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Inspired by recent higher education posts by Rob and Claire, as well as by a long ago one by Peter regarding appropriate and entertaining books for teens, I wonder if Ricochet can come up with books that American middle and high school students must read in school? We can assume there would be a decent teacher, but not a great one. We should assume students of all backgrounds and of average intelligence.
For starters, I wonder if I’m the only dolt on here who had the following problem: I was asked to read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn before I knew anything about slavery, Animal Farm without grasping the most basic forms of government, The Scarlet Letter without really “getting” adultery, and Romeo and Juliet with only a modicum of understanding of my own English, much less that from 400 years earlier.
I was supposed to have digested these, among too many others, before high school. I read them as an adult, so I can appreciate their “classic” status. But I have also had to teach these same works to 12- and 13-year-old students of all abilities, and I feel that these choices for this age quite simply – and quite quickly — turn students away from reading.
How can we solve this puzzle? What are 5-10 books we should expect middle and high school students to 1) understand, 2) learn some useful history from, and 3) learn a life lesson from?
As Claire might say, please justify your choices.