First off, I want to preface this month’s edition of Galit Na Naman Si Tita by saying I’m not actually angry. It’s more a matter of being frustrated, I think. And also a touch of not knowing what exactly to do?
Classic readers assigned for school are one of the surefire solid ways to get a kid to read. But it’s been said time and again that a ton of the classics assigned in English classes are no longer relevant to today’s youth – or worse, offensively out of touch by being racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist or otherwise prejudiced. These books cement the notion in the heads of impressionable youth that reading is either boring or unrelatable, and they carry that notion into adulthood. (Vicky has a really great post about classics, YA, and high school that I highly recommend everyone read.)
Here’s the thing though: removing classics from school curriculum is a highly unrealistic – I would almost call it impossible – goal. Whether those classics are still deserving of a space on the modern-day curriculum is a topic for another time and post. All I’m saying is this: classic readers need to be able to instill a love of reading in kids, not to mention discuss modern circumstances, issues, and expectations that teens of this day and age think are important and can relate to. And very clearly, the classic readers still being assigned nowadays aren’t enough to get that job done.
Furthermore, classics that are no longer representative of gender, orientation, ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic diversity need to be discussed in a way that highlights that lack of diversity. English classes need to be discussing To Kill a Mockingbird in the context of white saviorism, Gone with the Wind and the romanticization of the antebellum era despite the atrocities committed, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre and the dynamics of abusive relationships, the casual internalized misogyny present in Little Women, and so much more. Similarly, books that were ahead of their time need to be discussed emphasizing the lessons that they teach: what comes to mind is Pride and Prejudice, where the hero realizes he was a jerk and changes his ways, and that’s why he gets the girl; and the girl herself had to change nothing about herself in order to get the man.
In the Philippines, I think it should be mandatory to teach Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo in the context of the Philippine Revolution. A ton of schools and teachers already do (which, brava!), but there are also a lot more who only teach these books by rote, only ever ensuring the students memorize names and events rather than their significance to what was happening in the fight for independence at the time.
Basically, this post really is all about two points:
- Classics need to be discussed in the context of modern day social norms of equity, diversity, and acceptance, instead of in a vacuum excused away by phrases like “that’s just how it was at the time”.
- Modern, recently-published novels that discuss issues, circumstances, and events that young people find relevant and relatable should also be part of school curriculum.
To end this post, I’ve included below a list of recent publications that I think should be included in the modern-day school curriculum, chosen not only for being representative of diversity, but for also discussing issues more significant and relevant to today’s school youth.
And as an added bonus, books that I think need to be taught in Filipino schools in particular:
Now let’s hear from you!
☕ Do you agree with my assessment of classic readers in school curricula?
☕ What books would you include in your school’s reading list?
☕ Do you think classics still have a place in the modern-day school setting?