What Should We Be Reading in Today’s English Classroom? | Jeannette Lee-Parikh, PhD | 9 Min Read

March 31, 2021

Late last year, another shot was fired in the perennial war on the role of the classics in the high school English curriculum. According to Megan Cox Gurdon, the Wall Street Journal’s children’s book reviewer, classic texts are being purged from the classroom (I have deliberately not hyperlinked it — you can find it behind WSJ’s paywall on your own). In one of the instances Gurdon cited, a Lawrence High School in Massachusetts banned Homer’s Odyssey. When there was the inevitable media follow-up, the English teacher criticized in Gurdon’s article explained that the 9th-grade ELA team chose to reimagine the 9th-grade curriculum, “to best meet the needs of our students[.]….[T[his year almost all of our curriculum needed to be reshaped…once we realized virtual learning would continue.” Ah, do I see the specter of COVID-19 — a virus that has even infected the curriculum! Which school hasn’t made curricular changes because of COVID-19?

What lies underneath the disappearance of the Odyssey in this instance is an intersectional response to student need, historical circumstance (COVID-19), and time. A teaching team looked at the type of time available in a specific school year and made decisions based on…

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Jeannette Parikh

Jeannette M E Lee Parikh, Ph.D., is the assistant editor for Intrepid Ed News as well as the chair of the English department and head of community reading at The Cambridge School of Weston (CSW). Before CSW, where she has been since the fall of 2010, she taught at the college level for six years. She is an ISTE Certified Teacher and OER advocate. She is an experienced practitioner of integrating department-wide academic technology that serves pedagogical and curriculum goals. Her teaching philosophy exists at the intersection of the science of learning and cultivating creative thinking, joy, curiosity, playfulness, and self-awareness in all learners. She has presented at conferences on the importance of deep reading, critical listening, authentic discussion, and strategic writing in the 21st-century classroom.