Do you think the classics should be mandatory for all high school students

@judyt00 (3504)
Canada
January 18, 2007 5:32pm CST
I just saw a post about Shakespear and was saddened that when my kids went to school they didn't get any of the classics, Shakespear, Chaucer, Stienbeck,poetry simply because the teachers didn't think they would be interested. I'm of the opinion that if they want to pass the course, they should have to read what the teacher decides, not the students. I know that from grade 6 my son only ever got one kind of book and mostly the same author even. No wonder he doesn't read today!
8 people like this
40 responses
• United States
19 Jan 07
I am in a perfect condition to answer this question, because I am still in High School and I truly hate my English class. I mean, truly, utterly hate it. I have actually cursed my teachers. Not in the swearing sense, but in the Gaelic ancient words requesting that the Great Mother smite my enemies (I know I'm a little weird :) ). I personally think that most of the classics are pure garbage, and I have only enjoyed a few of them (Catcher in the Rye was decent, I could tolerate the Great Gatsby, and I really liked Fahrenheit 451). I personally think that some of Shakespeare is decent, but I haven't been overly impressed with Macbeth, Julius Caesar, or Romeo and Juliet. I thought that As I Lay Dying was possibly the worst book that I ever read, Turn of the Screw made me want to claw out my eyes, and I had to read We Were the Mulvaneys which was 450 pages of a badly written soap opera. I haven't read any Stienbeck or Chaucer yet. Those are slated for a little later. Possibly the biggest problem that I have with these "Classics" is that the teachers just love to teach a bunch of symbolism that is usually found just by reading too much into it. It is often clear that their own personal bias dominates the discussions and they are inevitably one-sided and pointless. My insane liberal English teacher from California jumps through hoops to link everything we read to society holding people back. As far as poetry, I can take it or leave it. Some are nice but most aren't that impressive to me. I like Poe's work, but I view Emily Dickenson as highly overrated. I also personally despise the needless over analysis of the poetic form used by various authors, which again usually just leads to a pre-packaged and pointless discussion over virtually non-existant symbolism. I can understand the decision of these teachers to just not teach the classics. It is easy for a student to just read the Spark Notes or Cliff Notes for a story, listen to the lectures, and then pass a mildly hard test. Teachers may have also gotten wise to the fact that forcing students to read the classics can often cause them to view reading as pointless and a dreaded affair. I personally believe that they will have much more luck by having them read more modern and interesting books. For example, almost everyone in my class read Kite Runner when it was assigned for summer reading. It was a modern book that was decent for the most part. I personally didn't care for the turn it took at the end, but it was still an interesting read. My class is a lazy, lazy class. On average maybe 40% actually read the book and not just the spark notes. The simple fact that most of them read it should speak volumes. To end, I'd like to clarify the situation. I am a junior at a very good private school that actually has decent teachers (for the most part *sigh*). I'm not some emo kid who gets D's and F's on everything. I'm an honor role student who is tired (mentally and physically) of reading boring "Classics" that don't make me a better person. I actually enjoy reading in general. A look at my other posts show would show that I enjoy reading very deep mangas on my own time, and I am a fan of the H.P. Lovecrafts works (Not exactly light reading). Being forced to read books just makes me loathe reading in my free time, and it really depresses me that this is happening. The only thing keeping me remotely moralized is that I know I probably won't have to take the English final, because I plan to take the AP test this spring. Sorry for the long post, but I had a lot to say.
@nw1911guy (1135)
• United States
19 Jan 07
Excellent, excellent post! That was one of the most intelligently written pieces I have seen on the forum.
1 person likes this
• India
19 Jan 07
ya i too agree that to gain knowlegede attending the classes is very much important for students. who have ahabit of spoon feeding and in todays world i think that students are smart enough and with the help of great resources like internet i defintely think that students with natural abilty to learn on there own and willing to gain knowleged would gain much more surfing the internet rather than attending the classes.
1 person likes this
• United States
19 Jan 07
Im also currently in high school and last semester we studies shakespears romeo and juliet, Its required for all freshmens to take it and take test on it. Maybe its just your town.
@Kayzzaman (173)
• India
19 Jan 07
Yes, classics are sure to develop a literary culture in school students. Otherwise, how can they get enlightenment of world history and its people. Classics should be a must for all children. This way they are likely to be humanitarian in their future lives.
1 person likes this
@judyt00 (3504)
• Canada
20 Jan 07
or at least understand what a humanitarian means
• United States
19 Jan 07
It was not school that got me reading the classics. I started reading romance novels, getting them at the library, than I would hear smart people- people I admire talking about the classical literature they have read- and I started to seek out those books. Sometimes they would mention a particular writer and I would go to the library and get a book by that author. The thing about reading classical literature is that you realize why that story has lasted i.e. its really entertaining as well as meaningful. Here is a thought, why can't you assigned a book to your child once a month? Since the school does not do it, besides in college you end up having to read the classics anyway.
@judyt00 (3504)
• Canada
19 Jan 07
You are assuming everybody goes to university! in community colleges, they just teach you how to write and spell, something you should have already learned, not what to read.
@pagli84 (1850)
• Netherlands
19 Jan 07
wow im surprised that your kid didnt have to read all the classics. i read all of the ones you mentioned including multiple more and i wasnt even in honors english after 9th grade! i guess its just the school your kids went to that didnt teach them this stuff.
1 person likes this
@judyt00 (3504)
• Canada
19 Jan 07
no, it was a province wide thing. They let the kids just slip through because "you can't hurt their little psyches, it will stunt them for life" I know a girl who got to grade 6 before she was able to read a "chapter book" Yeah, she was reading at a grade 3 level and her parents were proud of it!
@brihanna (381)
• United States
19 Jan 07
I believe that the classics should be an optional English class in High School. The number of high school graduates that can barely read at a 6th grade level is staggering. How could these kids possibly read Shakespear? Children have to be taught a love for reading. This is not done by having them read something that does not pertain to thier lives. Children are very ego-centric, therefore, the best books for them to read are often books about thier "peers" people doing things and going through the same life situations as they are. If a child learns to love to read, then eventually, in college, or later in life, they can persue the classics at thier own pace.
@judyt00 (3504)
• Canada
19 Jan 07
But I'm assuming they were actually taught to read in the first place. this crap of pushingkids along so they stay with their friends discourages ANY learning, and is why kids can't read today, and it also why the education system is getting such a bad rap. the teachers have to teach at a level that most of the students can understand, and if 15% have already not caught up to where they should be, they just drag down the rest. I think failure is something kids need to learn as well. if you can'tread at a grade 8 level by the time you finish school at grade 12, you should be allowed to sue your school board for child abuse
• Canada
19 Jan 07
My question is who gets to choose the classics? To me that would be books like the lord of the rings and everything by Robert Heinlein, as well as the others. My daughter is being home schooled so her mother gets to choose which books she gets to read.
1 person likes this
@judyt00 (3504)
• Canada
19 Jan 07
I think you are correct. we had one teacher who let us pick 6 from a list the first day of school, then simply ordered the moat picked books from that list. some were really bad, but others were great. Luckily "The day of the Triffids" was already in the school. the fact that I'd read it 5 years before and seen the movie still didn't make it boring for me. we also did 'the tempest' in Shakespear, and we hated it until we were allowed to rewrite it into modern language, then it actually made sense.(sort of)
@multisubj (451)
• India
19 Jan 07
We cannot thrust things on children, except to prevent their stoop down to extremely irretrievable moral levels. This will be a rare occurrence.
@judyt00 (3504)
• Canada
19 Jan 07
So, then you don't think we should force children to learn anything? How do you plan on having them learn anything then? They won't even learn to use the toilet properly unless you make them. Goingby what you said, we should just hand them thecontols to the x=box and let them go at it, just giving them food whenever they want it.
1 person likes this
• United States
19 Jan 07
When I was in high school, we always went out of our way to find ways to pass the classes without reading the material. It seemed stale, boring, irrelevant and we resented having to read it. But no, many, many, many years later, I have gone back and read a lot of classic literature and feel that I was able to appreciate it much more as I was more mature. I think that you have to have some experience under your belt and some perspective on life to recognize that the themes present in classic literature are timeless and that reading them is not torture. So I wouldn't lose hope on high school students who hate the classics; they have many years to later develop an appreciation for them.
• United States
19 Jan 07
This was actually close to the idea that I was trying to present. English classes slaughter any good themes that exist in the classics through tedious and pointless exercises that make students resent the books. I personally felt that some books really did have a great message that I was able to respect, but I despised having to read them and the teaching style crushed my interest in them. In truth, Camus' The Stranger actually had a significant effect on my philosophy. It was funny though that my English teacher completed misrepresented the book. He taught us for days about the existenialism that exists in it, but I found that it was actually a nihilist book after some independent review. He completely stretched the meaning of existenialism too.
1 person likes this
@MrNiceGuy (4148)
• United States
19 Jan 07
My teachers in school taught a lot of most of those authors. We read a lot of the classics, tons of Shakespeare and a lot of modern classics like Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemingway, etc, etc.
1 person likes this
@shywolf (4523)
• United States
19 Jan 07
Wow! I really didn't get that kind of an education about all of the classics through school, either, and I think that it should be mandatory that kids read at least some of those works. I personally love Shakespeare and read some of his plays myself without being prompted through school. But I am saddened to think of so many kids not even being exposed to such great works! I really think that they should be, because even if they don't appreciate it at the time it will teach them a lot and they may just realize, looking back, how much these classics meant to them. ^_^
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@mobyfriend (1019)
• Netherlands
19 Jan 07
If you make the classics mandatory than you should make good teachers mandatory as well. I had an excellent teacher and enjoyed my classes. Most pupils who enjoy a good literature class love to read later on in life.
1 person likes this
@devideddi (1437)
• United States
19 Jan 07
I think the classics should be mandatory, hands down!! So much of what the public school system does, I do not agree with. So this does not surprise me. I just started this a few years ago, but I co-teach. I teach them at home what they are missing at school. They did not like it at first but they are used to it and it's not even an issue now.
@inked4life (4228)
• United States
19 Jan 07
When I was in high school I was thoroughly bored by the classics. If we are trying to encourage kids to read, then making them read stuff that they consider boring or irrelevant to them is not the way to go. An idea may be to have a set amount of school hours set aside per week where the kids have to read. Eihter come up with a list of books that covers a number of authors and subjects (including the classics)and let them choose from that. If you let them have a little free will and find something they are interested in, then I think we'd find that they would be more inclined to read both in and out of school.
1 person likes this
• India
19 Jan 07
today education is very worst because all sysllabus is mension the post think(eg:history)that not use ful to the student.the poetry also.some poetry is useful to the life .some one is not useful and unwanted thinks also.the teachers are important person to the each and every student life.they are equal to the god.so my point of view the unwanted thinks are remove from the sysllabus to add the learing type of syallabus are include in that area.this type of thinks are to develope the student interset also.
1 person likes this
• United States
19 Jan 07
We read all of those when I was in high school. I graduated 12 years ago. We read a lot of the classics and most of them were boring. It is hard for today's kids to relate. If they can't relate to the story (or understand it--like Shakespeare) they will get nothing out of it. I think it should be a mix of more modern stories and classics. Forcing a teen to read something they are nit interested in will not make them want to read either. It is a fine balance.
1 person likes this
@coldmoon (1092)
• France
19 Jan 07
Well, if the teachers don't give the classic courses to your kids, it's you who have to do this. But it's better that the classics are hobby than they become mandatory.
1 person likes this
• United States
19 Jan 07
When I was in school we had to be able to read the classics and give strict reports on them. If you didn't then you failed the class. I love the classics. Its so cool to read the books then after watch the movies and compare what is different from the book and the movies.
1 person likes this
@scorpius (1793)
• India
19 Jan 07
i have to agree with you and i also believe that classics should be made a part of our curriculm in schools,by choice if not it should be made mandatory.i remember going to my high school and reading about homers illiad,it really suprised me later on to see how many people did not even know who homer was leave alone hercules. what is so sad about all this is that classics actually teaches us a lot about OUR past.it is the past which shapes our preent and future.i just wish that shcools woke up to the importance of classics like homers illiad and odyssey! http://library.thinkquest.org/19300/data/homer.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homer http://www.shakespeare.com/
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@peterw24 (318)
• Australia
19 Jan 07
When I did work on Shakespeare last yaer, I absolutely dreaded it. The language and writing is out-dated, and I don't believe it should be taught any longer.
1 person likes this
• Romania
19 Jan 07
i am a student in romania and here we have a lot to read, the school teachers give us a lot to read. i have read King Lear, hamlet Romeo and Juliet that Shakespear wrote and other important writers from our country.
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