Specific Texts in High Schools

Essay by delldeskCollege, UndergraduateA, February 2009

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My generation of the Joes family has experienced a curriculum where students of different schools are able to read different texts but my parent's generation has experienced an entire nation following the same curriculum and reading the same texts. Having all students read the same books and follow the same curriculum has a greater benefit for all the students in the nation because everyone is on the same educational level. Being on this same educational level, all the students in the nation applying to colleges would be given the same opportunity. Although there are some cons to this idea such as the fact that teachers will no longer be able to have the amount of freedom to teach and their students might get bored of such a dry curriculum; the pros of an equal education where no one student from a state is better equipped for higher education because of their teachers choices outweighs the cons.

While freedom in education does open the minds of the students, an equal curriculum can encourage students of different states or counties to have more rigor in their courses. Under the most frequently required titles table, comparing just public schools with private schools, public schools are required to read Julius Caesar 70% of the time while private schools are only required to read it 42% of the time. This significance in the percentages can students in public high schools are more prepared with that aspect of literature while the students in private school have no knowledge about it. Without having this knowledge, students of public schools will be more ready in college if references are made to Julius Caesar while the private school students won't be able to make the correlation. An example of inequalities between counties would be Montgomery County and Frederick County. The curriculum in Frederick County is less vigorous but since they take AP courses there too, they could be getting the same grades as the student in Montgomery County who is taking a rigorous AP course. This inequality would show that the Frederick County students are equally or more capable than the Montgomery County students which is not true because the only reason that the Frederick County students are receiving the good grades is because of their easy curriculum. As indicated by Robert M. Fowler, "The cannon was appropriate to a centralized educational system, in which everyone studied the same subjects and the same texts in order to introduce into the standards of cultural life." This basic introduction to cultural life cannot be upheld if the students all over a nation are not required to read the same texts. My parent's generation is from Peru, in Peru; all the students all over the nation read the same texts and study the same material. This is beneficial because when its time for them to compete to get into a spot in college, all the students of the nation are equally prepared with the same amount of culture and knowledge. Reading the same texts all over a nation standardizes the education in positive aspect which encourages equality and forces student's education to be more rigorous.

People favoring a free curriculum identify the cons of a centralized education with the main focus being that the students are unable to experience greater knowledge if being limited to a curriculum based study. My generation in my family are the first to experience this free curriculum which allows all students of the nation to be able to study different texts. Although this does keep the class interesting because you are able to read different points of views, as a student I feel threatened because I am depending on what my teacher decides to teach. A reason for why centralized education isn't ideal for education systems are explained by George P. Landow. In his excerpt, he explains only some writers are granted entrance in the "literary canon" which allows these writers to get privileges over the rest. The privileges that these writers receive are the chance to be in Anthologies more often because they are "famous writers". By allowing a centralized education, teachers are indeed exposing their students to only learn the literature chosen by editors instead of literature that will truly open their students mind to greater arguments. In source D, The Norton Anthology claims to posses all the World's Masterpieces in one volume. These are only the literature that the editor believed were masterpieces thus not encouraging greater education or interest on the students. As Michael Greer has explained in source C, "teachers have to make their own decisions about what to include in a course and know that they can't trust anthologies to answer students' question about the nature and significance of poetry." He recommends teachers to teach the anthologies alongside other literature that will intrigue the mind of the students. In doing this, the educational value that the students are gaining is greater because they have both the required text and extra texts which allow them to understand the idea better.

Students through specific standardized texts receive the benefit of equality when attempting to achieve higher education. This higher education contains the pros that the curriculum can force some schools to push their students more since they have specific criteria to meet during the school year. Also, each student will be receiving a standardized amount of culture of different races and events that will help them throughout their lives. The cons of such a limited education is that teachers aren't going to be able to provide their students with the texts of her choice and thus some of the students will not be capable of understanding the material given. Also, with a free curriculum, the teacher doesn't expose themselves to the biases of editors and the influence of the literary cannon like centralized educators do. For this problem, the nation should include the anthologies in the curriculum and other related literature to allow some type of variety to the students. Overall, the pros do outweigh the cons since the ability to centralize education will benefit every student not just the "lucky ones" with the "good teachers".