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Should classic literature be taught in 21st century schools?
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Contemporary literature is a great tool for education

Students who read the classics are able to make connections to today's world, but so are those who read modern literature.


The canon of modern literature is enormous and rich with ideas and literary skill. From Ian McEwan to Sally Rooney, Philip Roth and Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, there are manyliterary greats whose work has been published in the last four or five decades. Many studies into their works are illuminating for readers and scholars alike, such as Virginia Yeung's analysis of Morality in Kazuo Ishiguro's seminal work 'Never Let Me Go'[1]

The Argument

In nearly every English classroom there is the sound of a low groan coming from the students when they learn that they are going to be reading Shakespeare. Why does this happen? Shakespeare has been a treasured writer, poet, and playwright for centuries. Maybe it is just that centuries have passed since Shakespeare wrote his most famous plays. Students today have more access to information than any previous generation. They want information quickly and efficiently, and they want it to be attention-grabbing. Classic literature is a wonderful thing and it can teach students a great deal about history, culture, and politics. But so can contemporary literature. Why force students to attempt to decipher language to try and find out what is happening in the story? Literature that showcases various cultures, points of view, and experiences are more prevalent today than ever before. There are great works such as Beloved, The House on Mango Street, I am Malala, The Joy Luck Club, The Book Thief, A Thousand Splendid Suns that have come out of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and can be excellent tools for teachers to teach students how to be citizens of the world while keeping them engaged with well-written books that do not require a degree in linguistics to understand.

Counter arguments

Reading the classics allows students to be part of the greater community who have read and studied the same books. By reading classic literature the gap between the generations narrows and students are better able to build connections between their own lives and those of people who came before them.



[P1] Students do not enjoy reading classic literature as it is hard to understand. [P2] Contemporary literature is a more impactful and effective way of teaching students these lessons.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Reading contemporary literature is not as rewarding as reading classic literature.


This page was last edited on Friday, 17 Apr 2020 at 11:52 UTC

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