CON: Missing the fundamentals with modern works

Modern literature is widely popular among high school students due to its relatability, easily understood language and direct plot. With students bored by old-time classic novels, some are advocating to add modern literature such as “The Notebook” or “The Book Thief” to high school English curriculum. However, doing so would be detrimental to students and would cause them to falter in certain areas that classic literature helps to enhance.

Most classics teach ethics and morals, while the purpose of many modern works is to entertain rather than instruct. For instance,  “Pride and Prejudice” teaches the effect bias and the influence social status can have on judgment. While reading classic literature, students are able to experience stories of timeless truths and larger messages from someone living in a previous time period.

Certain authors are foundational to Western culture, having influenced all other works of their genre, to the point where all students should be familiar with their writings. For example, Shakespeare has written some of the greatest works of literature, focusing on such universal themes as love, virtue, greed and betrayal. Students who are denied the opportunity to experience Shakespeare are denied the opportunity to expand their perspectives.

It is true that Shakespeare is hard for the average teenager to digest, requiring careful reading and analysis to understand.  However, these are skills that students must develop, and they cannot afford to miss out on reading classic works of literature — especially if it is replaced with writing that does not require such close attention.

For example, “All the Light We Cannot See” is a piece of literature set during World War II, but, being published in 2014, it does not provide the kind of insight into the time period that an author from 50 or 60 years ago would bring.  The culture displayed in the story is attributed to the writer’s imagination, which does not provide a completely accurate representation. The ideas and morals presented in the novel are not ideas that come from the era; rather, they are present ones that may not actually have been thought by people of that time.

A major reason people want to add modern literature to  the English curriculum is that they are easier to read and understand. However, modern literature should not be valued because of this. People should not study things because they are easy to understand, but to strive towards their full potential.

Another aspect of modern literature is its relatability; people can relate to the setting and context of the story, since they are more familiar with them. However, the ability to translate time-honored concepts from one context to another is an important skill. While classics force readers to do this, modern literature may not.

Classic literature improves the reader’s knowledge and perspective, giving them critical tools to help them understand the meanings of complicated pieces of Writing. These necessary tools can lead to deeper thinking and make them smarter, in not only literary comprehension but in life.