Contemporary vs. Classic Literature

Nathaniel Burkhart, Copy Editor

The books teachers use in the classroom has been debated over the years; usually about classic literature versus contemporary literature. One side of the argument says that classic literature is irrelevant in today’s society because what held importance back then is no longer important. In addition, it can contain subject matter that is seen as inappropriate today. Contemporary literature, on the other hand, can’t always teach the students the same as classic literature because it is often watered down for them to avoid backlash from parents.


An example of this backlash occurred a few years ago in the Intermediate school. An English class was going to read the book Eleanor and Park, but some parents didn’t want their children to read it because of some of the subject matter. They were concerned that it would ruin their children’s innocence. Because of this, it was removed from the class and the students had to do something else for that time.


This situation is not uncommon with classic literature, either. Novels like Lord of the Flies are frowned upon in more than a few schools for some of the events that occur within it. Opponents to classic literature often mention the violent or inappropriate subject matter to justify removing such books. Proponents claim that it helps teach important lessons to the students. Regardless of what is true and what isn’t, there are two clear sides to the argument. Mostly if not all classic or mostly if not all contemporary literature. There is, however, a third side.


When asked for her opinion on the subject Bobbi Kidd, the YCIS language arts teacher, mentioned that it doesn’t have to be one side or the other. “There should be a balance of newer young adult novels mixed with the classics,” she said. “The classics have influenced what we read today… Yet we cannot forget that the more modern young adult novels have been and are doing the same thing.” Kidd goes on to say that we need a balance of both for the best teaching experience.

Renee McKinney, one of the YCHS language arts teachers, agreed. She said we should not stop reading classic literature because it is still very much relevant in today’s classes. In her experience, one of the newer books she teaches with does teach better for certain groups. Despite that, she says there is value in everything. “There is always a way to bring in real-world connections to themes and human experiences,” she said. “As the teacher, it is my job to show HOW and WHY it is still relevant.”