In school, whether it be at the high school or college levels, there are usually lists of books thought as being essential reading. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.--a Pulitzer Prize winning historian--calls this list in his book The Disuniting of America, a 'canon' or 'canonical literature.' A problem exists with this canon, at least Schlesinger claims there is. He states that the canon is being used 'as an instrument of European oppression enforcing the hegemony of the white race, the male sex, and the capitalist class...' From my high school experience, I believe this is not true. At my high school, teachers encourage students to read not only standard English literature, but also to study the great writers of other cultures.
There is a great deal of European influence in American society and in American education. Some people, like the Afrocentrists, feel that this influence is too heavy and that schools should also be teaching about other cultures in their classes.
Schlesinger states in his book that he 'believes in the importance of teaching Americans the history of other cultures--East Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Polynesia.' Since we live in a multicultural society, we should be teaching a multicultural curriculum.
At my high school, I feel as if I received this type of education. The teachers encourage students to read not only standard English literature, but also to study the great writers of other ethnicities. My high school is a private college preparatory institution in San Francisco. Some authors whose works we read in our English classes consisted of Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Ovid, Maya Angelou, Chaim Potok, John Steinbeck, Amy Tan, Chinua Achebe, and C. S. Lewis.
This curriculum is not at all what Schlesinger claims to be the current 'American literary canon: Emerson,