The Octagon can be a pretentious institution, especially when it comes to what books we read. After all, who needs “Twilight” when you can curl up with an AP Stylebook?
On a more relatable note, we as teenagers expect our elders to roll their eyes at our pop culture.
So we were surprised to hear that the English faculty has added Young Adult novels like “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Looking for Alaska” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” to their curriculum.
Not that there is anything wrong with those books. They’re enjoyable and fun to read. But why assign stu- dents books in class that they would read anyway?
“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green is widely popular on campus. The freshmen are reading not one but two John Green books.
The point of reading books in English class is to ex- pand our horizons. In order to do this, teachers should be assigning more challenging literature.
Previously the freshman curriculum included “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Shakespeare, “Inherit the Wind” by Robert E. Lee and Jerome Lawrence, “Old School” by Tobias Wolff and “Animal Farm” by George Orwell.
The reason we discuss books in English class is so that teachers can help us see things we would not realize or understand without their guidance.
We can easily follow the plot and character develop- ment of “Looking for Alaska.” Believe it or not, we do not need teachers to explain that Alaska is struggling with an internal conflict.
Having one or two young adult novels for summer reading would be fine. Over the summer we do not have guidance from the teacher.
English class reading should challenge us. We should look up words we don’t understand and read between the lines to grasp the full message of the author. At Columbia University students read “The Odyssey” in four days and “Crime and Punishment” in a week. To be prepared to cover the material so quickly, students must have a strong ability to comprehend.
As to the argument that these pop-literature books are more relatable to teenagers, books with more depth can be just as accessible. Even though “Inher- it the Wind” takes place in the 1920s, the idea of a struggle between science and religion is very relevant today.
Country Day’s standards are supposed to challenge our intellectual abilities. Teen fiction doesn’t do that.
As English teachers are ordering their summer read- ing and course books, we want them to keep in mind that we need books that make us think.