English Curriculum Refocuses Attention toward Classics: Young Adult Novels To Be Cut

ClassicsWilde Lake students will walk into their English classes this fall to a much-unexpected change: many popular Young Adult fiction novels will have been cut from the curriculum.

The change will be part of the rigorous educational reforms known as Common Core, a nationally implemented curriculum outline that has now been adopted by 45 states. The Common Core standards “are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world,” and place a much greater emphasis on reading informational and non-fiction texts, as well classics.

However there are many who believe that such a change could have a negative impact on the students it was designed to help.

“I think [removing those books] is a really terrible idea,” says Sophomore Danylo Cybik. “There are a lot of students who really enjoy reading the more modern books because they can relate better to them, and there’s lot of teachers who depend on them to keep their students engaged.”

HCPSS has determined that an appropriate level of rigor can most effectively be obtained through the more demanding novels established by the Common Core curriculum. However some believe that in doing so, Howard County is discrediting some of today’s most prominent Young Adult novels.

Daniel Ingham, a junior who feels very strongly about the English curriculum he was raised on, believes there is much more substance in today’s Young Adult novels than the Common Core standards imply.

“I get that some administrators don’t want teachers to be ‘Harry Pottering’ their students through high school, but there are some really important, timely, and worthwhile pieces that have been published in the last 50 years that ought to be allotted their deserved place in the curriculum.”

Mrs. Read worked at the Howard County Board of Education for a year before joining Wilde Lake’s English Department in January.

“It’s all about balance,” says Mrs. Read.  “It should be the goal of any English class to engage their students as much as possible, while also providing a rigor that challenges and pushes the students. The more modern Young Adult books are there to keep students engaged, and the great classics like Shakespeare provide the rigor that many colleges are looking for now.”

The Kite Runner. The Giver. Life of Pi. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. These are just a few of the titles that will no longer be taught in a Howard County public school as of next year.

“For example, Life of Pi proposes an idea that there is a greater purpose and that your life is more important than any worth someone can assign to it,” said Ingham “We can use books like this to teach an impressionable high schooler to live with a purpose. It’s one of the most applicable books in the 21st century, and it’s a shame that Howard County thinks otherwise.”

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is a group dedicated to the improvement of English and language arts education in America, and is in strong opposition to the Common Core curriculum as it currently reads.

“The Common Core standards speak to ‘college and career’ readiness. However, there are important dimensions of education beyond these two domains,” the NCTE said in a 2009 statement. “Purposes for reading should include self-expression; releasing the imagination; creating works of art.”

By creating a uniform system in which students read books for the sole purpose of becoming “college and career ready,” many fear that Common Core has forgotten the reason books were put in the curriculum in the first place: to stimulate imagination and self-expression.

However here at Wilde Lake, students can rest assured knowing that their teachers have not forgotten this purpose, and will do all in their ability to both challenge and engage their students in the classroom.

“I’ve never worked with teachers who are so dedicated to their students as the teachers here at Wilde Lake,” says Mrs. Read. “And as long as a teacher is dedicated to their students and is enthusiastic about teaching, they’ll do everything in their power to ensure their students receive the best education possible.”