The lack of self-identity in today’s curriculum
May 21, 2020
Even though John W. North embodies a great diversity in different aspects like race, ethnicities and cultures, our literature curriculums and the books from our libraries do not illustrate that. Regardless of how many teachers push for more diversity in the literature curriculum, the main problem comes from the school’s budget and what the staff is allowed to do with it.
Numerous teachers at North have made attempts to add in material that include authors from different races and ethnicities in order to make a connection with our diverse campus. In order to successfully do that the district must allow for teachers to buy those books, however the school cannot always afford to do so. The funding for more diverse books is difficult to acquire because of North’s big population. In order to add or replace a book in the literature curriculum, at least 500 copies must be purchased so that there are enough for every literature class of that grade level.
“I agree that we don’t have a lot of diversity in our books but I do know that we are trying to get more books for next year to bring in voices from Hispanic, Asian, [African American] and female [authors]. For example, for tenth grade next year we are trying to bring up a new book called Girl in Translation. It talks from the perspective of a non-English speaker and Chinese immigrant who grows up to be successful. She writes about [issues that come with] being a teenager which [can] really connect with our students. One thing I did wish for is for us to be able to have the funds to buy more books [but the process of] bringing in different books has been slow,” said literature teacher and English department co-chair Ms. Ruiz.
The idea of bringing in a more diverse curriculum has been discussed for a very long time. Even though teachers bring up excerpts or short novels from authors of different backgrounds, there are still a lot of the old books in the curriculum. Though the process of changing the curriculum has been slow, “new” books have luckily been added to the curriculum over the years. One example would be Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart which represents Nigerian culture. Achebe’s novel connects back to not only students who come from Nigerian or African descent but it also presents an opportunity for people to learn about other cultures.
“For a long time we have had curriculums that are based upon older British novels but I think the diversity in our curriculums is getting better. I think we are always trying to bring in new things but unfortunately it always goes down to a situation of money. It is also difficult to find books because we don’t want to include authors that have a specific cultural viewpoint. A lot of the times you will get the same story that’s being told as if it were a single story which isn’t necessarily everybody’s experience. [Because of this, it can be] difficult to be inclusive because you’re trying to allow people to see themselves in the works that they are reading,” said literature teacher Mrs. Shields.
The budget is the main concern as to why books can’t be added to the curriculum but there is also a selective method that teachers care about when choosing diverse books. They want to ensure that all of the students feel a connection towards what they read in class. Most students look forward to feeling represented when they are in their literature classes and to learning more about other cultures.
“We definitely need other cultures to represent the population here at school. I haven’t read much of the Hispanic culture or other cultures. The only book that interested me and totally represented me and my culture was The House on Mango Street. If people can relate to a certain book it can become interesting and it may draw other people to know more about a culture. They may also find some similarities between it like their ideologies or values” said sophomore Fernanda de Los Reyes.
Many students seek something distinctive to their particular races, ethnicities and cultures but they also seek a connection between all cultures. Having different authors in the literature curriculum can educate students on different cultures and ideologies as well as give them the chance to relate their own personal experiences and struggles to what they are reading. Changing the literature curriculum is overall going to be a slow process due to lack of funds, however progress will continue being made as time goes on.