What Honors American Literature Reveals About The Bishop’s School English Curriculum
Homogeneity: The Problem With High School English Classes
Standard high school English curriculums are homogenous in nature. In the English canon, women, people of color, and the poor fail to establish a meaningful presence. This happens to be the case at my high school, The Bishop’s School, in La Jolla, California. Throughout this website, I am going to be exploring the state of current high school English curriculums through the lense of Honors American Literature, the English course I am currently enrolled in at my school. By dissecting this particular course, many truths will be revealed that determine just how homogeneous our literature really is. To begin, I would like for my audience to get a preview of the problem by reading an article written by Cindy Sharra of The Prospect.
The Benefits: How Diversity Affects Student Involvement
As Ms. Sharra pointed out, people tend to enjoy readings that include some facet of their identity. But the way in which many high school English curriculums are constructed, they would have you believing otherwise. In this video, Kathleen Nalty, a former civil right attorney, advocates for diversity and inclusion in all environments because of its proven benefits and advantages.
Take A Gander: A Glimpse At Honors American Literature
As taken from The Bishop’s School Website:
“We can’t have books that represent everyone, unforntanely.”
“I love Toni Morrison because she said she wrote the books she couldn’t find.”
“People can still relate to characters who are different from them.”
“We need to experience something other than our own experience.”
“My white students can still connect to manumitted slaves.”
After our interview, I left with a better understanding of how Honors American Literature is structured. I learned of Ms. Allen’s attempt to diversify the course. Over the summer, she searched for books that weren’t written by white men in order to teach the course through a diverse lense. During her search, she realized that Honors American Literature and other English courses of its ilk naturally defer to white male content. In addition, she mentioned how necessary diversity is to an English curriculum. She believes a curriculum with different perspectives, unconventional characters, and nuanced text push students to new levels. I think most importantly she taught me how students can still see themselves in other characters’ plights even if it’s not their own personal experience.
Deruy, Emily. “The Complicated Process of Adding Diversity to the College
Syllabus.” The Atlantic, 29 July 2016, www.theatlantic.com/education/
He, Ye, et al. “Reframing Literacy Practices for Culturally and Linguistically
Diverse Students in U.S. Schools.” English Education Journal, digital ed.,
vol. 46, no. 4, July 2014, pp. 327-44.
Jaekle, Ann M. “Safe for Diversity: Another Approach to the English Curriculum.”
The English Journal, digital ed., vol. 56, no. 2, p. 222.
Rekrut, Martha D. “Inquiry-Based English Instruction: Engaging Students in Life
and Literature.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, digital ed., vol.
46, no. 4, Dec. 2002, p. 369.
Sharra, Cindy. “We Need More Diversity In English Class Curriculum.” The
Prospect, 10 Feb. 2015, www.theprospect.net/