By Amran

Educators should take special measures to teach their students about different cultures and people. As communities and schools become more diverse, it’s important for teachers to find ways to improve their lessons to promote acceptance of cultural differences and help students have a better understanding of other cultures as well. The cultural, racial, and ethnic composition of schools in the United States are becoming more diverse. If multicultural education becomes implemented in classrooms, it can help students be more informed about different cultures and even help them interact with them since America is a growing melting pot. Reading is a great way to help engage your students in cultural experiences from their own backgrounds or even other people’s backgrounds, so it’s very important to incorporate this in your lessons. One of the most important things students do in high school is read, which is why books by diverse authors should be taught in classrooms to help students be more acceptive of others, help their curiosity, and also get a different perspective of a life they don’t live.

Firstly, the story “ A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner is taught in high school classes to teach students about discrimination and cultural appreciation, however in the story “ Everyday Use” by Alice Walker it gives the same idea and message to readers with a first person perspective. “ A Rose for Emily” shows the racial discrimination for women in the 19th century. An example is how the story portrays a racist southern area of town highlighting racial discrimination that black people faced. In the story “A Rose for Emily” it states, “The Negro led them into the parlor. It was furnished in heavy, leather-covered furniture. When the Negro opened the blinds of one window, they could see that the leather was cracked; and when they sat down, a faint dust rose sluggishly about their thighs, spinning with slow motes in the single sun-ray” (Faulkner). The servant for Ms. Emily was refered to as a NegroThe servant for Ms. Emily was referred to as a Negro which is a term that is offensive to black people in this day and age. This can cause students to be uncomfortable in class.. Through the whole story the servant was referred to that word and not by his real name which shows how black people were referred to at the time. Although in the story “Everyday Use” it states the same message to people and gives a more in- depth view to readers. An example of this is when Dee struggles to accept her cultural background as a black woman in a racist society. She is ashamed of her heritage and is having a problem accepting it. Although in the story, “Everyday Use”, Walker writes, “No, Mama,” she says, “Not ‘Dee,’ Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!” (Walker). Dee doesn’t want to be called by her birth name and wanted to be called a new name. This showed the disconnect between Dee and her heritage. She turned away from her roots like other African Americans and wanted a different lifestyle that wasn’t different or odd at that time. This showed the disconnect between Dee and her heritage. It seemed to her mother that her daughter had turned away from her roots like other African Americans and wanted a different lifestyle, this hurt her mother since she did everything for Dee. The characters in both stories struggled with changes in their lives in different ways. Both these stories showed how women were being discriminated against and how society viewed them. Also these stories are similar due to the fact that they were both written during the time Africian Americans were being discriminated against. Although a teacher might prefer to teach “A Rose for Emily” to their students because of the famous classic author of the book and the message it gives, they should consider teaching “Everyday Use” instead. Walker provides the same message of discrimination and cultural appreciation in her story and uses a black women to be the narrator of the story to go over it. This story would be much more interesting and engaging to students and would provide them with more information about the past; especially for African American children to embrace their culture and to not be ashamed of it. 

A popular poem taught to high school students that I have personally read for a class is “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman. It’s a joyfully poem that describes the people who make up America and how they have a place to live freely; however, “America” by Claude McKay also can voice an important message to students in high school the speaker talks about his love-hate relationship with America. The poem “ I Hear America Singing” expresses that everyone is equal here in America and praises working Americans and their role in society. An example is “Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs” (Whitman). Throughout the poem Whitman uses symbolism with the word “singing” as it represents freedom and wholeness by showing how everyone is equal in America. Also how they had a right to “sing” and use their voice. Whitman talks about many different jobs and pictures their happiness. He uses different words like “carols”, “blithe”, and “strong” to show optimism. Whitman also praises all the different people in America and all the songs they each sing; however in the poem “America” by Claude McKay it gives a deeper understanding about how a person in America views the country. For instance, in the quote “ I stand within her walls with not a shred Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer. Darkly I gaze into the days ahead, And see her might and granite wonders there”.  McKay is presenting how he personally feels about America. He states how America has helped him gain courage and accept that some days will be better than others as he looks “into the days ahead”. As well as knowing that there is going to be tough days that can tear him down as he uses “darkly”. Although he feels all these different emotions towards America “ see her might and granite wonders there” he knows at the end of the day it’s a brilliant place. As he says in the quote “might and granite wonders”, showing the power and beauty of the country. Teachers want to teach “ I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman because of the joyous tone of the poem and how it expresses the importance of every type of job in America. Although this is a great message, “America” by Claude McKay brings a more realistic view for students. It’s very important to educate students that everything isn’t perfect and in harmony which McKay demonstrates in his poem. McKay can teach students this important lesson and show them what reality really is in life.

The story Animal Farm by George Orwell is often taught by high school teachers to their students to educate them about equality and inequality and how leaders will use their power to work for their own favor; however the text “Drone” by Hari Kuzura can also provide students with the same message by showing, how inequality in India could become an extreme. Teachers might want to teach Orwell’s text due to all the different lessons it provides for students and how it reflects on Stalin’s brutal reign over the Soviet Union. However, the story “Drone” can show students things that can happen in the near future and things that can lead up to it.  An example of this is in India where water is very sacred at the moment and foreigners are using this problem to profit off of them. This is specifically shown when Kuzura writes,  “The miners take the mud for washing. They must pay for this. Water is precious, almost as precious as the particles washed out of the mud. The men who run the washers are foreigners. They wear hazmat suits and expensive ventilators” (Kuzura). The miners are very poor men desperate to wash the mud in their pile. Miners caked in mud because it’s their livelihood and it’s their normal. They carry their piles no matter how heavy it is with their own body strength with no help. When they get to the point to wash the mud off, foreign men are waiting there ready to charge them money while they’re wearing hazmat suits and expensive ventilators. Also another thing is how the miners are getting cheated by the foreigners and are getting their natural resources taken instead. This is shown in the story in the quote, “The miners look like beggars, children at an orphanage. Everyone knows the washers are cheating them. Everyone knows that when the waste mud is rewashed, late at night, it will turn out not to be waste at all” (Kuzura). This is explaining how the miners are getting ripped off and being used by the foreigners. All they want is the metal inside the mud since it’s very valuable and the only thing greater powers care about. “Drone” by Hari Kuzura can be informative to students, by showing them that the people who are in charge are the most powerful and how they target people who are below them since there’s no equality. In Orwell’s text, it shows students how people who are in charge are the most powerful and how people who aren’t as powerful are targeted, however “Drone” by Hari Kuzura can be informative to students since it’s showing how this exact thing of no equality can happen in the future as well. Which can be beneficial to them to understand that everyone still doesn’t have equality in this world.

The novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is often taught to high school students to encourage them to accept people for who they are, and how someone can blossom from that, also many of the things going on in the book happen to high schoolers, so it’s relatable to them; however, in “The Story of Us” by Hanna Ali it can provide students with the same idea by giving them a story about a little girl living in Somalia, and how she wanted to do something out of the ordinary and the obstacles she had to face. Teachers lean toward teaching books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower  because they feel like it’ll help us deal with things we experience in high school which is true, but at the same time we do go out of our way to learn things about ourselves by using the internet. Also, everyone isn’t going through the same things in high school and it’s really not that interesting to read a book about it since we are actually living it. In Ali’s text, students will be able to learn more about how children live in other countries and what they go through. Such as in the quote, “The collateral damage of a broken home, packed suitcases and forged identity documents ”(Hanna). The main character is expressing the damage the war in her country caused her. Growing up in a war torn country can be damaging for any child, it can bring back bad memories and affect them as they get older. It’s important for other people to understand this and learn more about it, to better educate themselves about what different countries are going through. Hanna also expresses the problem some children face when they want to pick a career their parents don’t agree with or accept. Instead their parents have other plans and goals for their children to accomplish. For instance in the quote, “ When I first told my mother that I wanted to become a writer and study literature at university, she tilted her head to the side in a moment of genuine confusion because all subjects involve literature of some sort; did I mean law?” (Hanna). The main character is in a situation where her mother doesn’t understand her daughters desire to study writing and is amused by it. Her mother doesn’t really like what she decided to do since it’s out of the ordinary which impacts her daughter. Towards the end of the story the main character decides to do what makes her happy and pursues her dreams. As a reader this story made me appreciate that I live in a country with a great education system and I have the opportunity to further my education here. Since the main character of the story had to go to London for university and had to leave her loved ones behind which was very emotional for her. As well as how she decided to follow her dreams and not let others affect her decision which was very inspiring and I truly believe high school students can benefit from reading “The Story of Us”.

Another often taught novel to high school students is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury it shows the conflict between freedom of thought and censorship throughout the story, however in The Book of Martha by Octavia E Butler it provides students the same idea by showing how a perfect world can’t be made by changing people’s choices and action. Fahrenheit 451 is a very popular book and the authors greatest piece of work and teachers praise it due to its stance on censorship and how people can get manipulated to do certain things. In Butler’s text it shows a woman named Martha who’s tasked by God to make a perfect world. At first she’s afraid of the offer and doesn’t know if she’ll do well but eventually she starts to create solutions for the world. A quote that represents this is, “ “I want them to have the only possible utopia.” Martha thought for a moment. “Each person will have a private, perfect utopia every night—or an imperfect one. If they crave conflict and struggle, they get that. If they want peace and love, they get that. Whatever they want or need comes to them. I think if people go to a … well, a private heaven every night, it might take the edge off their willingness to spend their waking hours trying to dominate or destroy one another” (Butler). Martha decided that people should have lifelike dreams every night so when they wake up they’ll want to create that dream in real life. She wants people to have satisfying dreams that reality can’t give them. Towards the end of the text, Martha has a different opinion about creating the perfect utopia shown in the quote, “I’m afraid the time might come when I won’t be able to stand knowing that I’m the one who caused not only the harm, but the end of the only career I’ve ever cared about. I’m afraid knowing all that might drive me out of my mind someday. She stepped away from God, and already God seemed to be fading, becoming translucent, transparent, gone” (Butler). Martha is having second thoughts about creating this new perfect world. She at first even gave up her career of being a writer just to execute this plan. She doesn’t want to be responsible for any problems this can cause so instead she wants to forget it all and keep the world the same. I would agree that the world should stay the same and there’s no way a perfect utopia could be created. There can’t be a way to create a perfect world by monitoring and eliminating people’s choices; it’s just too complicated. In Bradbury’s novel, it shows what would happen if we allow a government to take control of everything we do and how everyone still wouldn’t follow the rules, however in Butler’s text it would show students that there’s no way a utopia could be made. Since some people might think it’s still possible to do.

The novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzergerld is also another famous book taught to high school students that teaches them about the American Dream and how anyone can make it in America also how you can be driven by love and desire; in the story “ Blazing Sun” by Tatiana Salem Levy it talks about how the narrator that she didn’t like Rio de Janeiro where she grew up and was happier being away from there. The novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzergerld shows how all the major characters are driven by love and desire. In the story “Blazing Sun” it doesn’t show love between people but instead the love of a place by a person. As the narrator comes back to Rio she sees the differences of it over Europe where she came from. This is shown in the quote “The people of Rio economize on words: they don’t greet one another in the lift, or when they get on the bus; they don’t say excuse me before walking between two people, or sorry when they bump into someone; they rarely say please or thank you. When I first arrived back, coming from a country where words build things and define relations, I thought everyone was rude” (Levy). The narrator is comparing the two places and noticing that they are both different in an intriguing way. People in Rio don’t speak with their words but instead with their bodies. This was different for the narrator since she came from a country where people used words to communicate and create relations with. At first she thought it was rude but later one figured out that “ Words don’t always contain the truth, but the body never lies”. Another important quote in the story is “ That’s why I left, why I went away for so many years: nothing is more contradictory to happiness than the obligation to be happy. The requirement that one be cheerful in Rio can be as oppressive as the grey sky in Paris, London or Berlin. Everything in excess becomes banal. And I wasn’t able to be happy having to be happy all the time” (Levy). The narrator feels like it’s demanded to be happy in Rio since everyone there seems happy. They also explain that even if a person is sad in Rio that they’ll overcome it and smile and be happy. I really enjoyed this story and it taught me that a place can have personality just how it is explained in the story about how cheerful Rio is and how it can make anyone there be in a good mood. It would be interesting for students to understand how a place can bring happiness to a person.

The play “Romeo & Juliet” by William Shakesphere is a commonly taught to high school students because of its use of different themes, simplicity and direct characterization; in the story “This Place” by Beth Brant it’s about a gay man named David who’s having a hard time with his sexuality and accepting himself since it’s not common in his community and his family. In “Romeo and Juliet” the two main characters Romeo and Julient are in love but they have a huge problem: their families are enemies and wouldn’t want them to be together. There’s also a common situation happening in the story “This Place”, where David is having a hard time being honest about himself to people since he’s afraid of their reaction.  An example of this is shown in the quote “ Had nothing changed but him. He had left this place and gone to the city to look for other men like himself. He found them. He found a new life, a different life. He found so much” (Brant). David left his small town to find people like him. He felt that he couldn’t be Native American and a gay man where he was from. When he came back after 10 years of being gone. He probably thought that some things might’ve changed, but as he looks around everything is still the same. He starts to wonder if he was the only thing that changed in his hometown. Another interesting quote is between David and his Grandfather who says, “ We do, David. A snake doesn’t put on a new skin with different colors. She has the same one, just layers of it. She doesn’t become a new snake, but older and wiser with each shedding. Humans shed. I don’t pay attention to it, though. We get new chances all the time. A snake makes use of her chances; that’s why she’s a snake and we’re not. We never know when we got a good thing goin” (Brant). David thinks that snakes shed their skins and become brand new and wishes that happened to humans. His grandfather informs him that the snake doesn’t become a new snake but becomes older and wiser with every skin shedded. The story “This Place”  taught me that you can’t change who you are and should live your life and not worry about others’ opinions. This message would help anyone but especially for teens since the teenage years are when everyone is finding themselves and becoming who they want to be.

The novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is a popular novel taught to high school students to that teaches about racism and inequality by explaining how black people are denied basic rights and discriminated in the town and also how there was discrimination between rich and poor white people as well; however in the novel “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas overall goes over racism and police brutality after the main character Starr witnesses the killing of her friend Khali by a police officer. The novel “The Hate U Give” brings light to police brutality and the damage and fear it causes to families and communities. An example of this is in the quote “ The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me. Momma fussed and told Daddy I was too young for that. He argued that I wasn’t too young to get arrested or shot. Starr-Starr,you do whatever they tell you to do, he said. Keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden moves.Only speak when they speak to you. I knew it must’ve been serious. Daddy has the biggest mouth of anybody I know, and if he said to be quiet, I needed to be quiet. I hope somebody had the talk with Khalil” (Thomas). Starr’s parents warn her about what to do if she gets stopped by a police officer and how she needs to take it seriously. Her father emphasizes that there’s no young age to discuss this and it can happen to anybody so Starr should know. Starr is thinking about that specific talk she had with her parents as her and Khalil get stopped by a police officer. An additional quote is “She says she does not hate cops, but is tired of them assuming black people are dangerous. These assumptions are what killed Khalil. Remembering Ms.Oprah’s words that speaking out is the way Starr can fight for justice, she ends the interview by wondering whether One-Fifteen wishes he had shot her too”(Thomas). Starr finally has an opportunity to take control and express how she feels and does just that in her interview. She states how officer One-Fifteen is being portrayed in the media as someone who was in danger and was fearful which angers her. This novel was informative to me especially due to what’s going on now because of police brutality and how it’s becoming more common in America. I feel that this novel can help high school students learn more about police brutality and understand that this can happen to them and for them to be aware. This is a huge problem going in America currently and students should know that race and stereotypes is a major reason for this.

Finally, as you can see, there’s so many alternative books to teach your students. It’s critical as educators to integrate diverse authors in your curriculum to add diversity in your classrooms. It’s an opportunity for your students to be able to learn more about different cultures and also learn meaningful lessons. The high school English cannon has been primary by white male writers for decades. There needs to be change to add diversity, since the world has changed since then. This would be very beneficial due to the fact that it can help student’s growth and add more discussion in class. It’s important for students to see themselves in books so they can have something to relate too. Students need mirrors and windows!

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