I think that one reason why Of Mice and Men can be considered a worthy part of an English curriculum is because it addresses one of the fundamental parts of being a human being. Honestly, which human being does not have dreams? Dreaming is a universal reality because anyone and everyone has, at one point in time, tried to envision what can be as opposed t what is.
When we consider why works should be included in a course of study such as an English survey course, one of the requirements should be a universality in the human condition. Works that speak to fundamental truths that all human beings experience are works that should be studied. Steinbeck's work does just this. In seeing how individuals have dreams that are motivating and empowering, while also crushing and hurtful, one sees part of their own lives reflected. The sadness and joys that Steinbeck's characters experience are universal experiences. While the context of 1930s California might be different than the present tense, the themes of dreaming of a better life, striving to see what can be as opposed to what is, and how to function in the death of dreams are experiences that all human beings share.
This study is what students can learn from the book. We live in a world where "dreams" are becoming cliched. Steinbeck's work forces us to examine what exists in a dream, what makes it worth having, and how does one piece together their lives when a dream dies. Students can reflect about the role of dreams in their own lives and can think openly about what they would have done had they been in the positions of the characters in the text. In this ability to engage in self reflection and ask critical questions about their own place in the world, Steinbeck's work is essential in any course of study, particularly an English course.