Skip Navigation

Voices Ringing


Connecting Catholic Social Teaching to Liteature

September 03, 2021
By English Department Chair Ann (Calderone) Bertke '88

“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides…” --C.S. Lewis

The Carroll High School English Department firmly believes that the study of literature is the study of the human experience. We are fortunate to be able to discuss life’s big questions through the use of literature and the application of Catholic Social Teachings. Our students learn that their experiences, challenges, and triumphs, while unique to them, also resonate with people throughout history. We get to ask the tough questions that we all face, but we get to start with a character from a book. These discussions are easy when talking about a character that we will never personally meet, but they also allow us to look within ourselves and determine how we would want to react when faced with the same challenge.

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides

-C.S. Lewis

Would we still go to school if by going we would risk our lives like Malala? Do we have the strength to write about the injustice of slavery like Harriet Beecher Stowe? Would we too lose all sense of civility if we were stranded on an island like Jack and Ralph? Do we have the compassion and love of Hans to quietly wash the sheets so a scared and displaced child learns the meaning of family? Are we able to believe that love can truly transcend barriers like Natasha? Can we discern true intentions when we meet a Mrs. Danvers? Are we able to relate to the memoirs of Tara and Trevor to examine our own path and simply do better? Does Okonkwo show us that the fear of failure can actually destroy us from the inside out? Are we as knowledgeable about our heritage and family history as Esperanza? Are we able to recognize the small ways that Mariam tries to maintain independence?

These are just some of the questions from the summer reading curriculum. Students are challenged to see the world outside their personal experience through the safety of literature. These questions build throughout the four years at Carroll and, hopefully, beyond. When we delve into a story of places and people that are not in our personal space, we can think and grow beyond what we currently know. We can ask the questions necessary to cause discussion and action in order to make this world better. Literature is both powerful and thought-provoking.  To end the starting quote, ”it irrigates the deserts” that exist in each of us.

Posted in Voices of Learning