Decisions, Decisions: The Debate Over What Teenagers Should Read at School

Emma Holtz '20 , Literary Arts Editor

Schools all around the world face the same challenge in their literature departments: what works should be chosen for students to read and analyze in their classes? Author Elisabeth Braw dives deeper into this dilemma and introduces her readers to Great Britain’s education secretary Michael Gove, who claims that the country’s literature exams are too simple and the school board should incorporate more Britishauthors into curriculums in place of American authors. Gove has unintentionally brought up a major debate amongst many countries as to what literature works should be taught to the next generation of thinkers and innovators. During the primary and middle school years, certain books are specifically taught to instill a love of reading. In secondary school, teachers cultivate and expand upon their students’ interests in a variety of literature genres while still challenging the students to identify themes and other important messages that the author attempts to convey in the work. In most countries, teachers and school boards are at liberty to choose what books their students should be reading in terms of the author, genre, and country of origin. For example, Belgium and Germany often include foreign literature as a necessary part of a pupil’s education to enrich their mind and explore new points of view, while schools in the Netherlands do not typically require foreign literature in their classrooms. The real issue that faces each country today is not choosing literature solely for the author’s nationality, but how the work will impact the pupil by developing key skill sets. Although business and finance continue to be major topics for students in higher institutions of learning, literature proves to be essential in the development of critical thinking skills and a pure love for books and literature works as a whole.

        One book that I would recommend for Oakland Catholic students is And Then There Were None by English novelist Agatha Christie. 

The classic mystery novel follows a group of ten strangers lured to the mysterious Soldier Island off the coast of Devon, England. The guests are pampered as they step into a luxurious mansion, but each guest has a dark past that a gramophone recording alludes to during dinner one night. The eerie message haunts each guest and death looms throughout the house, which makes each person wonder who is the true evildoer on the island. And Then There Were None touches upon the power of guilt on a person’s conscience and how each guest deals with the demons they face from their past. Christie’s classic novel not only exposes readers to the mystery genre, but challenges them to dive deep into the mind of the author, making for a thrilling read.







Works Cited

Braw, Elisabeth. “Pride and Prejudice? The Debate Over What Teenagers Should Read at

School.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 13 June 2014,