Exploring the Value of Canonical Literature and Its Role in Modern Education

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Exploring the Value of Canonical Literature and Its Role in Modern Education The English curriculum within most modern high schools seems to be comprised of two main portions. The first of these is the grammatical component, which seeks to help students better understand the structure and function of language. This aspect, although considered tedious by many students, certainly has immense value. Communication within the bounds of the English language is governed by a multitude of grammatical rules. Any student who wishes to communicate effectively must possess at least a basic understanding of these standards. The grammatical component, however, does not stand alone in the high school English classroom. It typically is accompanied by a literature section. This aspect of the curriculum focuses on the study of written works. In most secondary education settings, the literature studied falls into the realm of what is commonly referred to as “the classics.” In essence, these books are part of a canon of literary works that has been collected and passed down through the years. Having stood the test of time, they are considered by many to be “the best of the best” (Dixon 4). Most of the literature in the canon is like a fine wine in that it seems to have gotten better (or at least become more highly regarded) with age. These books typically are written by authors whose names have become legendary: Dickens, Twain, Shakespeare, Bronte, etc. Although the canon does feature a few 20th century writers such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Wright, there is an undeniably heavy emphasis placed on authors who died centuries ago. Aside from a few notable exceptions, the works of the canon also tend to be f... ... middle of paper ... ... classics and make it personally relevant. If this is done, the canon then becomes an invaluable tool for increasing knowledge and building understanding. WORKS CITED Appleman, Deborah. Critical Encounters In High School English. New York: Columbia University, 2000. Dixon, James G. Transcending Difference: The Place of the Classics in the Curriculum of the ‘90s. Diss. Grove City College, 1991. Funderstanding. 9 Nov. 2003. <http://www.funderstanding.com/constructivism.htm>. Jain, Saranga. Literature in Education: Contemporary Texts Versus the Classics. Diss. The Pennsylvania State University, 1998. Literacy Matters. 8 Nov. 2003. <http://www2.edc.org/literacymatters/matters.htm>. Whitehead, Alfred North. “The Place of Classics In Education.” The Aims of Education and Other Essays. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1929. 93-115.

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