whenever I think about how patterns change in cultures and peoples regardless of how outrageous those may be sometimes, i would always go back to that classroom discussion in high school when I was a senior. i remember how hard the teacher tried to lead us to the right track in getting to the theme of the story at hand as we labor over our photocopies of Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery.
a subtle yet sharp piece that created a ruckus at the time it was published in The New Yorker in 1948, the short story tells about a day in a town where all the denizens convene for a lottery. the lottery was a tradition that some communities have abandoned, and as to what that lottery entails and details in the constitution of the dark plot, that is left for the reader to piece out and judge.
there is more to the reading experience than the beauty of the story itself that rendered the whole encounter unforgettable. the teacher was trying to talk to us about human nature, about how we react to things that we cannot change but needs revision, and why action is needed promptly if we want to make this world a better place to live in. these concepts could have been tackled in our other classes like social science or more astutely, economics; but we were in an english class and we were reading literature.
literature has always served as an indelible and effective avenue to developing young minds around us. characters, loved and loathed, speak to us in unfathomable depths and awaken emotions in us that we never felt before. the situations that befall them and the adventures they wish to undertake inspire in us similar longings and dreams. these stories, in more ways than one, mirror the way we live our lives and deal with conflicts with other people, our surroundings, or with ourselves.
it is regardless of genre or form, but the origin of the material or the inspiration of the authors in writing such are of curious interest. here, we talk about how differently persons from other nations would control a similar situation stumbled upon by somebody from the other side of the planet. we talked about how culture plays a substantial role in defining a person’s variable moods. in these literature classes, we celebrate the power of the human to defend his self through whatever challenges fate would throw his way.
it came as a surprise then that the department of education functionaries decided to merge two core subjects in grades 11 and 12 into one for the k-12 curriculum. the subjects, 21st-century regional literature and world literature, can never be combined according to literary and humanities teachers and scholars because it is “pedagogically impossible”. regional literature is a survey of philippine literature written in our regional languages while world literature covers works of Nobel laureates and writers embodying other countries around the world.
aside from the fact that the decision was made without cogent consultation with literature syllabus planners and authorities, it is also criticized for downsizing the importance of literature towards students, especially since the k-12 program aims to make the students more competent and equipped for higher education. the benefits of literature reading, ranging from reading comprehension and improvement on vocabulary and syntax, are followed through by creative capabilities in writing and criticism.
another fact of the matter is that humanities have been taking a curve for the bottom lately. International journals and magazines bemoan the decline of literature and humanities majors in college. studies and surveys show a downward spiral for reading aptitude. gadgets and social media have a higher share over reading materials and athletics for students’ times nowadays.
it is not a matter of putting the humanities over other subjects, no. It is a unique discipline in itself that caters to certain learning needs in students. It balances the curriculum beside sciences and technical skills. there are some things that can never be learned within the four walls of the classroom and literature as the study of life as it happens, not scientifically so, is a window that helps illustrate the world to the youth.
after all, what is a better way of teaching the concepts of freedom, the political and social dynamics that run our society, the myriad (and sometimes uncomfortable) coming-of-age questions high school students ask than with To Kill A Mockingbird or The Diary of Anne Frank, Robert Frost’s The Road Less Taken, maybe a Tolstoy or a Salinger, or a song or essay from the local color?