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English Education: A Literary Firestorm Essay

1763 words - 7 pages

The face of English education is changing not always for the better. Education as a whole has made leaps and bounds in the last 50 years this has been assisted by many other factors including technology, new teaching techniques, better training of teachers among other things. One of the areas that have changed the most is English education. There have been three recurring issues that have been maintained over the last few decades. These are debates that have valid arguments on both sides of the issue which is why no real solutions have been proposed.
The first and one of the most hotly debated topics even outside the classroom is the fiction vs. nonfiction debate. The current push is for more nonfiction towards the high school level. It has been studied the percentage of reading done for English in 8th grade is around 55% and only four years later in 12th grade it rises to 77%. The push for more nonfiction comes from a belief that our English education focuses on self-expression too much. Which many say is a useable skill in the workplace (Mosle). Even with this push towards nonfiction reading scores of 17-year olds haven’t shown a large improvement since the 1980’s (Mathews).The problem may not be the quantity of the nonfiction or the existence of it in the English curriculum, the problem leans more towards the quality and type of non-fiction being taught. The non-fiction currently being taught is usually a narrative. There is a subgenre of non-fiction that will both keep kids entertained and give them the skills they need from reading non-fiction. This subgenre is literary narrative. There are many examples of these types of texts and novels that can be taught, but rarely are. One wildly, popular, best-selling example of a literary narrative is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. This novel brings up issues of both ethics and race. The story of Henrietta’s life and legacy is engaging and entertaining, while learning about the dynamics of practicing medicine on minorities during the 1950’s. Although both sides have valid arguments, they also both make large assumptions on both sides. On the side of supporters of fiction, it is assumed that non-fiction is seldom literary and definitely not literature. This is easily disproven by the existence of literary non-fiction. Since the existence of these kinds of texts is often unknown this is how this assumption can be made. On the opposing side of supporters of non-fiction their argument is built upon this: “non-fiction may help you win the corner office but may not nourish the soul,” Stated David Coleman a large instrument in the writing of the Common Core standards (Mosle). Though both have benefits and downsides both could be improved as an integral part of the English curriculum. For instance, many feel that the level of the fiction texts has declined over the last decade or so, which decrease critical thinking skills. So by raising the reading level of fiction texts, students are provided with...

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