Karen Raley argues that “we cannot place “good” or “bad” labels on books and still say we teach literature appreciation or provide an open forum for learning.”
“To the Editor:
In response to not keeping “Song of Solomon” in the Advanced Placement English curriculum:
For each voice, there is a unique story to be told, and for each reader exists a unique reading experience. The joy of literature is finding a piece that speaks to you: appreciation for a book is a very personal thing. Who are we to decide for everyone else what books are appropriate or worthwhile reading?
Experience, studies and credentials don’t qualify us to make such personal choices for others. What matters is that the education system provides an atmosphere where adolescents can learn the tools required for making informed decisions: evaluating, listening, challenging, reasoning and appreciating.
Limiting the curriculum to the literary canon (the dead, great, white males) or some preconceived standard of “literary merit” limits our students. We can break books down into components for study and comparison (themes, elements of style, characterization, genre…) but we cannot place “good” or “bad” labels on books and still say we teach literature appreciation or provide an open forum for learning.”
Raley, Karen. “Preconceived Standard of Literary Merit Limits Students” The Enterprise, December 19, 1997.