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Should classic literature be taught in 21st century schools?
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The benefits of a blended learning environment

Students can benefit from reading both classic literature, set in a time and place far removed from themselves, and contemporary literature that discusses issues that directly relate to the modern world.
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Studying just one type of literature limits the learning experience. Just as modern history is as important to learning as the Roman Empire, so classical and contemporary literature have a place in the classroom. As English teacher Sally Law says 'While we must safeguard the teaching of classic literature or risk depriving our young people of the wealth of knowledge, enjoyment and sense of heritage and history to be gained from our classics, we should also be open to the idea that more contemporary texts, of varying titles and formats, have a justifiable place in the curriculum too.'[1]

The Argument

There are some very powerful and insightful novels being written today that explore the complexities of the modern world. But these novels that are flying off the shelves, being turned into major motion pictures, and hitting bestseller lists, will one day be part of the canon of classic literature taught in schools. Does that mean that these books that are new today will be less valid in fifty years? Will they no longer evoke the same emotional response as they do today? Perhaps, but more likely, they will be used in the same way that classic literature is used in schools currently; like a map of a world gone but which led us to where we are now. For example, reading James Joyce and the modernists whose way of thinking led to voting rights for women in the UK and US. Studying The Great Gatsby and discussing complex topics such as justice, greed, betrayal, and the American Dream. Or reading Shakespeare, Dickens, or Wilde who all critiqued the misguided ways of the aristocracy and commented on the value of the common people. These were once contemporary and controversial authors who expressed their own viewpoints through their own writing. All authors have a particular point of view that represents their own experiences and by reading a variety of modern and classic texts students become well- rounded individuals who understand that the past is not simply gone, but has shaped the world in which they live today.

Counter arguments



[P1] What today is considered classic literature was once contemporary and does not lose its validity because time has passed. Both classic and contemporary novels can work together to demonstrate how the past has shaped the present.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] It is true that what happens in the past shapes the future, but when classic literature takes a front seat to contemporary literature that presents a variety of viewpoints, children's education falls short.


This page was last edited on Tuesday, 1 Sep 2020 at 14:21 UTC