The Controversy of Classical Literature

January 20, 2022

Opinions on the relevance of the classical literature taught in TDSB high schools differ among teachers and students at R.H King Academy, with some more open to the prospect than others.

Teaching classical literature is part of the English curriculum at TDSB. According to the 2007 Ontario Curriculum, classical literature is “a creative representation of life and experience, literature raises important questions about the human condition, now and in the past.” Books like Indian Horse, The Book Thief, and The Other Side of The Bridge are taught to students at R. H. King.

Reading classical literature has a plethora of benefits. It allows the reader to learn new vocabulary, sometimes from a completely different language, (ex. Shakespearean literature) and to truly focus on what they read.

“I find that this generation doesn’t really think. Classical literature forces you to think about themes like death, power, and status; themes that are still relevant today. When you are reading classics, you are reading the best works of the best minds,” says Beth Selby, an English teacher at King.

When you are reading classics, you are reading the best works of the best minds.

— Beth Selby

Some students enjoy the classics that are taught at school. Suevetha Ketharan, for example, is a grade 10 student enjoying her current novel study on The Book Thief. “This book [the Book Thief] develops a sense of understanding within students, which allows the students to connect with the characters in the story. I believe it is vital for students to understand and learn about the past.”

Tanisha Chowdhury, another grade 10 student, appreciates the literature taught at King because of its diversity in characters and authors. “Diversity is extremely important because it helps students relate to the different characters. It also lets us see history from the perspective of people with dissimilar backgrounds,” Chowdhury states.

However, some students don’t find classical literature enjoyable. They argue that classical literature can be boring, and irrelevant to today’s time. Some even suggest that recent novels should be taught at school instead.

“I understand that classics aren’t for everyone. Readings can be tedious and boring, with characters that are often hard to relate to because they’re from a different time,” says Tannei Sarker, a grade 11 King student.

Kurinchi Jeyaruban, a grade 10 student, agrees with having more content relevant to modern times. “I would definitely want schools to teach more recent concepts because I feel like many students connect to it more. Whether it be through the language or the storyline, a more recent novel may have a better interpretation of the theme.”

While this topic continues to be controversial, the literature taught at King will change overtime as different ideas and themes come to light.

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