Move aside, Hamlet; it’s time for new books

Frances Wu, News Editor

Ask any student what they have read in the past year for English class, and you’ll notice a startling lack of diversity: “Hamlet,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “The Great Gatsby;” students have “read” them all. These books have been read by high schoolers for seemingly millions of years, which begs the question: are these books still relevant?

One of the main reasons why these works are so popular among teachers is because they are classics, which means that they are chock-full of flowing rhetoric and breathtaking plot devices. But these books are also outdated, boring, and beyond tedious. How many times can one read about the tragic hero, doomed from the beginning, blinded by his own insecurities and philosophical brooding?

Teachers are determined to stick with these “timeless” novels that “all generations” can appreciate, all the while either turning a blind eye to the rampant corner-cutting that students resort to or causing them to spend hours wading through a chapter or two of these novels in hopes of passing a pop quiz the next day.  However, these works have very little to contribute to a modern adolescent’s life: no longer does society judge women by their marriageability, and the days of mourning one’s love from across the bay are long gone.

Teachers constantly complain about the lack of participation from students in class discussions, but how can students discuss topics they don’t understand or are apathetic about? Some students actually like to read—there are students at DBHS who read dozens of books every year, but shudder to a halt the second they are handed a Perma-Bound copy of “Lord of the Flies.”

Dystopian and science fiction also seem to be a dominant trend in “educational” literature. From George Orwell’s “1984” to Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” students constantly read about universes in which essential personal freedoms don’t exist. However, students don’t even recognize problems in our actual society, in which anyone can buy a gun and people are discriminated against by the amount of melanin in their skin.

There are countless novels in the world that serve more respectable purposes than to teach teenagers about proper rhythm in iambic pentameter—novels that go beyond the classic dystopian format and instead focus on current, existing issues, like Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, which describes her struggles as an advocate for girls’ education.

Even when teachers stray from their favored classics for, perhaps, a poetry unit, they tend to go with the benign. How many times are students going to have to think about how heroic couplets influence the reader’s perception of the poet’s intended meaning? Even poetry can have its radical thinkers—poets who address current issues while remaining both interesting and relatable, one of the most prominent examples being Button Poetry on Youtube.

A Google search for “best books of 2015” yields a comprehensive list of books from a wide variety of genres, from young adult fiction to historical nonfiction. According to Forbes, between 600,000 and 1 million books are published annually—surely teachers can find something that ventures beyond the usual to, perhaps, encourage some actual discussion of important matters.