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Abstract

This article evolved from recent conversations with middle and high school English/Language Arts teachers about the literary canon. The conversations were based on a question posed by one teacher in a professional development workshop: “To teach or not to teach the literary canon? That is my question.” Other teachers quickly stated that they have always struggled with this question and still do today. As a former English/Language Arts teacher, I recognized the importance of this question and afterwards spent time asking myself: Is the literary canon a virtue, vice, or both? This article shares my current best thinking about this question. I begin with background on the conversation and then discuss what teachers did and did not talk about. Next, I share a text set of picture books to help teachers and teacher educators continue talking about the literary canon. I end with final thoughts, one of which is that teacher preferences and pragmatics are important but insufficient when talking about the literary canon. Research on reading and curriculum theory is most important.

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