Monday, September 1, 2008

Welcome to World Literature

Congratulations on selecting World Literature for your senior English class! I hope that you will not only enjoy learning about what the world loves and hates through the literature we study this year, but also that you will leave high school a little bit more prepared to succeed in the increasingly connected global society.

I want you to challenge yourself to take your study of the world seriously. Read, talk, write, think, cooperate, and know your world! My World Literature vision statement, "Know Your World," aligns closely with the school district's mission statement.

"The mission of the E------ Public Schools, working in partnership with the family and the community, is to educate individuals to be responsible, lifelong learners who possess the skills, knowledge, creativity, sense of self-worth, and ethical values necessary to survive and flourish in a rapidly changing, culturally diverse, global society."

Since World Literature is a senior only class, students discuss literature and its mature themes courageously and respectfully. Sometimes controversial conversations may generate sharp disagreements or strong emotions. However, the most productive of these types of conversations are courageous, civil, respectful, and adult.

I will also guide you in your quest to become an increasingly autonomous, adult learner so that you feel better prepared for life and school beyond high school. Part of our time together will be spent on how you learn; I won't just rush you through the course content. This year I will also challenge your notion of what the term "word literature" means. A quick scan of our common textbook, World Masterpieces, reveals that world literature goes beyond novels, poems, plays, and short stories to also explore the realms of philosophy, religion, and the fine arts.

To strive for cultural literacy today, I feel that you need to expand your notion of literature, so during the fall semester, you will encounter "texts" beyond the traditional English class genres. You will notice in the World Literature I course overview, that fall semester also covers a quick study of the five major religions of the world--Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Students who took World History should have a strong academic background in the five religions; however, we will do a quick review so that our class will have a common understanding of ideas to discuss the World Masterpieces selections.

In case you were wondering, studying religion in a public high school is not a violation of church and state laws. The Supreme Court has ruled that public schools may not sponsor religious practices but may teach about religion. (Engel v. Vitale (1962) 370 U.S. 421.) This serves the academic goals of educating students about history and cultures.

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