Why Literature?

I love literature, reading literature, talking about literature, watching literature on the big and small screens. I especially love teaching literature; I love working with students when they discover how authors create meaning.

Today, I began my 15th year of teaching standing in front of an AP Lit class, thinking about how we tear into literature, how we look for patterns in language and symbols, and how we use these ideas to examine a text’s significance.

Preparing for today, I grappled with the controversy surrounding Advanced Placement courses or more specifically, the controversy with the battery of standardized tests in May.  Like the majority of those in Advanced Placement courses, our students want the AP course on their transcript and would be thrilled to earn a 4 or a 5 on the exam.  I want our students to instead find their joy digging into a literary text, putting together the puzzle pieces left by the author.  And I wonder what would happen to scores if we concentrated on reading, analysis, and writing skills and not on practice tests and timed writings. I do not have the courage to try this, not yet.

This year I have the courage to “PBL” our AP Lit curriculum with driving questions that will lead to action.  This year our AP Lit students will wrestle with “Why Literature?” while tackling literary analysis and its place in the “real world.”  For this unit, Identity and Culture, my seniors will figure out how to persuade AP World Studies students that reading literature can reveal cultural values.

I’ll keep you posted.

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