Jessica Sarrach ‘24, Lyonlife Editor-in-Chief
Tuesdays With Morrie, The Lord of the Flies, The Crucible, The Scarlet Letter, Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, The Great Gatsby, Nature, A Separate Peace, and Catcher in the Rye. All ten of these books are taught through the English department’s freshman and sophomore curriculums.. All ten of these books were written by white men. To Kill a Mockingbird, the House on Mango Street, and Raisin in the Sun are the only three books in the curriculum that are written by women or people of color. There is a gross inadequacy regarding the diversity of the school’s English curriculum novels. The curriculum seemingly favors the perspectives of white men based on sheer volume, and this one-sided view prevents students from gaining a well rounded perspective regarding literature, society, and perspective.
Growing up, we often reflect a lot of the ideals we learn from books and how those help us understand our own lives. As we see characters grow and struggle, we can choose aspects passed down from authors and characters to bring into our everyday lives. By only learning and reading from the viewpoint of white men, other perspectives are being neglected. Senior Ashlyn Waters said, “I wish that we were able to see a more diverse group of writers and characters growing up in school. I think that because we didn’t get a larger group of viewpoints, our knowledge was slanted.” White men are not the minority, and therefore they do not go through a lot of the struggles attributed to being in a minority group. By learning from a repertoire of diverse viewpoints students would have an opportunity to become more well rounded, kinder, empathetic, cultured people who have an interest in learning diverse viewpoints.
The need for diversity in literature stems past the ability to grow and learn from characters, it also pertains to a need for people to relate to characters from outside the real world. We often try to find parallels between our lives and those bred in literature. With so many white male point of views being streamlined, many readers and learners are left longing for a connection between themselves and their favorite characters. Sophomore Abby Sartori said, “I’d like to think that no young girls and women enjoy reading about their favorite female character being pushed to the side and thrown away while men become the heroes. The lack of representation of strong women in books is gross, even in books written by female authors we see the way the women are pushed to the side and men are brought to the top.” She added, “You can also see the same thing with POC and LGBTQ+ characters, they are overlooked and underappreciated. When I read, it’s hard to connect with a character that nobody seems to notice.” We all like to feel seen, or have our feelings validated, and with a lack of diversity in literature not only regarding the range of writers, but also in the range of characters, it is hard to relate to stories.
Books are able to teach us how to approach other people’s feelings. With a short span of cultural experiences from the books we are taught, it can be more difficult to learn how to empathize with other people’s struggles. English teacher Mr. Jeffrey Prueter said, “Our literature at SLHS objectively does not amplify voices that are already marginalized nearly enough. We have to do better because inclusive practices are important if we want students to be engaged, critical thinkers about the world.” He continued, “ These types of practices guarantee the perspectives and contributions of all people — especially those who have been traditionally marginalized— are given equal recognition, attention, and care. Those conversations are starting to happen, but the shifts haven’t come to fruition yet.” With a more vast viewpoint, students would be able to grasp a larger spectrum of how to properly approach and appreciate other cultures, worldviews, and feelings.
Throughout our education, we read a large quantity of books. These books we study are set to teach us past just the words on pages. With a lack of diversity in the schools English curriculums, students are left longing for a larger span of viewpoints. Until our school fixes the lack of diversity we see in literature, we will not be able to fully grow as learners.