Exploring the Value of Canonical Literature and Its Role in Modern Education

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Exploring the Value of Canonical Literature and Its Role in Modern Education

The English curriculum within most modern high schools seems to be comprised of two main portions. The first of these is the grammatical component, which seeks to help students better understand the structure and function of language. This aspect, although considered tedious by many students, certainly has immense value. Communication within the bounds of the English language is governed by a multitude of grammatical rules. Any student who wishes to communicate effectively must possess at least a basic understanding of these standards. The grammatical component, however, does not stand alone in the high school English classroom. It typically
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They should not be taken as a condemnation of its contents. This collection of works, in spite of any limitations it may possess, manages to cover a wide range of subject matter. From the joys of self-discovery in Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to the frustration and obsession chronicled in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, the classics seem to visit upon most every emotion known to man. It is this wide emotional catalogue that furthers the canon’s greatness. The fact that it contains works chronicling such a wide variety of feelings helps to ensure that most everyone will be able to relate to the contents of the canon.

The canon of classics also carries with it an enormous amount of wisdom. These books can expose students to many of the “seminal ideas of civilization” (Dixon 3). They can teach invaluable lessons if read properly. Unfortunately, however, the wisdom of the canon remains undiscovered by many students. Often, these individuals become weighed down either by the language of a novel or by the fact that the work is not always fast-paced and exhilarating. These students ultimately fail to grasp the essence of the work. The blame for this failure, however, cannot be placed solely on the student. Many high school teachers fail to help connect students with the issues and moral lessons contained within the works of the canon. Too often, these instructors focus on factual memorization
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