English teacher Kari Snell sits at her desk. Snell is helping develop the American Literature curriculum for the upcoming 2022-23 school year. “Now that it’s not framed as the required junior class, we no longer have to teach it the same way we used to,” Snell said. “Our ideas for bringing it back is to provide a class where we can look at literature that comes from a wide range of American voices.”
English teacher Kari Snell sits at her desk. Snell is helping develop the American Literature curriculum for the upcoming 2022-23 school year. “Now that it’s not framed as the required junior class, we no longer have to teach it the same way we used to,” Snell said. “Our ideas for bringing it back is to provide a class where we can look at literature that comes from a wide range of American voices.”

Revived American Literature course has a modern twist

February 11, 2022

American Literature, a semester-long course focusing on the relationship between literature and the American identity, is being revived after not being offered at Palo Alto High School for three years. This time, it has a modern flourish. 

The course used to be required curriculum for all students until the 2018-19 school year, before being made optional and eventually discontinued as a result of the popularity of AP English Language and Composition for juniors, according to an article by the Paly Voice

Now, the English Department is working on bringing back the course with an emphasis on diversity. If enough students sign up, the 2022-23 school year will see the re-introduction of the class.

“Our ideas for bringing it back is to provide a class where we can look at literature that comes from a wide range of American voices,” said Kari Snell, an English teacher who worked on developing the course. “That’s kind of one of the key components that we’re focusing on when we’re trying to develop the curriculum.”

Snell said that she envisions the course focusing especially on literature from a diverse range of races and ages, among other things. She said she hopes students will find either characters that they relate to or experiences they want to learn more about.

“Students will then have an opportunity to maybe dive in deeper to either a storyline that they either relate to or want to learn more about,” Snell said.

Our ideas for bringing it back is to provide a class where we can look at literature that comes from a wide range of American voices. That’s kind of one of the key components that we’re focusing on when we’re trying to develop the curriculum.”

— English teacher Kari Snell

The old American Literature course used to be less focused on diversity, according to Snell. It tried to incorporate diverse stories and representation, but also focused on other things, like SAT vocabulary.

Snell said she has wanted to revive the American Literature course for a while now, but the English Department wanted to wait until the new course would feel distanced from its previous version.

“I think we just maybe needed time before we brought it back so that it didn’t necessarily feel like the course we used to have,” Snell said.

According to Snell, American Literature will consist predominantly of short stories and other short-form literature, rather than novels, because the course is only a semester long. 

“I think it could suit pretty much any student,” Snell said. “I think maybe a student who’s interested in having an opportunity to just read a lot of short stories versus focusing each unit around novels might find this course appealing … students who are interested in having an opportunity to think about comparing different peoples’ experiences.”

Snell said she’s looking forward to hearing about what her students are passionate about and taking the course in the direction of the students’ interests.

“I want to leave some room for incorporating things that students might be interested in, too,” she said.

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