Changes in the English Curriculum


“Along the way some other things happened – the most ugly racism I have ever encountered, utterly misplaced educational priorities, a town that wasn’t bad or evil but had lost any ability to judge itself. It would have been a journalistic disgrace to ignore these elements,” as quoted from the novel Friday Night Lights.  This quote summarizes the many different and important topics such as racism, relationships, goals, success, failure, peer pressure and many others that are brought into the spotlight while reading this novel about a high school in Odessa, Texas.

The ideas and concepts in the book Friday Night Lights are modern and therefore easy for students to understand with relation to the courses’ study of the American Dream in Academic English III.  English teacher Mrs. Snyder said, “It is a wonderful book to explore what kinds of limitations all Americans bump up against when our ideas and expectations of youth finally hit the real struggles and challenges of adulthood.”  For these reasons, the four teachers Mr. Duda, Mr. Murray, Mrs. Snyder, and Mrs. Stallings chose to incorporate this piece of nonfiction literature into the curriculum.

“They are not characters that an author constructed, they are real people in a real place who are absolutely struggling to ‘get their piece of the pie’ and for some of them it absolutely works out, and for others it doesn’t,” said Snyder.

Current Academic English III students are noticing that they share connections with the new book with relation to their own lives.  Junior Jocelyn Stas said, “They are dealing with stuff that we have dealt with today.  I mean also I am a big football fan, so I can definitely relate to that.”

This decision was not made lightly.  “Over the summer, all of the Academic English teachers met several times for many hours, and mapped out the objectives and standards that we wanted to be able to cover,” mentioned Mrs. Snyder.  This careful planning was done to ensure that the changes would not only modernize the curriculum, but also help the students engage with the reading, therefore helping readers to take more away from it.

In previous years, teachers started the year analyzing the literature of specific historical documents, including the Declaration of Independence.  Mrs. Stallings stated, “The American Dream of Odessa, Texas is the tapestry to the foundation of the American Dream in Academic English III, which is originally defined in the ‘Declaration of Independence’.”

Senior Adam Pernelli who took the course last year said, “To understand modern English I think you should definitely need to study that, because it should help understand it.  It helped me.”

However Mrs. Snyder stated that “I think our vision along was, not necessarily to abandon all of those, but to use a more contemporary piece as sort of the opening of the gate and grab those really important excerpts and older texts in connection with something that’s new.”  Overall, the English teachers appear extremely optimistic toward this transition year with the new material and hope to learn more for the years to come.