The On-Going TBR for the East English Curriculum
Though there are thousands of books available at the fingertips of the students who attend schools such as East High School, the majority of time a student spends reading is monopolized by the required books assigned to them in their classes. Because the books put into the english curriculum take such priority, shouldn’t they be worth a student's time? Our school requires both English 1 and 2 for the first two years of high school, and considering no student can graduate without taking these courses and reading their material, the East Spotlight thought it’d be beneficial to know how the East English Curriculum is created and if student voices are really being heard.
Starting out with freshman year, currently the English 1 curriculum consists of five full length novels; summer reading The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian, followed by the Hate You Give, Maus, and then finally Romeo & Juliet. The Hate You Give is a new edition to the class’s syllabus as of the 2021-2022 school year, but the other remaining four novels have been taught in freshman classrooms for at least three plus years. The overall consistency of the curriculum would usually indicate that these novels work well in the classroom but a lot of students have issues with one of these novels; The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian. The controversy with the author Sherman Alexie having numerous sexual assault allegations, leaves some students uncomfortable and triggered and makes them ask why. Why leave the book in the curriculum?
In the sophomore classrooms, students read The Alchemist over the summer break, followed by four more novels read throughout the year; A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Things They Carry, The Woman Warrior, and finishing off with The Tempest. The sophomore collection isn’t too light hearted either, these novels really push the student to over analyze almost everything the authors write. A lot of backlash from The Alchemist has been coming up. The author Paulo Coelho has some very sexist views and even in The Alchemist women aren’t giving a “Personal Legend” or really are a person for themselves. Instead of books being enjoyable for students somehow it turned into a chore.
Going into the process of creating the English curriculum; Meredith Fulford, the department chair of the English department gives us some insight on how they make decisions.“[W]e try to take a lot of those different elements into consideration when we’re making the decisions, and oftentimes [in] groups. All the English 1 teachers will meet together and if they decide to change a book everyone votes for it” Finding that balance between wants and needs for required books is something that the department tries to achieve. “There’s a famous quote… talks about literature as being either a window into someone else's experiences or a mirror that reflects back your own experiences. We often in the english department try to think of that as we’re choosing books”
The conflict between student preferences/opinions and the professional guidance of educators and administrators will always be a balancing act, but the first step in creating the most beneficial curriculum possible for students is communication between both sides. An ideal classroom consists of not only books that are beneficial to our learning but books that keep students engaged.