Out with the old, in with the new

April 22, 2004, midnight | By Rocky Hadadi | 19 years, 11 months ago

Students uninterested in outdated English class literature

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. On the Road. Catch-22. Arrow of God. The Lost Steps. To the average Blazer, the names of these novels don't ring a bell, not because these books are unpopular but because they don't seem to exist within the walls of Blair's English department. Instead of teaching contemporary, multicultural or controversial literature, Blair forces students to read novels which are so outdated and irrelevant that the average Blazer cannot relate to them.

One of the purposes of high-school literature is to find characters which students can learn from; in this day and age, it is more common for students to find such role models in more recent and diverse novels. Shakespeare is a classic, timeless writer, but while some Blair students are forced to read up to six of his works, they are only allowed a few opportunities to read a modern piece of literature (like Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, whose themes of adolescent struggle with relationships, purpose and belonging are ones which every teenager can identify with). If more contemporary works such as Salinger's were added to the reading list, Blazers would have a multitude of literature that they could associate with.

The Blair reading list also fails to deliver the amount of diversity in literature that would be expected from such a multicultural school. Currently, the Blair reading list is composed of approximately 60 percent white authors and only 40 percent of black, Hispanic and Asian American authors combined. In contrast, Sherwood High School allows students to pick books of their choice from a list of international novels, including authors from Puerto Rico, Vietnam, Kenya and approximately 60 other countries. Reading lists should incorporate authors like Nelson Mandela and Xiao Dizhu to accompany standbys Richard Wright and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

With Blair's reputation as a controversial school that continuously takes chances—with programs such as the Magnet and Communication Arts Program, classes such as Peace Studies and clubs such as the Gay/Straight Alliance—it is a mystery as to why the English department has not taken more chances with its reading list. Currently, other Montgomery County high schools have such controversial books as Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and even the King James version of the Bible on their reading lists. High school is the last chance for English teachers to inspire students to read—risks must be taken to promote teenagers to take interest in literature.

Until students at Blair are allowed to incorporate Mandela, Heller and Dizhu into the reading list of Shakespeare, Crane and Wright, the opportunity for students to explore the world of literature could be lost. The English department should catch up with the times and adapt the Blair reading list to represent the student body, and give Blazers the type of diverse, controversial and contemporary change they so desperately need.

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Rocky Hadadi. So, Rocky Hadadi has a very small life. She likes Baz Luhrmann. She likes Rancid. She wants to have John Frusciante's lovechild of guitar solos. Her interests include: meaningful friendships with CAP girls, exceptional Magnet amigos, track suits, aquamarine, Chucks, velvet Docs, painting random crap … More »

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