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English getting new books

The+English+Curriculum+Council%2C+comprising+of+the+English+department+chairs+in+the+district%2C+has+chosen+20+books+to+be+divided+among+schools+in+San+Mateo+Union+High+School+District.
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English getting new books

The English Curriculum Council, comprising of the English department chairs in the district, has chosen 20 books to be divided among schools in San Mateo Union High School District.

The English Curriculum Council, comprising of the English department chairs in the district, has chosen 20 books to be divided among schools in San Mateo Union High School District.

The English Curriculum Council, comprising of the English department chairs in the district, has chosen 20 books to be divided among schools in San Mateo Union High School District.

The English Curriculum Council, comprising of the English department chairs in the district, has chosen 20 books to be divided among schools in San Mateo Union High School District.

Lily Page, Managing Editor

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English departments across the San Mateo Union High School District (SMUHSD) will introduce new books into their curriculum this semester and next year.

The new titles are the culmination of a two-year discussion among English teachers during professional development days. The English Curriculum Council, comprising of the English department chairs in the district, has chosen 20 books to be divided among schools in SMUHSD. The ongoing project to diversify reading lists has been titled the “SMUHSD Culturally Relevant English Text Adoption List.”

“What that means in plain English is having conversations about … the issues faced by populations in our schools through different demographic factors like socioeconomic status, race and gender or just controversial issues that are bubbling up in world affairs right now,” English Department Chair Bethany Li said.

The new books at Burlingame will include “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika Sanchez, “The Refugees” by Viet Thanh Nguyen and “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. All texts were published in the last five years, except for “The Alchemist,” which was published in 1988.

The Burlingame department has not yet decided which books will be removed from the current curriculum to make space for the new titles.

“The intention is not to replace the canon of traditional authors and titles that we tend to see in English classrooms,” Li said. “The intention is to add to [the canon], so that we have a combination of Shakespeare and what’s happening right now.”

Some books are to be introduced at multiple schools in the district. English teachers at Burlingame, Hillsdale and Capuchino will implement “The Hate U Give” in their curricula in the fall.

“I think there’s this conclusion people jump to that ‘they’re token books,’ like, no, they’re really well-written books that have literary merit,” English teacher Shane Karshan said. According to Li and Karshan, the decision to introduce a specific text is based on the opinion of the department that students will benefit from the examination of a particular world perspective. “The Hate U Give,” for example, is a novel that follows an African-American teenage girl after she witnesses the death of her friend due to police brutality.

The California Department of Education has endorsed nine of the 20 books to be introduced, and SMUHSD has submitted the other 11 for endorsement consideration. Awards and nominations held by several of the books include the Coretta Scott King Book Award, nominations for the Alex Awards, Pura Belpré Award and Stonewall Book Award.

In some cases, the new books are additions, rather than replacements for current texts. Alongside reading “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, a novel about American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War, students in CP English III will read “The Refugees,” a collection of short stories revolving around Vietnamese experiences in the Vietnam War.

“To juxtapose those [books] instead of only exploring one side of the conflict is really exciting,” Karshan said.

By increasing the diversity and modernity of the reading list, English departments across the district hope to increase student readership and interest. The objectives prioritize classroom participation above the potential criticism that comes with making changes to the traditional canon of literature.

“We don’t want a kid to finish high school and say, ‘I never read any books in English class. I Shmoop-ed my way through,’” Li said.

About the Writer
Lily Page, Managing Editor

Lily Page is a senior at Burlingame High School (BHS) and managing editor of The Burlingame B (italicize the name.) This is her third year in Journalism....

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