Modern, contemporary books teach us more about life and language than the classics

December 19, 2017

“To be or not to be, that is the question.”

Rather than the question of whether or not I should continue to exist, the question I wonder about is whether or not reading classical literature should be a thing in English classes. Fair warning, I may upset some of Central’s fabulous English teachers who do their absolute best to make sure students understand and appreciate even the most archaic diction.

These feelings stemmed from a decision I made last night. My eyes glazed over as I began to read one of the twenty-four books from The Iliad, a story about a war that was primarily started because the men were too prideful to allow their women to be taken away from them for such ridiculous reasons like the want for personal freedom. Why would a woman want freedom, right?

The dated grammatical structure and mixing up of names made my mind feel like a smoothie of mush. Arguably disgusted, I tossed the book aside and hobbled over to my own bookshelf. I have two shelves filled with random and interesting books on topics I am interested in, mostly sports. Since college basketball season is on the horizon, John Calipari’s book, “Success is the Only Option: The Art of Coaching Extreme Talent” called out to me. I began reading and quickly found myself taking notes on what he had to say about leadership and talent.

He is no Charles Dickens, but he has done something that Dickens never did. He established a college basketball culture at Kentucky that became a pipeline for basketball intelligent players to make it to the NBA and become successful all-stars. Players like Tyler Ulis, a short point guard that challenged Calipari’s expectations, were able to support their families and help others.

Soon enough, I had two pages full of notes that were completely because of my own understanding. I didn’t need help trying to decipher the meaning behind Calipari’s words or vocabulary. Not that Shakespeare or Willa Cather do not deserve to be read by the masses, but I feel that as time passes, their ideas about become slowly less universal. The struggles of Hamlet and his suicidal thoughts are only coincidentally relevant to those facing depression, partially because Hamlet was more insane than depressed.

Multiple more examples exist on my bookshelf, like Stuart Scott’s “Every Day I Fight,” or a biography on Warren Buffett and his wisdom on finance and investing. What if students were asked to read books that taught them about life, how to become a better person or how to succeed in a career rather than about the thousand different ways an author can form a sentence using strange words?

To me, this is part of where we seem to falter in education. The writing skills taught at Central are incredibly useful, but the books chosen in curriculum are not ideal. We could exchange ideas by the greatest entrepreneurs, vicariously live through athletes and entertainers, and learn wisdom that we may never have learned in our single, narrow perspective of life.

Alas, I am sure my ideas will not be implemented anytime soon, but I can surely dream about that green light on the opposite side of the lake, that represents a better English class. So I beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.


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