Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Global Curriculum, Please

RTW: In high school, teens are made to read the classics - Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Bronte, Dickens - but there are a lot of books out there never taught in schools. So if you had the power to change school curriculums, which books would you be sure high school students were required to read?

A couple years ago, [ETA: actually, this didn't *officially* happen until a couple of weeks ago] Arizona passed a law forbidding public schools from teaching classes that focused on a specific ethnic group. Their reasoning was that "we want to focus on the students as individuals, not as members of a group." In theory, I absolutely agree with this. However, when you look at the general curriculum favored by most American high schools, the focus is very much on Western culture. "World History" primarily deals with Europe, and with the exception of the units on colonization and imperialism, you rarely learn about other cultures. Literature classes tend to be the same way. It's this focus on white culture as the default that marginalizes other groups. If we had a more integrated curriculum, "African American studies" and "Hispanic studies" courses wouldn't be necessary.

Latin America, for example, has a lot to offer in terms of great books. Magic realism and dictator-era novels are the most famous, but one novel that is especially relevant to our generation is Alberto Fuguet's Por favor, rebobinar ("Please Rewind"). It deals with an urban culture that is obsessed with celebrities, mass media, consumerism, and globalization. As a result, the characters are detached from their revolutionary past and from each other. The book is long, yes, but it's divided up in a way that teachers could easily use individual passages from it. (It's also one of my favorite books!)

I'm sure there are a lot of great books from Asia, Africa, and the Middle-East, but I don't know about them. Maybe if they had been taught at my high school, I wouldn't have this problem...

ETA: Apparently, Por favor, rebobinar was never translated to English. Someone fix this!


  1. So true about the need for a more global perspective in all curriculum! Great post!

  2. This raises a really good point. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

  3. Oh, Arizona. You make an excellent point here---reading more globally is so important in broadening worldview. What better way to understand a culture than to read its books?

    I haven't heard of this book (and sadly I can't speak or read Spanish) but it sounds like it would be right up my alley!

  4. Great Answer! I absolutely agree, and Alberto Fuguet's Por favor, rebobinar is getting added to my "to read" list. I had never heard of it, so thanks for sharing.

  5. Ah man--I hope you'll let us know if Por Favor, Rebobinar is ever translated!

    Great points in your post :) I would definitely get behind a more integrated curriculum.

  6. That was such a great point about what the classes focus on--I'm taking a World History course right now, and even my professor admitted that the course focuses too much on Europe. The book will spend entire chapters on Europe and then squish the rest of the world into a few sections.

    I agree with Sara--let us know when Por Favor, Robobinar is translated. I'd love to read that!

  7. I love this post. And I would have loved a class in school that introduced me to world literature.

  8. Hmm, now I'm wondering if Por Favor, Rebobinar might be a good project for me to exercise my rusty Spanish reading. Or at least until it's translated and I can see how much I got right.

    BTW, love your profile blurb!

  9. I very much agree with you. I also wish that in High School I could have read more books explaining other cultures (The Kite Runner could also be read in High School for example)


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