Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Mandatory Reading

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This seems to be another issue nowadays. The reason I find this remotely significant is because out loud, I am against mandatory reading. Because why should anybody tell me what I have to read? And all that nonsense.

But I secretly like it. I have no problem with having to read certain books for classes. Usually it's English class. But if my history teacher decided we should all read such-and-such. I wouldn't mind. In fact, I'd probably be thrilled. Right after I freak out about when I'll ever find the time to read it, anyways.

But back to the whole English thing - whenever a book gets assigned, people complain. I get that I'm one of the few who genuinely loves reading, and reading anything and everything. I get that I'm not as picky as most. I'm easily entertained blah blah blah.

But the alternative is no reading, and it looks like public education is trying to do just that. There has been talk at my school about getting rid of the "literature" part of English. So no mandatory reading, where the whole class reads the same book and discusses it.

And I'm thinking: what the heck? Why is that even an option? I know I'm being rather unsophisticated for saying this, but I think it's ridiculous.  People (well, readers) complain about how they regret not reading more classics. Hell, I regret not reading more classics. And I hate thinking that someday, people might not be reading any classics.

That is not to say that I love all classics. Or that they are all good. Or that they should all be read. I'm just saying - don't take that opportunity away from students.

I know people who hated Pride and Prejudice. Jane Eyre. Two of my favorite classics. A bit girly, I have to admit. But I liked them. A lot. I'm glad I read them in class, because I would never have come up with a good enough excuse to buy my own copies.

I didn't love The Great Gatsby at first. Then my history teacher talked about it for less than five minutes during a lecture on the 1920's. And suddenly I had a new appreciation for it. I hardly love it. But I understand it. Whereas in my English class, I passed a test on it, not even knowing what the point of it was.

So maybe I'm an oddball, at least among my own generation. But I love mandatory reading. It's a good excuse to break out of my shell, read something written in a time where words had more meaning.

That's not to say modern YA stuff doesn't have a lot of meaning. Because I can think of a lot of YA books that could easily be taught in English class, that are deep and meaningful and beautiful and might just be classics one day. I'm just saying. Classic classics shouldn't be disregarded. They're important, too.

How about you? What do you think about this issue? Is mandatory reading necessary? Am I alone on this?


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