A recent YAAYNHO post had to do with whether or not kids should be REQUIRED to read the "classic" books of history. The writer made the argument that it is much better for kids to read what they are interested in. What THEY want to read. Requiring students to read the classics was, she felt, counterproductive to making them interested in reading. I thought about her argument and then I recalled my own history of reading the classics and the irony that I was currently reading Moby Dick. A book I had chosen to read and was not part of any syllabus.
Then I thought back to my favorite teacher ever - Mr. Joe Kraus who was my AP English teacher in high school. In his class we WERE REQUIRED to read Hamlet, Cat's Cradle, Catch-22, Death of a Salesman, etc etc. I can recall him, much like Robin Williams in Dead Poet's Society, standing atop his desk reciting scenes fromHamlet. I ate up the books. I will always recall Joe Kraus and his class fondly. He always encouraged me to be a writer. And I am GLAD I was forced to read some classics.
Anyone who knows me personally is quite aware I am not a conservative conformist who bows to authority. But I also realize that classics are classics for a reason. LikeThe Beatles's music and films by Capra, the work stands the test of time. They challenge the reader to think and interpret and delve into the layers of meaning. Let's face it- if we let kids make their own decisions about everything they would eat crap food, watch crap TV and never ever do anything for anyone else but their own narcissistic selves. It's what makes a kid a "kid". Children, I strongly believe, have to be TAUGHT to appreciate beauty and the value it. Comedian Billy Connolly tells the story of bringing his kids to see the gorgeous scenery in Scotland and telling them "You see, mountains and trees in that order is pretty. OOh. Ahh. Say it kids "Ooooh" "Ahh!".
He is right.
As a teen I was encourage to read on a variety of topics and hold that dear to this day. Would I have CHOSEN on my own to read Macbeth or Waiting for Godot? Probably not. Am I glad I was made to read them?
So I stand on the side of TO CLASSIC. And mix in with that anything else your mind desires to read (including my to-be-released-in-June kidlit novel, RUPERT STARBRIGHT: The Door to Far-Myst from Zumaya Publications's Threshold imprint) . You will be a better human for it.