Macalusos Publish New Book
Drs. Kati and Mike Macaluso have published Teaching the Canon in 21st Century Classrooms, a new book for practicing secondary English teachers.
The book addresses the fact that more and more English teachers are obligated to teach canonical texts, or “standard” texts that have been staples in high school English classrooms for years. Think To Kill a Mockingbird, The Odyssey, or The Great Gatsby—texts that most people encountered at least once during their years of schooling.
Although research suggests that diversifying the canon is crucial, the reality is that teaching canonical texts is often mandatory for teachers. Mike Macaluso, a member of ACE’s faculty of supervision and instruction, explains that Teaching the Canon in 21st Century Classrooms sprang out of a desire to challenge ideas of what texts are accepted as standard and the methods used to teach that literature.
“Part of the impetus came from this growing questioning: Why these books? Why is it the same ones over and over again? How can we open up these canonical texts to some of the larger narratives going on in the world today? How we can match and mirror the perspectives from which our students are coming?” he says. “I think, at a certain point, there must be ways to teach these books that relate more to my students and connect more to the real world.”
Kati Macaluso, the director of ACE Advocates and a member of ACE’s faculty of supervision and instruction, emphasizes the immediate need to reimagine the canon and how it’s delivered. If teachers apply some of the practices outlined in the book, they could do more than just interest their students–they may affect real social change.
“More and more, our student populations are diversifying. [Students] look different than the characters and the authors of these canonical texts,” she says. “If our book lists are not approached critically, we can perpetuate norms that for centuries have held certain people in certain places in society.”
Several secondary education scholars and teachers contributed chapters to Teaching the Canon in 21st Century Classrooms. The book is divided into four sections, with each section outlining a particular method for teaching a canonical text in a critical, transformative way. For example, one chapter suggests pairing Beloved by Toni Morrison, a book on the horrors of slavery often taught in high schools, with the young adult novel The Hate U Give, a recently published book about police brutality set in a modern city.
The book is written for practicing teachers, and Mike Macaluso stresses that the authors “do a lot of the leg work” for the classroom application of the ideas. The book is not anti-canonical; the authors conceptualize innovative and effective ways to engage increasingly diverse students in standard texts. “That’s what sets this book apart,” Macaluso says.
“One of the things that we are pushing back against in this volume is the strict authority of ‘the one’ text. It brings the teacher and the person of the reader back into the equation,” Kati Macaluso says. “In reading across the chapters, the book is a testimony to the creativity and artfulness of teaching and how teachers can take things that aren't on the same plane as one another and put them together in a meaningful fashion.”