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OPINION: Keep classical literature at BHS

By Ben Budke

Recently, exposure to classical literature at Batavia High School has been decreasing. It has been gradually replaced with young adult literature in our English classes. In general, Classical literature should be revived in English curriculums. 

Classical literature is very important for students and teachers because they can both connect to issues going on in the story.

“… like Romeo and Juliet, some students can connect to,” said English teacher Cassie Castro…“So I think we should teach those classics that are relevant to today and can still apply to today.” 

The digression of classical literature use in English curriculums can be seen at Batavia High School. In English 1 honors alone, for instance, Animal Farm, The Odyssey, Silas Marner, Antigone, and Great Expectations have all been replaced with young adult literature.

It is seen that issues and details in people’s daily lives in literature, like love, appeals to many people because the majority can relate to these issues. 

Classical literature also connects others and relates them to society by attesting to the past and learning from it. This can be seen in many classical works. In Charles Dickens’s short story, “The Signalman,” modern readers are taught the horrid conditions of the working class and the reader can reflect on similar conditions going on today.

It is evident that there are many benefits to classical literature. It has material and complexity, which can help a student become a better reader and writer. “We challenge their thinking and we bolster their confidence to become even more skilled in the use of their own language,” said Sally Law, English professor, and writer for The Guardian

Challenging students intellectually has been shown to advance their thinking and confidence as readers and writers.

Many English curriculums want to replace classical literature with ‘Young Adult’ literature in order to make English classes easier and bring their level of understanding of the books they are reading to a lower level. This belief is wrong because the challenge of student’s comprehension in reading helps them better achieve goals and overcome obstacles in their life.  

In fact, the history of the secondary English curriculum in 20th-century America suggests that the decline in readiness for college reading stems in large part from an increasingly incoherent, less challenging literature curriculum from the 1960s onward,” said Sandra Stotsky, of the Heritage Foundation, an American conservative think tank based in Washington D.C. “This decline has been propelled by the…assignment of easier, shorter, and contemporary texts.” 

Classical literature readies students for further academic achievement, as more students are achieving in school with more challenging classical literature in their curriculums. 

We need classical literature at Batavia High School and schools across the globe. This form of literature is historically, socially, and intellectually important for students because it matters in informing students of history, societal issues, and encourages critical thinking.

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