“Why do we have to learn this?”
“So, you know the answers when you watch Jeopardy.”
At the time, my student was referring to a Shakespeare play. Further clarification followed my glib response. I explained how America’s culture has very few commonalities. We don’t have a national religion or a national language or a nationality with similar physical traits. Instead, we have come to rely upon our public education system to create the notion of what it means to be American. This is particularly apparent in the literature commonly found in the ELA courses taught across the United States.
Of course, the other commonality that Americans share is respect for the almighty dollar. So, it may be just a coincidence, but most of the classics are also relatively inexpensive in comparison to modern texts.
Whatever the reason, our schools teach a very traditional canon.
To best serve our diverse, modern students, teachers need to find a conduit to help students access these classics. But teachers don’t have the time to research and vet supplemental texts. Instead, they rely on curriculum providers, either in-house or external products to meet the needs of the diverse student body within their classrooms. And these curriculum creators need to share copyrighted quality content in a compliant way.
Knowing this need, CCC came up with a solution. Our Annual Copyright License for Curriculum & Instruction (ACLCI) provides licensees with a broad repertory of rights to use excerpts of high-quality fiction and non-fiction books, magazines, newspapers, and web content from leading publishers, all for use in curriculum and instruction.
Teachers need articles from local newspapers to make content more relevant to today. For example, when teaching John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men about two migrant workers set in the 1930’s, students in the ‘windy city’ could read about modern migrant workers in neighboring communities from an article in the Chicago Tribune, which is just one of the many newspapers published by the Tribune News Agency.
Or these same newspapers may have examples of different leadership styles that may equate to the way Ralph and Jack rule in Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. Perhaps there are even more examples of leadership styles in articles from Newsweek or portions of books from Rosen Publishing.
Of course, a teacher could use a modern poem to connect the main text to the students’ lives. For example, an educator could use a poem with a contemporary vision of the American Dream from Wordsong’s collection of poetry books to supplement Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
Overall, these classics have withstood the test of time because they speak to the human spirit. We will all experience adolescent love as does Romeo & Juliet in the play of that same name by William Shakespeare. We have all experienced the green-eyed monster, which Iago in Othello aptly names jealousy and which Gene finds himself feeling toward his best friend Finny in A Separate Peace, by John Knowles. Teachers and students alike could explore a clinical point of view of love, jealousy, and friendship through articles based on psychological research. The ACLCI includes Science News, National Geographic, and the American Medical Association.
Using the diverse content that is more reflective of today’s America within their curricula will make the disconnected more connected, so even more students will know more answers phrased in the form of a question.
Later that year, the very same student came to me and said she was watching Jeopardy with her grandparents and actually knew some of the literature facts.