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Should classic literature be taught in 21st century schools?
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Reading the classics is part of "cultural literacy"

Classic literature teaches about political, economic, and social issues from various times and places.


In the 1980s scholarship moved towards an understanding of literature that believed the purpose of reading went far beyond that of understanding the text. Rather, it should be for a grander goal: educating the masses in basic philosophical, political, social and economic principles. The key figure in this movement was the University of Virginia Professor E.D. Hirsch[1]

The Argument

The word literacy goes beyond just being able to read and write. In today's technological world, literacy is about being able to communicate in a variety of ways. A high percentage of middle and high school students have cell phones in their pockets or in their backpacks at all times, which means that they are constantly connected to the world beyond their school, street, town, or city. One way to teach adolescents how to interact with such a vast and diverse world is through classic literature. For example, the plot of Romeo and Juliet (a very popular text in many English classrooms) revolves around a complex political system that the titular characters rebel against. Through reading and discussion of the story in class, students begin to understand the difficult situation that these characters find themselves in and begin to make connections between the political, social, and economic systems in the book to current systems that exist in various parts of the world today. This connection building between literature and the current world they live in is part of what makes them into competent global citizens.

Counter arguments



[P1] Classic literature provides examples of different political, social, and economic systems from around the world. [P2] Students who read classic literature have a better understanding of the world around them.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Contemporary literature provides examples of political, economic, and social structures while using language that modern students understand and can relate too. [Rejecting P2] It is not only students who read the classics who have the ability to understand the world around them. Contemporary literature that is set in the modern world teaches students about the world they live in now.


This page was last edited on Tuesday, 17 Mar 2020 at 11:50 UTC

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