The purpose of this paper is to present the findings of a content analysis of ten historical documents related to the teaching of literature, attempting to answer the following research question: how have defined end goals for the teaching of literature in secondary schools changed in the United States? Our findings suggest that there are common tensions that have remained constant throughout historical attempts to create standards for the secondary English classroom. We saw tensions fluctuate between four curricular perspectives within documents: essentialism, perrenialism, progressivism, and reconstructionalism. These findings highlight how the language of standards documents regarding the teaching of literature has changed, and have implications for where policy makers and professional leaders place value with regard to the teaching of literature in secondary classrooms.


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