Labor, Philosophy, and Literature.
Now that’s a powerhouse trio!
High School Books About the Working Class
High School students are ready to think deeply about work. They are getting close to choosing their first steps on a career path and the labor associated with making their own way in the world and caring for their own homes. They are ready to think about the ideas behind people’s decisions, to explore the philosophies that shape societies and to determine for themselves what is sound and what is unsound in the prevailing thought of this age. They are ready to read challenging books, too.
Consider choosing some high school books about the working class. For an interesting study with your high schoolers, why not explore Plato’s Republic? The reading is demanding, but the ideas will make for fascinating discussion!
In Book II of Republic, Socrates (Plato’s main character) expounds on the idea that society should have a division of labor, and that the distribution of jobs should be based on a specialization of workers. Each man should determine what he does best, and then he should do it — and NO other job — for the good of himself and society.
Fishermen should fish. Builders should build. Farmers should farm. Weavers should weave. Poets should…write poetry!
As teens become old enough to work a part-time job, and as they begin to contemplate full-time employment in adulthood, it’s good for them to think about the underlying philosophy behind labor and vocation. God designed us for work (Gen. 2:15), and it is during the teen years that we can really do our kids a service by encouraging them to think about, understand, and pursue a healthy attitude toward work. Many suburban families in particular find it difficult to instill a healthy work ethic in their kids, as this article points out (it also offers some great ideas for making strides in this area if your family is struggling).
From the underlying philosophy, teens can move on to personal career exploration. Take a look at Vicki Tillman’s Career Exploration workbook in our ebookstore for practical and wise exercises to help a young person uncover God’s design for him or her as a worker here on earth.
You can encourage your student to take note of the workers in various pieces of literature you read. Ask simple questions like:
Does this character have a good work ethic? How can you tell?
Does this person define himself by his work? Is that a good or bad thing?
Do you think this unstable character would benefit from more work or from more rest? Or does her work even matter to her stability?
For more high school books about the working class, check out these titles.
Books like these offer rich examples of characters for whom work is key:
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
- Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
- The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
- The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
- Plato’s Republic, Books I and II
You can find our no-busywork study guides to accompany these books by clicking the links above.
If you have reluctant readers, Kym’s short video below offers some encouragement for helping them read good books in high school: When Homeschool High Schoolers Don’t Like to Read.