Discussion: Reading Classics in School

Hi guys! πŸ˜€

Remember that time, about a month ago, when I said I was going to start posting more discussions? No? I don’t either. That’s because I haven’t. 😳 So today I’m going to remedy that! *balloons* XD

discussions

Today’s topic: reading classics in school

This discussion was inspired by me reading Romeo and Juliet for my English class.Β Pretty much every high school in America (and maybe other countries) reads Shakespeare in their English/literature classes, and a variety of other classics as well. And pretty much every student (but maybe not all) despises (at least) this aspect of the class.

My question is: why do we read classics in school?

I’ve heard that it’s because they’re iconic pieces of literature that students should know about. Because they have great morals and lessons that still apply to our modern world. But not because teachers / school board members believe the students will enjoy it.

Shouldn’t that matter too?

In English/literature classes, reading goes about like this:

  • Read the book.
  • Take notes on the plot, characters, climactic moments, foreshadowing, allusions, and/or other things while reading.
  • Take quizzes on material while reading and a big test after finishing the book.
  • Analyze the book.
  • Complete some sort of big project after reading the book, like an essay, a presentation, or something else.

I can probably count on one hand the amount of students that enjoy that process. Sure, school isn’t meant to be totally fun, but there should be something for students to look forward to.Β There isn’t a lot of room for creativity in other necessary subjects, like math, science, or history, but there is in English. So why do we read classics?

So far in my junior high and high school experience, I’ve read four classics: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, Animal Farm by George Orwell, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare. I only enjoyed one. (And if you follow my blog, you’ll know which one.)Β While it’s possible for students to be pleasantly surprised by a classic, like I was, it’s very unlikely.

And with this mindset, I came up with an idea: not being forced to read classics.Β If there are students that want to read them, create a separate class. That way students can choose whether or not they want to read classics. In regular English/literature classes, we can read YA.

The only real concern I can think of is that YA might be seen as “offensive” or “not innocent.” But there’s nothing YA has that classics don’t.

My evidence of that:

  • “Dystopian books shouldn’t be read.” 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are both dystopian, and they’re popular reads in many places that haven’t banned them.
  • “Some YA covers dark topics.” Pretty much all of Shakespeare’s tragedy plays end with nearly everyone dead. The entire second half of To Kill a Mockingbird covers a rape case.
  • “Some YA includes profane/obscene topics.” Again, I’ll bring up To Kill a Mockingbird. Not only is it partially about a rape case, but it also talks about racism in the Southern U.S. during the Great Depression. The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye are both said to be very obscene, and the former includes alcoholics and some sexual references. Romeo and Juliet has a few crude jokes, and I’m sure other Shakespearean works do as well. Not to mention, Paris is a little bit creepy for wanting to marry and sleep with a 13 year old girl. (Paris is from Romeo and Juliet, if you didn’t know.)
  • “Fantasy books shouldn’t be read.” A Midsummer Night’s DreamΒ hasΒ fairies, tricks, love potions, and a queen that falls in love with a donkey-headed man. If that’s not fantasy, what is?

And if all of those are allowed, why shouldn’t reading YA be an option as well?


I’ve said my piece. What are your thoughts? Have/did you read classics in school? Did you like them, or would you prefer if YA was an option? I’d love to know!Β πŸ™‚

I’m off to make dinner and continue reading Oblivion by JLA, because unfortunately finals have me still reading it. (And it’s 1,000+ pages in e-book form.) I hope you enjoyed this discussion, and that you’re all having a terrific day/night! ❀

Until next time…

post end

30 thoughts on “Discussion: Reading Classics in School

  1. I actually really enjoyed reading Macbeth (even though it was in script form) and An Inspector Calls! Although, when we were younger (maybe 11-14?) we read other books like Holes and Skellig, and they were definitely children/YA books. I do think people enjoyed those ones more…

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  2. In my Junior High School experience here in my country we’ve only discussed 3 classics in English class but in my Filipino class, which is about Philippine Literature which discusses a lot of (let me call it as) “Local Classics” and I agree with you! Sometimes I just wish that we would discuss YA books because that would definitely be interesting and I believe we can learn a lot from it too!

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    1. I think YA could be learned from! It’s modern literature that students are more likely to become interested in, which would improve their school experience at least a little bit. Talking about classics a little bit would be fine, I think, but reading so many and nothing else is overwhelming!

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  3. Really interesting topic – hopefully you get to read some books you like soon!

    I read King Lear, Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird when I was in high school (New Zealand) and I loved them all – in fact most of my class seemed to like the books. It was the poetry analysis I always struggled with. I’m not sure how the system works over there but at one of the high schools I went to (we moved a lot), we had to analyse and write essays, but we also had the chance to act out scenes and pull together cool monologues so that made it more enjoyable.

    Authors like Harper Lee, Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, Kerouac (basically the whole Beat Generation) and more forced people to look at people, capitalism & society in a very raw way that in my opinion, changed the literary landscape for the better. They made writing captivating again!

    I’ve been out of high school for about 8 or 9 years and let me tell you, the YA picking back when I was 16 was not so hot so it isn’t really something I would’ve worried about then. I do think you’re right though, there needs to be a balance because I think there are quite a few people who didn’t enjoy reading in school and therefore don’t enjoy doing it in their own time – imagine all the books they’re missing out on!

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    1. I typically struggle with analysis in general if it’s not something I’m doing by choice. I can analyze and predict things in books I read on my own, but if I don’t want to read them I just sort of absorb it. I also agree, poems are hard to analyze. There’s so many different ways it could be translated, and I don’t think it’s really supposed to be. Essays are also something required at my school, and they’re hard for me because I’m not a fan of the topic. I think a lot of people feel this way about classics, but also haven’t really discovered the joy of other books because school reading has taken the interest out of it for them. They really are missing out on so much! πŸ˜‰ I’m glad you liked it.

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  4. I’ve enjoyed a few of the classics that we read in my English/Lit classes and one of them was actually Romeo and Juliet! It was fun since we got to act out the scenes and it was a requirement to exaggerate and have fun, so it made for some pretty funny classes.

    I like how you brought up one counter point about “hush hush” topics because many classics, at least the ones I’ve read, are much more obscene than YA. Even in Romeo and Juliet, I mean it’s a story about two 13 year olds committing suicide. Last year we read Antigone by Sophocles where LITERALLY everyone dies, except for one not so important character. The story is based on incest, there’s murder, suicide, odd romantic plots, the whole thing is a mess. Needless to say, it was a fun unit.

    In my opinion, classes get immensely better the more you take. I might’ve mentioned this in one of my recent posts but a few months ago I wrote an insane essay of classism present in the Hunger Games, and it was very well received even though it’s considered a YA book!

    Sorry for the insanely long post, this is a great discussion topic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it! Both the post and classics you’ve read. πŸ˜‰ I don’t mind a long response, I love connecting with people!
      Romeo and Juliet didn’t click with me, per se, and I think it’s because I’ve never expressed an interest in Shakespeare. It probably didn’t help that we never acted out scenes, only analyzed the play and the foreshadowing in it. Not very entertaining. Also, Romeo is 13 as well? That’s interesting! I was told he was about 18. But either way, all the classics we read are really worse than YA, with all the themes and elements they contain.

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  5. I don’t think that I have read a classic for school. I have only read YA or middle grade. But I’m pretty sure that I will have to read some classics for school the next couple of years. I read a YA/middle grade book, for school in January this year, and I really liked it! But I hope that you will get to read some YA books for school, or at least some books that you enjoy πŸ™‚

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    1. I’m surprised you haven’t yet! But I guess every country will have different requirements. I’m glad you liked a book from school regardless, and I hope any classics you do read are enjoyable! πŸ˜€ Thank you, I do as well!

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  6. No problem! πŸ˜‰ I’m also surprised that I haven’t read any classics for school yet. But if I’m not going to read any classics for school soon, I will probably try read some anyway, just because there’s a few that I think sounds interesting. And if I find out that they’re boring, then i have at least tried to read some πŸ˜€ But again, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to read some classics for school the next few years.

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      1. And then you can’t do anything else πŸ™‚ Maybe classics just (most of the times) aren’t you’re cup of tea? Or maybe you will read some classics and love them, and then you were just unlucky with the classics you read at school? πŸ™‚

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      2. But don’t get me wrong.. I have read classics before, but that’s ones that my parents have read for me when I was younger. And It’s classics that is very popular here in Scandinavia I believe, so I don’t think you read them in other country’s. But I’m not completely sure πŸ˜‰

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  7. Last year before I started studying Literature at my college, I remember the literature courses were actually split in two like you said. Each one had a different genre of books, one being the Victorian classics and the other being modern-day classics …though they were still not YA, at least there was more of a choice. Admittedly, I did go for the Victorian classics, but that’s because I have a love for history and wanted to see it reflected in my reading, and plus I wanted to introduce myself to classics and gradually read more (though I’m still trying to do that ahaha) πŸ˜€

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  8. What I really disliked about English literature in school was the over analysing of the writing. I’m 90% sure that the writer wasn’t thinking all the things the syllabus said they were thinking when they wrote it!

    I have actually returned to To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee and 1984 by George Orwell in the last couple of years and I appreciated them a lot more when I could just read them as they were meant to be read.

    Out of curiosity which was the classic you enjoyed?

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  9. I took both of the offered English APs when I was in high school and we had to read a ton of classics in my four years (not so much in middle school though). Judging from my Goodreads, I read about 50-60 works (but this also includes plays and short stories like The Glass Menagerie and Shakespeare’s plays, etc). I actually really enjoyed reading classics in high school because I probably wouldn’t pick them up as often as I did. I was also lucky to have pretty easy going teachers that didn’t make chapter quizzes or the “busy work” some of us called it. Instead we often times had big papers and possibly unit tests (that covered a quarter of the book each time). But I definitely see your point with this! Something about reading a book at your own pace in your own time is always more liberating and therefore satisfying. Thought provoking piece, Olivia!

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