I'm not much one for Gatekeeper literature. I mean, I guess I think everyone should read The Odyssey. Some Shakespeare. "Sonny's Blues." Frankenstein is kind of a must-read for me, as is A Lesson Before Dying. But I would have a hard time making a list without feeling pretty judgmental about it. There are just too many great books in the world, and too many variables about what a student will connect with. I think a big part of it is the teacher making the text work for the student, so I think teachers should have a lot of freedom with the texts they choose (though not the transferable skills).
However, despite my non-love for gatekeeper literature, there are two things that I have come up in my years of teaching that I think every educated person should know. These two things are facts from books I teach year after year, and I love the moment when the kids say, "Really? I always thought...". They are as follows:
1) Knowing that "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" does not mean "Where are you, Romeo?", but, rather, is asking, as I like to translate, why he gotta be named Romeo?
2) Knowing that Frankenstein is not the name of the monster, but, rather, the name of the doctor. The fact that the creature does not have a name is actually a pretty important part of the novel.
I'm being only half-serious here, but I do tell my students that knowing these two things is a sign that you're educated. And, again in just half-seriousness, if the kid leaves my classroom and didn't get these two things, it makes me sad.
#1 was on the final exam. Out of about 60 kids who took the final today, 6 kids missed that question. However, I was happy to note that of those 6 kids, 5 rarely come or never listen to me or do any work. So, that means that coming to school and listening to me actually does something. I don't know what happened to that 6th kid. She's just kind of flaky.
2 years ago