The YA classification isn't the classics and don't students need to know them and have a flow of literary history?
Why use "YA classification" vs YA literature?
I believe my preservice teachers and others who are just beginning to explore YA have a limited view of how vast the offerings can be. I find that I am reading more and more nonfiction , but I still am not reading as much fantasy, science fiction, poetry, drama, and romance fiction. I still find my interest locked on to older realistic fiction.
YA might be high quality, but it still isn't a classic text.
Clearly, defining the classics gets messy and complicated. Even establishing who gets to argue which books are/or might be included is political and complicated. The degree to which diverse authors are included is quite complicated. For example, teacher might include Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, (a wonderful book, but the way) and claim or feel they have represented "African" literature. While, Achebe is a member of Igbo people within the borders of present-day Nigeria, it would be a huge overstatement to say the selection represents all African literature, a continent with 54 countries. It would be similar to suggestion that a work by William Faulkner would be a representation of all work from the Americas.
Having students read a single work or five to ten "classic" works in any given course it would still make it difficult to say that we have taught or introduced them to the classics. Any attempt is limiting and bound to marginalize many groups--especially those that are members of some diverse group.
At the same time, one might argue that the YA classification has its own "classics." In many ways that list would also be quite white, yet it would include an equal number of women-- S. E. Hinton, Judy Blume, Lois Lowery, Cynthia Voight, etc. The list of males might include Paul Zindel, Robert Cormier, Jerry Spinelli, Mel Glenn, etc. In addition, there are at least four Black American Authors that should be included--Walter Dean Myers, Julius Lester, Virginia Hamilton, and Mildred Taylor.
If the term classics suggest a text of high quality, critical reputation, and longevity then It is past time to recognize that the YA classification has its share of classic texts. Then after that, the debate about the nature can rage on.
Don't students need to know the flow of literary history.
Well, if all of our middle and high school students were planning on being English majors, that might be a fine plan. New flash, they aren't.
Okay, then. let's assume that for some reason Literary History is essential knoweldge.
It isn't that hard to teach. It is a couple of power point lectures with a couple of quizzes. It isn't any more difficult to teach than the times table in Math, the period table of elements in Chemistry, or the process of photosynthesis in Biology. All of these can be reduced to the presentation of facts that can be repeated until mastery. Does the accumulation of this information develop a love of learning or a love of reading? Does it promote joy and quest for the next book?
I doubt it. So, go ahead take a day or two and lecture on literary history. Give a test. Most of your students will do just fine, but they won't run out and read Milton or Gerard Manly Hopkins. More likely, your students will read what you encourage them to read, they will read what you are excited about. They will read what their peers are reading.
Remember the Harry Potter phenomenon? Many pundits passed on the book. It was felt to be too long, a long with a number of other objections. Yet, once it got in the hands of readers it spread by work of mouth and became part of a reading revolution.
Until next week.