Teachers Must do Detective Work to Select Texts

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An increasing demand of high stakes accountability testing at secondary levels, along with the threat of federal levels of accountability for post-secondary programs has prompted many departments to take a critical look at their pedagogical canons. Concern about the lack of diversity represented within the traditional western canon, and its failure to reflect growing numbers of ethnically and culturally diverse students is also a conflict faced by editors of literary anthologies. How is literary merit evaluated and awarded? Which authors must be replaced in order to update the canon to better reflect changing pedagogical needs? This conversation is one of necessity for educators at every level, and is becoming of increasing importance as the implications of the pedagogical canon are weighed against the evolving nature of authorship and audience in increasingly diverse classrooms. When making curricular decisions in any educational institution, most educators must consider which texts will best serve the needs of their students in attaining specific curricular requirements, whether those be state-imposed standards, or departmental requirements. Determining which texts will stay on their syllabus often becomes a struggle between tradition and cultural relevance. As author William Bennett once suggested, we continue to teach the canon because “the highest purpose of reading is to be in the company of great souls” (Bennett, qtd. in Bolter 150). What makes a text or author
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