Electives idea a big step forward for English department

November 17, 2009 — by Kevin Mu

When students think of novels read in an honors English course, their minds don’t often jump to mystery novels or adventure stories, but that may soon change.

In recent weeks,students took a survey that attempted to gauge their interest in having English literature electives available in their junior and senior years. These electives would focus on a specific genre of literature such as science fiction or horror/suspense and would aim to increase students’ interest in literature.

By adding these electives, the school would take a major step toward making literature more accessible and fun for upperclassmen. Many students comment that books read in regular English are boring or feel that the novels’ themes don’t apply to their lives. While certain standard books are useful for developing skills in literary analysis and critical thinking, for some students it does nothing to boost their level of interest in reading and can even turn students away from books. By incorporating new classes and letting students choose what books they want to read, the school is helping to get students interested in reading again.

The electives also offer the opportunity for students to appreciate different types of literature. In designing a normal curriculum, the school must be very selective in the books they choose and, as a result, leave out many other brilliant works of literature. Although there are many, many more books that are worthy of being in an honors curriculum, time constraints simply don’t allow for them to be taught by teachers.

Adding electives would expose these less conventional books to students and broaden their views of literature. Logically, it’s impossible to cover the entirety of literature in just four years or even in a lifetime of learning; literature is an immensely broad topic that contains the different experiences and viewpoints and stories of people from all different walks of life. So why should studying literature be limited to a narrow range of books?

Some would argue that such electives are frivolous and unnecessary, but the reality is reading books from different genres is just as valuable as reading classics. Not only do they allow for deep literary analysis and critical thinking, but they provide a more conducive environment for class discussions because all the students in the class are more likely to be interested in the novels themselves—and actually read them since they’ve chosen to be there.

The new program, if approved, would take a collaborative effort by English teachers and around two years to implement, but the benefits for students are endless and far outweigh the work involved. As a junior, I’m sad to say my only disappointment is that they didn’t think of it sooner.

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