Should Literature Still Be Studied In High Schools?
There was once a time when only the wealthiest members of society were able to afford an education for their children. They would have a very learned member of society explain concepts to them through discussion more than rote learning. Where paper products are extremely cheap in the modern world they were far less so several centuries aback so most writing was done on slates so that it was temporary. One issue with this would be the difficulty in possessing actual books. The Gutenberg press made the production of perfectly copied texts much more simple and cheap than when the work was done by hand by monks. With the much greater availability of books came the freedom to write on many more subjects. In modern times, the contents of an entire library can fit on a single e-book reader. Many books can be carried around quite easily but should we really take time to study literature in our schools?
Yes, we should
As with most subjects, what the student gains is much more than what is immediately obvious. Analyzing the motives of the characters in well written books can give a very good indication of how people might in real life situations. This helps create critical thinking skills. Many times, people who are in business fields find themselves being duped in situations that might have looked familiar to them had they read more of the classics. Similarly, when readers immerse themselves in the thoughts of the characters with the intention of understanding them, it becomes easier to develop empathy. This helps to counteract the fundamental attribution error.
No, we should not
There are definite benefits to the study of literature but our world has become far to fast paced to rely on such a slow medium to derive them. The ability to analyze situations can just as easily be gained from playing MMORPGs. These games have been known to increase the players’ abilities in forming complex strategies and working as teams. Similarly, a more in-depth study of how people think and why they do what they do can be gained from psychology. Even escapism can be achieved more effectively from movies or television.
With this in mind, it may seem that literature is not as necessary to become a well rounded student as it was to previous generations. This is not to say it is worthless, merely less essential than it once was.