Literature reflects life in general, or that’s how it should have been. But it is no secret that most of the literature students read in class are written by white people, describing ‘white lives in different shades.’ That is why it is hard for students of different cultural identities to invest fully into the texts they have been assigned. During the 1940s, the psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted their now-famous “doll test” that showed how black children attributed the positive qualities to white dolls while the negative ones to the black dolls. If black students do not get to see themselves reflected in the pages of their favorite fiction, it may very well wreck their self-confidence and a sense of belonging.
The Reason For The Disconnect: When it comes to studying literature in class, no one can deny that most texts talk about the white experience in the western world. Statistics show that white writers are published more and are therefore given prizes compared to non-white writers. So, it is hard to find literature in the curriculum that reflects the black experiences, rightfully portrayed. Teaching literature to a diverse group of students can be challenging for any teacher. But a skilled educator rises above the challenges and act in the best interest of his pupils. Teachers can adapt the differentiated instruction program to help the student learn better. The differentiated method of learning is individualistic and proven effective in an inclusive classroom. Here are some things a teacher can do to make learning literature more fun for everyone.
Describe The Context: When studying canonical texts by white authors, make sure the students know the historical background of the writings. For example, a class may have ‘The Tempest’ in the curriculum and are bothered by the portrayal of Native Caliban. The Tempest has been seen through the post-colonial lens in recent years, especially the characters of Caliban and his mother, Sycorax. As a teacher, one can enlighten the young minds to alternative texts that complement and elaborate the canonized text itself.
- When dealing with sensitive topics such as race and gender in literature, a teacher should always provide students with the modern viewpoint of the text. Over time society’s outlook drastically changes, but the old texts have no way of modifying themselves. Therefore, the educators must provide as much background information about the text as possible.
- Encourage students to further investigate the modern readings of the text even though they might not be part of their original syllabus. Most of the research papers on these canonical texts are available online for further study.
Add New Books: A teacher may discuss with his peers and add new books to the curriculum that reflect a diverse taste in literature. Even though one cannot change the syllabus itself, one can always encourage students to read more books. The school library should house a vast selection of literature from different regions representing diverse cultural heritage. Often white teachers themselves don’t have the living experiences required to analyze authentically black writings; so they tend to stick to the books they’ve been taught as a student. Therefore, one simply cannot deny the crucial importance of alternate textbooks in the classroom.