I agree with the previous post, however I think that with changing times schools need to adapt to the needs of the students. While reading classical literature does improve students higher level thinking skills, more and more students are not receiving the benefits of these skills because their focus on other pursuits. If teachers want to keep students engaged in English and literature, there needs to be a new approach.
Today it seems that students need to not only learn from literature, but also understand how it applies to their lives. Instead of having students read the whole of a "literary classics", teachers should begin to incorporate newer texts and excerpts from the classics can teach them the same lessons is becoming vitally important. Students need to feel they can relate to what they’re reading; otherwise English and literature teachers will find themselves losing their audiences. Turning students off from literature is doing them a disservice, teachers need to ensure that their students cannot only read but can analyze and question the texts they are reading.
The purpose of teaching literature in schools has often been debated especially during the recent concern of our "failing educational system" and the importance placed on high stakes tests. However, teaching literature not only improves reading fluency through the expansion of vocabulary, but also increases students' reading comprehension skills. Comprehension skills not only include retelling main events, but also include the ability to identify the author's choice or words, central themes, character development, symbolism, irony, etc.
Including literature expecially classical literature supports the idea of teaching a truly integrated curriculum. For example, classical literature can be used to teach history and language arts. One does not need to have a specific course designed solely around reading classical literature. It can be used in history and writing classes to encourage higher level thinking skills.