In October last year, Penguin and the Runnymede Trust announced they would join forces to diversify the English curriculum in schools. They claim that they want all students to ‘develop a sense of belonging, identity and social cohesion’ in books (https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2020/october/lit-in-colour-students-belonging-books.html). This is a very tall, instrumental order for books and teachers – social cohesion isn’t something directly teachable via choosing ‘the right’ books. By contrast, Saisudha Acharya, a teacher in India, values great literature, Western or Indian, for its own special qualities. She understands that broadening horizons means something different to just adding books by ‘Black authors’:
Reading classics in a classroom gives students an opportunity to not just read but also discuss these works. Listening to a variety of perspectives on the same set of words broadens our horizons and provides a deeper understanding. Listening to a teacher or a peer talk excitedly about something they gained from a piece of prose or poetry can open an uninterested reader’s eyes to a new way of exploring the same text.
Photo credit: stanislav-kondratiev-6pO3QFkk7hQ-, Unsplash