I Know Why The Caged Bird Cannot Read Analysis

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Great literature can open discussion about values and morals. Reading such texts can spark discussion of issues like racism, bigotry, and sexism. Reading can teach individuals about topics they have never experienced before. However, in Francine Prose’s essay, I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read, she argues that using literature to teach outside values is wrong because it takes away from the art of the text. Though I believe that books contain important topics that can spark discussions of values in classrooms, I agree with Prose that teachers shouldn’t use books as a way to explicitly teach students outside values. I believe that in doing this, teachers are distracting students from the writing’s content and structure. Teachers should teach literature for what it is, not for what values they can loosely connect to it.
When I was a freshman in high school, we read The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. The book centered around a mentally unstable, socially isolated teen named Holden Caulfield. In class, I remember answering questions about my innocence, the archetypal fall,
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Great writing can come from a far range of time periods, some of which were marked by accepted racism and sexism. This doesn’t change how well the piece is written, but it does change what can be taught through the piece. For instance, look at Mark Twain. He lived in a time before women could vote and before the civil rights movement changed interracial interaction. If a teacher tried to use Twain’s novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, to teach their students values today, it would be hard to divorce Twain’s controversial views from his non controversial views. Twain, like any author, was a product of his time, but because values are always tied to the time a piece was written, it would be difficult for a teacher to separate the values that could offend a student from the rest of the

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