The English Curriculum in 2020

The English Department recognizes the need to take more proactive, lasting, profound changes to develop and deepen an anti-racist curriculum and pedagogy. The Department believes that anti-racist education mandates decolonizing our curriculum and creating deliberate spaces in our classrooms to foster and encourage inclusive, anti-racist dialogue. We have done some work to expand and develop both our texts and our pedagogy—and we have more work to do.

This work requires deliberate practice, which we have begun doing through reading as teachers texts such as Matthew Kay’s Not Light But Fire, Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark and The Source of Self Regard, Borsheim-Black and Sarigianides’ Letting Go of Literary Whiteness, Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Lies That Bind, Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist, and bell hooks’ Teaching Community: a Pedagogy of Hope and Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom.

. As our ninth, eleventh, and twelfth grades have undergone the most substantial changes, our next priority is our tenth grade curriculum.

In addition, we have scheduled a series of mandatory workshops for all members of our department with two educators from Second Chance Educational Alliance, led by Erin Corbett, specifically to decolonize our classrooms and the curriculum. Those workshops will occur before the start of semester one, and they will help frame our curriculum and provide professional development around equity and inclusion.

Our current curriculum:

Our ninth graders begin their reading with two summer reading books: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, and Karma, by Rishi Reddi. They next read short stories, among whose authors are Alice Walker, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Junot Diaz.

The final text of the first semester is Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

In the second semester, we begin with a unit of creative nonfiction, designed to foster the development of their own voices. Students write a series of personal essays, and they read essays by Julia Alvarez, Michelle Otero, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Bryan Washington, and Maya Angelou. In our poetry unit, the students read Paul Laurence Dunbar, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Rita Dove, Anita Endrezze, Julia Alvarez, Li-Young Lee, Wang Ping, and Natasha Tretheway.

Our tenth graders read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Willa Cather’s My Antonia in the summer. We read Homer’s Iliad, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. We teach a sonnet unit of five authors including Gwendolyn Brooks and Terrance Hayes. We finish the year with Macbeth and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This is the area of our curriculum that needs the most substantial change, and we will teach a more inclusive curriculum beginning this fall.

Our eleventh graders read a wide range of poets and writers that include Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Terrance Hayes, Jericho Brown, Tomas Q. Morin, Maya Angelou, Ta-Nehisi Coates, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, William Carlos Williams, Yusef Kumuyakaa, Tracy K. Smith, Aimee Nezhukumatathil.

Our twelfth graders in their senior seminars have the chance to read (depending on their course) Colson Whitehead, Mohsin Hamid, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Jhumpa Lahiri, Zadie Smith, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Salman Rushdie, Haruki Murakami, Li-Young Lee, Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Rita Dove, Natalie Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, Jamaica Kincaid, Jesmyn Ward, Kenneth McClane.