.

    I still remember this one year in middle school when we read Holes and Fat Kid Rules the World. I still think about this year because I LOVED it. Those were my favourite two books we ever read at school. That’s when I actually paid attention and got involved in the work.

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  22. We were forced to read all kinds of classics in high school and I hated every single one of them. While they’re actually meant to stimulate a love for reading, it put me off reading until the age of 16, when I picked up Twilight. I’ve now read over 400 books, including a few dozens of classics, and classics and I just don’t go along well.

    I wouldn’t say “no” to reading classics in school, though, but I would like to have a mix. Just so you can have some variety and not every book makes your brain hurt. But I do like the relevance of classics and how they make you work.

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  23. This reminds me of the debate about what makes a canon in literature (what books should be added and excluded). Who ultimately gets to decide what is a classic?

    I had one professor tell me that teachers had to be really careful not to pick books for their syllabus that are on trend. I can’t remember the exact reasoning why but I feel like it was because they wanted to make sure it was relevant to the course material and not just because it was popular. I think that attitude has its pros and cons.

    I was lucky that my high school English teachers had a good mix of more current novels (Secret Life of Bees) as well as classics (Beowulf)–and I hope that other teachers do that. Classics are great, they help explain why books are the way they are today (Shakespeare especially if you ask me). But if reading a more current book gets people inspired to read, I’m all for it.

    Plus, what makes a “classic” is shifting. I think that is why now you are seeing university courses that focus on, example, Harry Potter. Those are “classics” to those who are starting university because they most likely read them as children.

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  24. I’m one of those who reads classics and let me tell you, some of them are bloody awful. I think there’s a stigma that classics equals some sort of high brow education or intelligence which isn’t true. It’s just a matter of personal preference. But when it comes to teaching, the English curriculum really needs to have a massive overhaul. With so many teens dropping out of school, catholic schools refusing to have Harry Potter in their libraries, we need to get kids interested in learning and although Jane Eyre might be charming to someone in their thirties like myself, teens don’t want to read that type of fiction, never mind study the same text for a few months. We’re not a formal society anymore and most of the classics are completely outdated and irrelevant. There are so many more recent books that schools can explore and balance it out so teens are not completely overwhelmed by outdated reads that they can’t relate to. Really interesting discussion Aimee. I’d be interested to see what teens in other countries think too based on what ‘classics’ they’re being taught as well and how much it differs.

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  25. I do not care for most classics. In high school, I went from a kid who’d read 5 books in a week to a kid who NEVER read outside of class required stuff. Why? I spent so much time trying to force myself to read stuff I didn’t want to read, that there was no time or energy left for the stuff I DID want to read. The only times i ever read for fun was during long breaks or summer. Which is really, really sad. And, nine times out of ten, I didn’t even fully read whatever the classic in question was. I spent way too much time trying to NOT read them. AND, the only book I actually DID kind of like of the required reading also happened to be the most modern- A Separate Peace, which at the time, was only about 35 years old?

    So yeah, mark me down as anti ;)

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  26. I find the problem with required reading in schools is simple: when students are ‘forced’ to do something, they will begin to hate it.
    And this applies to all required reading.
    The problem with classics, I find, is that the language used is just so different to the language we use today, and that makes it difficult for many students to stay focussed.
    I love reading, but I find classics immensely difficult. I’ll read them if I feel like a challenge, but at school, you shouldn’t be looking for a book to challenge a student’s reading skills, unless that is the focus of the lesson or whatever, but rather if you’re trying to teach a topic, start with the easy stuff. If you start too hard, students become bored and they immediately begin to associate reading with boredom.

    However, on the side of forcing classics, they are referenced in practically EVERYTHING! So reading classics is a gateway to understanding many jokes/references that adults may take for granted, because they’re things that ‘everybody knows’.

    But, in the end, I don’t think they should be ‘forced’ on students…just strongly encouraged.

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  27. I do think that students should read classics. There are so many lessons to be learned from classics that are still relevant today. (Think the ostracism that Hester Prynne faces in The Scarlet Letter… stuff like that happens in high schools all the time, but for different reasons.) Plus it’s important to be a well-rounded individual by the time one graduates high school, and reading classics from the different time periods of literature will allow students that opportunity.

    There are definitely a few classics that are tough because they were written hundreds or even thousands of years ago, but that’s where the teachers come in. The right teacher will (or at least should) know how to explain things to the students or prep them for the language they are going to read to help them. The problems start when the teacher doesn’t understand the book him/herself. Teachers have spent four + years in school to teach those books to students, and if they don’t know how, then they should really be looking for another type of job because the kids should always be able to count on their teacher to help explain what they don’t understand.

    But I’m glad I read classics in school. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the classics that I read in high school. I’ve lived in a thousand different worlds because of those classics like Shakespeare’s plays and other countless classics. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I think that schools should continue to teach classics.

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  28. I can only agree with everything you said. Being forced to read classics at a young age ruined reading for me. On top of that, most of the books you get assigned to read in 9th/10th grade are way too complicated. Some of those are still things that I struggle to understand fully right now.

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  29. There are a lot of schools that don’t require only classics, just as a sidenote; there are very modern readings that are being taught as well, such as John Green’s Looking for Alaska (though the parents in one location tried to get it removed from the curriculum) and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (published in the 90s).

    I bring this up for the main reason that the hate toward required reading is not, I think, based on classics. Classics don’t automatically equal hate; there are some that appear to be universally well-loved like To Kill a Mockingbird, and others that spark love-hate wars like The Catcher in the Rye (we had a debate in one of my English classes about the merits of the book versus how despicable Holden is as a protagonist).

    I think the hatred stems from the fact that students are being forced to read, forced to do assignments on these readings which piles up on mountains of other homework, and that (as mentioned) their relevance isn’t being made clear. I’ve found when people read classics outside of school, they enjoy them so much more–not only because time has passed, but because there is an element of choice and freedom.

    I don’t think it’s the classics. I think it’s required reading.

    Thank you so much for prompting this discussion! It really helped me articulate my thoughts on the subject~

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  30. When I was about your age, I would have answered with a big, fat “NO”. That crap was boring, and where the hell was the fun??

    But now that I am older, I wish that we could make the entire population read these books. Novels such as The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, and Animal Farm have a lot of ties into today’s issues. I think the big problem is that how we teach them. When I was in high school, I kept thinking that books like Brave New World and 1984 were just alarmist, bemoaning how the world is evil to them. But I see the connects now. In high school, the students never see the real world connection. The material is pretty heavy (I mean, I don’t see a high school teacher discussing Margaret Atwood and the move the defund Planned Parenthood, though I wish they COULD), but there are better ways to support what is happening to them directly, right now (Margaret Atwood and the dress code – totally some relevance right there).

    Also, there is no issue with tying in movies and current fiction – Scarlet Letter and All the Rage, throw in some movies – there are smart ones out there! – political upheaval and The Hunger Games. It can be done, but most teachers are stuck on their curriculum and just can’t find the time to update it.

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  31. This is such an interesting discussion! I didn’t mind reading classics when I was in high school, although I really struggled through the Shakespeare which I read. I think the classics DO present an interesting snapshot in history, but at least give students something more relevant as well in case they want to read something more relevant to them. I do think classics have the tendency to put people off reading as well, sadly!

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  32. What a great discussion topic! I believe that Classics are necessary to be taught in high school, but it has to be done right. I had a few wonderful English classes that did it the right way!
    My World Culture & Literature class was two periods long, we covered history, literature and art history. Two teachers taught it and when we learned about a specific period of history, we read a book to go along with it. We also were assigned a Classic and had to “teach” our class about the book/time period. Mine was Jane Eyre and I gave a whole lecture on the book themes and the Victorian Age in general. I LOVED IT! We also read Frankenstein and A Tale of Two Cities.
    My other classics class was in 11th grade, called “Classics” lol. I remember reading The Count of Monte Cristo, our teacher had us all get together and do a character web to better understand the interweaving that Alexandre Dumas created among his characters. We also watched some productions of Shakespeare.
    The last class related to classics was Irish Literature. So we read some James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. The teacher was really fun and we explored all the books from the Irish perspective and how they related to Irish history.
    So long story short, classics are important but the teacher has to make them fun and relatable. Because you’re right, there are many more recent pieces of literature that are just as great. So we have to have a reason to read a specific Classic.

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  33. I think this goes for all required reading in high school, and I agree with what you’re saying – I hated most of the books we’re required to read in school with a burning passion, mostly because it’s so shoved down our throats. Lots of people I know hate reading because of the super in-your-face approach. This year though, I’ve got this great English teacher who’s all about letting us go at our own paces. We still have required reading books, and essays, and all those miserable assessments, but the way she goes about it and the way she structures the course, giving us breathing space to approach the book the way we would any other book we chose to read ourselves, definitely made it a lot more enjoyable for me.

    And classics should definitely be something we’re eased into. At my school, the required reading list for seventh graders contains Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the Odyssey – why? So while I do think we should be exposed to classics, it really doesn’t make sense to overload with so much so early on. And we should definitely also know why we’re reading these novels, how they’re still relevant, etc. Not just for a grade.

    Ack, sorry for such a long-winded comment. TL;DR, yep, I think we should be reading classics in high school. But it’s all about striking a good balance, right?

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  34. Such a great discussion theme! Personally I think we should always read some classics, but it shouldn’t simply be all about classics. Take for example, my school system. Our syllabus is mostly contained of classics but in every semester we have at least one modern read which makes me pretty happy. I think classics are good because they are pretty world wide accepted and that means if a student needs help in analysing and so on, we can get that online and through discussions although that does open more space for plagiarism, but I am seeing more benefits than downsides here…

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  35. I think students should read classics. You see, in my country, we don’t have to read any Indonesian classic. Truthfully, many Indonesian students don’t even know the famous author/famous book written by Indonesian author. I really want my teacher to assign us any book, but they never did. I don’t think they ever talk about classic Indonesian literature.

    My point is, through classic, students could learn more things. They could learn the culture, the social political situation, and the language evolution. Students shouldn’t start with Shakespeare/Odyssey, it would be too hard for them. Try something easier that would encourage them to read more classic :)

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  36. I wish that teachers could strike a balance in their classroom with required reading. I understand why the classics are taught– I appreciate the genuine historical perspective, I appreciate learning about authors who influenced literature, I appreciate the critical thinking. But, so many books that I was required to read were dull. And during that time between rushing to read five chapters, consulting Spark Notes, and then taking a quiz the following day, it’s hard to put all of that into perspective. It’s hard to appreciate reading. Which is why I wish teachers could incorporate modern literature in their classes. Historical perspective is important, but learning about this day and age is important too. Especially since most literature taught in high school (American high schools, at least) is western centric– it’s written by white authors about white characters. What about all of the voices that are not being heard that put today’s society into perspective?

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  37. I am an avid reader but never did well in English class because I hated the books that had been assigned. I could not understand the language, the time period, or all the hidden elements like symbolism. To me, as a writer, I don’t set out writing with a secret agenda to hide things in my books. I think all these elements of classics are part of a conspiracy from English teachers who see thing ps that are not there. I would hate to have people do that to my writing. If we want students to read, they should be assigned something interesting. As a teacher myself, we are told to make connections. I personally have no connections to Shakespeare.

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  38. I think classics should be an option for students who do enjoy such books, but reading works about contemporary issues by contemporary experts is more important for the majority of students. If the goal of education is to produce productive problem-solvers, I think reading contemporary nonfiction is a better way for English departments to work towards that goal than classical fiction. Just because contemporary books (especially nonfiction works) make for an easier reading experience doesn’t mean it isn’t a difficult book with complex concepts, and it doesn’t mean that it won’t spark lively discussions in the classroom. Literature is meant to be discussed, not just read. An oral presentation professor of mine once said that Shakespearean plays were meant to be performed, not read. Someone who didn’t understand one dialogue of Shakespeare’s plays on paper can understand much of it after watching it performed.

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  39. As a student I think we shouldn’t have to read “classics”. If we want to read, we will find something we want(like a fanfic, which really engages and makes time disappear). When they made us dissect big old books not relevant for 150 years, nobody was happy. In 11th grade we just got hit by transcendentalism AGAIN. Useless junk by long dead guys who appear to have been on every drug known to man. Given 2 class days to read huge chunks of challenging at best old English, and the teacher collected the page so we couldn’t try outside of class. I’m amazed I finished in time, and I had a partner. Looking around at the room, seeing the cheerleaders and dumb jocks, anyone looking could see most of the class isn’t destined to write shakespear type writing. And for years they’ve been wasting class periods on old, not relevant for 200 year, thick old English books because “I said so” from the teachers(who are usually in a perpetual bad mood). And sites like this are censored by school computers(they say it’s a computer risk but more like it’s dissent).

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