Why Canon Literature Should Not Be Mandatory

Right now as I’m writing this, I’m commiting one of the sins of being a writer. Everyone knows about canon literature. Writers typically also agree that these works are an important part of the literary history and therefore should not be forgotten. I agree with that. I also agree with the idea that reading is good for one’s education and personal growth. However, forcing young people to read against their wishes might not be good for the rest of their lives as readers.

As a young child, I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I loved to be wrapped up in a world that was unlike my own. Reading was about exploring the unknown at my own pace. At that time, my own pace was quite high. It was not uncommon for me to read a book every single day. It was the best feeling in the world for me, and part of why I wanted to become a writer myself. I desired to provide that amazing feeling to other people as well. Over time, however, reading changed into something that I never had time for, due to being busy with secondary school. The only moment I actually read books was when I was forced to do so. Of course, the choice was not for the student to make. The educational system determined what was appropriate and what was not. It is not strange that most books were deemed inappropriate, but the list of what was, was very short. The canon literature did not fit my ideal of being able to wrap myself up in another world. In fact, it was about the exact world I already lived in, although time and place varied. Like I said before, I am a sinner to the writers’ world. I did not enjoy Animal FarmTo Kill a Mockingbird or The Scarlet Letter. I also did not enjoy Shakespeare’s famous Hamlet, or Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. While I did not like reading them, I do understand their importance to the literary history, although I haven’t read enough to be able to entirely grasp it. I also do appreciate the effort that is put in to make these works available to young readers.

I may have picked the wrong study. Reading canon literature is not enjoyable for me, while it is an important aspect of the first year. However, I know I will be able to drop it as soon as the next year approaches… and I am not sure if I would actually want to do that. It is not that I do not like reading. I enjoyed Emma Donoghue’s Room and Samantha Hunt’s The Invention of Everything Else. The books are not the problem; in reality, it is the attitude of forcing students to read.

I wonder if my teachers liked books themselves. At least, they did not come across that way at all. Reading books was something we were forced to do. It was not meant to be fun, we had to do it as a chore. I doubt that anyone enjoys doing chores. Being forced to read turned it into something bad, something no one wanted to do again after school. After all, reading only had negative connotations. All the fun, the juvenile wonder and the idea of reading being an expedition to a place far from home were gone. That is why canon literature should not be mandatory. Yes, it should be available to young readers and yes, it should be encouraged. It should not be mandatory. If the only way to get students to read anything is to force it down their throats, maybe something is off about this attitude. What I’m going to say next is horrible as well, but anything mandatory will never be cool. As long as reading is mandatory, it will never be cool and never be something young people would want to do – until they are old enough to feel like they can choose for themselves again.

I am sorry for sinning.

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