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Many American High School Reading Lists Have Looked The Same For Decades. Should That Change?

A January 28, 2010 photo shows a copies of
A January 28, 2010 photo shows a copies of "The Catcher in the Rye" by author J.D. Salinger at a bookstore in Washington, DC.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

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High schoolers across the country are accustomed to a familiar set of reading assignments: The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, The Grapes Of Wrath. 

In other words, a list not so different from what was taught in American schools half a century ago. However, some students and educators have begun pushing for different books and alternative ways to teach and reinvigorate the American high school canon for young people today. A popular hashtag, #DisruptTexts, began as a social media forum for educators to discuss ways to bring newer books and more diverse authors into their syllabi. #DisruptTexts has since become a larger project to help teachers and students incorporate more authors of color into their reading lists, as well as get ideas for teaching texts from alternative perspectives so as to better connect with students. The concept has faced pushback online, however, from some who take issue with the idea that teachers may change certain titles on school syllabi, and see it as a form of censorship.

Today on AirTalk, we’re discussing the American high school literary canon. Are you an educator or student that has changed or reappraised your classes’ curriculum? How do you think literature should be taught in American schools? We want to hear from you! Comment below or give us a call at 866-893-5722.


Lorena Germán, middle and high school english teacher at Headwaters School in Austin, TX, and one of the founders of #DisruptTexts; she tweets @nenagerman