This is not a plan, just a list of books that I think students should have read before they leave education. Let me know some books you would suggest that students should have read before leaving school.
To Kill a Mockingbird | Harper Lee – deals with issues of racial inequality.
1984 | George Orwell – a timeless classic which seems that it will always be relevant.
Lord of the Flies | William Golding – a story of morals.
Frankenstein | Mary Shelley – what does it mean to be human?
Pygmalion | Thomas Bernard Shaw – a feminist critique of the Ovidian myth that a woman can be a man’s creation.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower | Stephen Chbosky – a coming-of-age story about a boy who has troubles at home.
The Kite Runner | Khaled Hosseini – a contemporary classic set with the backdrop of recent Afghanistan history.
1x William Shakespeare Play – despite being centuries old, his stories are timeless.
1x Greek Play – the myths have issues that we can view with modern eyes differently to the characters.
1x Arthur Miller Play – to study, watch and perform a play that is considered a classic. Arthur Miller is my choice because I have enjoyed The Crucible and A Death of a Salesman.
The above authors provides a mix of male and female, British, American, Greek and Afghan authors, from varying centuries. These books and plays cover a wide range of issues/topics, written in different contexts that should create well rounded and decent human beings.
There should also be at least one compulsory theatre trip, either to a local playhouse or to a larger one in London. At the moment students read studiously and they dissect every line in a play, the words a character uses, the stage directions, the silences, etcetera, but this over-analysis is a poor way of developing critical thinking and analytical skills, not to mention preventing students from appreciating the work. Students would enjoy and understand a play better if they see it performed for them as it would reinforce the play in the minds of the students. Arthur Miller plays would be my preferred choice, but the main aim is to get students in to a theatre or playhouse and watch the play being enacted. Hopefully some students would enjoy the performance enough for them to visit the theatre more often or even to pursue a creative career as a writer, actor, director or any other back stage career. It would also be good if they were given some talks on a career in this industry to give all students as much information about potential careers after they finish school.
I would also like it if students are given freedom to choose books that they want to read. They can choose anything from YA Fiction, Fantasy, Crime, Horror or even an autobiography of a celebrity, anything they want! Students should be encouraged to read things they enjoy, rather than plough and slog away at school reading books that they don’t associate with. For these books, I think that a one page ungraded book review would be sufficient.
English lessons at present are full of Shakespeare, Dickens and other famous authors and playwrights, and students are constantly tasked with analysing and critiquing every single detail in the belief that they will develop critical thinking and analytical skills that can help them not just in the English classroom, but outside of it too. However, this approach is poor to say the least. Students now are aimlessly trying to find meaning in things, phrases and words that has not been intended by an author.
One example of this is this.
“The curtains in the bedroom are blue”- in an English class now, students would be furiously scribbling away in their books with countless annotations, highlighting and underlining. They would put down something like; “the curtains were blue to symbolize the deep depression that the author felt towards the room that held bad memories.” This is absolutely stupid! Maybe the curtains were on offer in TESCO for £5.99?! The colour of curtains is of no importance. Students need to be able to have critical thinking in the right areas, not for every line, stanza, paragraph, verse. But above all, they need to enjoy the literature and appreciate it.
I have many issues with the British education system as I think it is trapped in the past and should be revolutionised and overhauled completely in every aspect of a student’s education so as to create the best possible human and an intelligent person. My changes would concern every subject from English, Maths and Science to Design, Art and P.E but that is probably for another post.
If you have made it this far…well done!
Let me know what changes you would make to the education system in your country and what books you would make compulsory reading.
The Humpo Show | Richard