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30 September 2015 @ 12:46 pm
Beating a dead horse?  
At the risk of being accused of beating a dead horse, I want to return once more to the EdWeek piece I have been discussing over the past several blog posts (http://mobile.edweek.org/c.jsp?cid=25919801&bcid=25919801&rssid=25919791&item=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.edweek.org%2Fv1%2Ftm%2F%3Fuuid%3D67790FFE-6204-11E5-913C-71C9B3743667).

There is a section entitled "How we do it" that offers the following three bullets. Much as I dislike all instruction to be centered on ONE novel all year long, I will leave that aside and simply point out the obvious: these three items can all be done using YA literature.

"• Center whole-class texts around guiding questions. These questions drive our inquiry and serve as a focus. Take Arthur Miller's The Crucible, for example: How did the colonists' moral code create a culture of fear? How did beliefs, religion, and politics lead to persecution? Who determines who is powerful and who is powerless in a society?

Any YA novel might be a reflection of the social milieu in which the novel is set. This is not the exclusive domain of canonical texts. Let's select SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD by Tobin Anderson, one of the books on the longlist for the NBA Young People's Literature Award. Since the book deals with the music of Shostakovich and takes place in Russia at the time Shostakovich is composing, there is so much else that is included in the book, especially politics. WIDE AWAKE by David Levithan deals with the first openly gay Jewish president. Many references are made to "history" such as The Greater Depression and the Reign of Fear. Would these books not also cover the same ground as The Crucible?

• Determine major concepts/ideas to explore. For The Crucible: persecution, insecurity, irrational fear, mob mentality, conformity

I see no reason why YA literature cannot be used to explore these same concepts. See books cited above. And know that there are hundreds more titles that could be used as well.

• Decide on connecting texts, visuals/graphics, and challenging tasks. With the SAT's emphasis on analyzing argument, we aim to include at least one. In this case, it's Barbara Ehrenreich's New York Times column "All Together Now" (on the dangers of "groupthink.") Students mark where Ehrenreich makes her points and label as evidence, reasoning, or appeals. They also summarize her argument in one sentence using mature voice and style. Naturally, teachers model this before asking kids to practice on their own."

Why not connect both "down to some texts (i.e., picture books, stories, clippings, poems, etc.) and "up" to others (classics)? Of course, some comparisons and connections can be simply horizontal as well. See discussion in READING LADDERS which takes the concepts of thematic untis and horizontal and vertical alignment and mashes them together.

YA can and SHOULD be used in coursework. Wait, I just read that sentence again. Maybe I do not want YA to be used in the same way much of the canon is: dissected and drained of all its lifeblood. But YA as being significant, rigorous, and complex? YES. IT. IS.
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