I’ve been educating center and highschool English for a decade, and it’s secure to say that the books I learn as an adolescent formed my life. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies helped me perceive how metaphor and symbolism may change the way in which an viewers sees the world. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet helped me uncover a love of early fashionable poetry that I nonetheless faucet in to twenty years later as a PhD scholar finding out his work.
I owe my life’s work to my English lecturers, and as one now, I additionally owe my college students essentially the most considerate, expansive, and inclusive curriculum I can create. As a lot as I liked my schooling, I additionally struggled to see myself, as a half-Mexican, half-Filipina lady, within the books we have been studying. This is sensible since, even at the moment, most books taught in colleges are overwhelmingly written by and/or about white characters.
Whereas that afforded me the chance to have many home windows into different worlds, it made it onerous to seek out the mirrors or sliding glass doorways, as Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop discusses, that may have allowed me to see my household’s “lives and experiences as a part of the bigger human expertise … changing into a method of self-affirmation.” I additionally perceive my classmates would have benefited from gaining home windows into my lived expertise as nicely.
I’ve realized quite a bit from the #DisruptTexts motion over time. One factor I realized was how I may rethink my very own curriculum to disrupt this imbalance within the tales we share with my college students. I perceive those that fiercely defend “the canon,” and in addition assume there are a number of good responses to these arguments that encourage rethinking what we educate. Listed here are three generally taught texts that we may rethink in our lecture rooms.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This beloved novel typically vacillates between being banned and beloved by individuals, with some feeling it brings about conversations which can be too “troublesome” and others arguing that it’s a crucial textual content for discussing racism with college students.
For what it’s price, I actually have vacillated between intensely defending the textual content to rethinking my very own beliefs on the novel’s place within the canon. It’s a e book I nonetheless educate to my eighth graders, although with discussions about how the characters typically fail to be the shining beacons of allyship many consider they’re.
Whereas there are methods to show the textual content that invite necessary discussions, I face these questions: Is the very best textual content to speak about racism, significantly confronted by Black males within the American justice system, one written by a white lady? And whose voice and perspective am I centering when educating my college students about that have?
2. The Nice Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’ll admit, I by no means absolutely fell in love with Gatsby the way in which so many did (and I’m anticipating a faux-angry textual content from my brother, for whom Gatsby was deeply affecting). Many cling to this novel for its critique of the American class system and the failures of looking for wealth and energy. There are fascinating discussions available about studying the novel by means of a queer lens, which may disrupt often-heteronormative class texts.
Nonetheless, the novel has a frequently problematic view of ladies: Daisy, Myrtle, and Jordan all symbolize sides of deceitful, shallow, materialistic ladies who encourage males to make horrible choices. Whereas it condemns racism and eugenics by way of Tom Buchanan’s dinner conversations, its characters symbolize a extremely white-centered illustration of “the Jazz Age,” which is ironic for an period named after predominantly African American music.
As an alternative, Lorraine Hansberry’s traditional play A Raisin within the Solar appears on the fallacy of the “American Dream” and deconstructs meritocracy whereas additionally displaying college students a have a look at the real-life ramifications of redlining that also have an effect on American society at the moment.
3. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
This e book has been a long-beloved staple on the West Coast, as it’s primarily based on the true story of Juana Maria, a Nicoleño Native American who lived alone for 18 years on an island off the California coast through the nineteenth century.
Whereas the novel does heart on an Indigenous character, it is stuffed with problematic inaccuracies, as described by each Dr. Debbie Reese, who runs the location “American Indians in Kids’s Literature,” and by Dr. Eve Tuck, an Aleut scholar whose individuals are portrayed within the e book. Whereas it may be tempting to achieve for any illustration of indigenous individuals in our lecture rooms, it’s necessary to hunt texts that precisely painting these cultures and who heart their voices, so we don’t turn into complicit within the erasure of indigenous cultures.
The Faculty Library Journal shared an inventory of books to discover as a substitute of Island of the Blue Dolphins. I particularly liked Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, for these in search of a robust feminine protagonist.
Whereas all three of those books have made, and may proceed to make, lasting impacts on college students over time, we are able to nonetheless search out different texts that may even go away lasting marks on our college students. In looking for these new texts, maybe we are able to discover a technique to not solely interact our college students in nice storytelling, however discover tales that may even encourage them to be considerate, crucial, and conscientious readers and seekers of change lengthy after they go away our lecture rooms.
What books do you assume needs to be reconsidered? Tell us within the feedback!
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