So, especially if you’re American and care about the education system in America, you should read this.
I am an English major (and I’m in France. I know. It makes sense if you think about it). I love more than almost anything reading. I’ve read Chaucer in old English, Shakespeare, Joyce, Stevenson, Fitzgerald, Dumas, Bradbury, Austen, Woolf, Brian Jacques of the Redwall series and so many more. I don’t tend to like non-fiction. Not for fun anyway. Don’t get me wrong, a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. is incredible. The Declaration of Independence is fantastic. All these kinds of things are wonderful things to learn.
But why in English? Why not in History? The speeches by MLK Jr. are a perfect way to capture the hopes, feelings and power of the Civil Rights movement, so why not use it? Better yet, why not coordinate topics and read works like Invisible Man, The Bluest Eye, A Lesson Before Dying or any of the other many classics dealing with racial issues. Why not link Things Fall Apart with colonialism in World History?
But to say, “Okay, so these works of literature are about this topic and that’s what we’re going to teach you about” is ridiculous. A single novel, if well written, is about life. It can say anything and everything about a life experience. That is the beauty of studying English. You pick out a thread of truth and develop your arguments, then find that someone else has another thread of truth different from yours, and another person has found another thread of truth, until by the end of it you hold in your hands a web of lessons coming both from you and the text.
I appreciate what is being done and the effort being put into this project. Obviously something needs to be done. But there is a certain kind of critical thinking, of imagination, of experience that could be lost if we let it. And I know that experience has done more than instructed me, it has provided refuge. A safe harbor. That’s the real beauty of being an English major.