The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

Staff Spotlight
Jacob Dougherty
Jacob Dougherty
News and Features Editor

Jacob Dougherty is a junior at Sage Creek and the current News and Features editor. This is his seventh year studying journalism and he hopes this year will be his best yet. In his free time, he enjoys...

Two Sides to the Story: The Sage Presents Diverse Viewpoints on Crime and Punishment

Photo By Georgia Scherrer
Why it is Necessary for “Crime and Punishment” to be Replaced in School Curriculum
A photo of English 2H teacher, Mrs. Hurliman’s version of “Crime and Punishment”. This book has become a rite of passage of sorts for English 2H students.
A photo of English 2H teacher, Mrs. Hurliman’s version of “Crime and Punishment”. This book has become a rite of passage of sorts for English 2H students. (Photo By Helen Hao)

Honors English prepares students for any upcoming AP English classes, and reading difficult books like “Crime and Punishment” can help expand English skills. However,  there are some downsides to this novel that readers may not notice.

“Crime and Punishment” should be replaced in the school curriculum because it contains sensitive topics that may affect a student’s mental health and are simply outdated. The best solution is to replace “Crime and Punishment” with a better alternative to transition sophomores into AP English Language and Composition for their junior year.

The novel is about a man named Rodion Raskolnikov, who is a poor ex-law student. He believes he is an extraordinary person, a belief system called “Ubermensch.” This system states that someone who is above the law due to superior mental or physical faculties can commit any crime, and it is justified. This is one of the sole reasons Raskolnikov believes he can commit crime without punishment.

In the beginning of the book, Raskolnikov learns about a pawnbroker who is very wealthy and keeps all her money for herself. He takes it upon himself to murder the pawnbroker for the good of the people in the town. After he murders the pawnbroker and her sister as well, he begins to spiral into mental illness from his guilt.

In this novel, there are many triggering topics that might affect students’ mental health, regardless of whether they are struggling with similar situations. The novel contains suicide, gore, drinking, sexual assault, murder and extreme mental illness.

Raskolnikov was so mentally ill that he murdered two people, and during some parts of the book, he did not even regret it or feel guilty.

This is not to say books about mental illness should not be read in school; the context specifically, the murders themselves and his behavior after are not appropriate for schools.

“Crime and Punishment” was written in 1866.  Why are students reading such an outdated book in our modern world? Books from the 19th century are not up to today’s standards and have some upsetting concepts that were more common in those years, such as sexual assault and drinking.

On the other hand, there are many books that have been banned due to inappropriate material.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics has found that exposure to violence in media, including in books, can impact kids by making them act aggressively and desensitizing them to violence,” Britannica explains.

Do we want students to read about murder being the sole answer to a problem rather than discussing a solution?

Sage Creek Junior Kaylin Crosier shared her opinions on “Crime and Punishment” and how it can affect a student’s mental health.

“I feel like it could be triggering for people because it goes into depth a little too much,” Crosier said. “Some people can not be in the right mind and can make people uncomfortable because they have had experience with that before (Sucide, mental illness, SA, and I feel it’s a hard topic to digest.”

In school, we are not allowed to watch R-rated movies. “Crime and Punishment” has the content and feel of an R-rated movie, so why are students still allowed to read it?

Overall, books that have content that could trigger a student’s past traumatic experiences should not be taught in a school setting. Schools should update their book options and try to be sensitive to every student's possible mental health triggers.

Dostoevsky is a dead Russian author from the 19th century and has outdated ideas and morals. Some alternative options that would be beneficial for students are to read more diverse authors such as women, people of color and modern authors.

“Life of Pi” by Yann Martel would be an excellent choice in place of “Crime and Punishment.” This book is about a young Indian man who is stranded on a ship with four animals – a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and most importantly, a tiger – but not everything is what it seems.

Another option, “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, takes place during World War II and is about a girl fleeing to a new home because her mother can’t afford to take care of her.

Mrs. Alberts, an English teacher at Sage Creek, loves “The Book Thief” and recommends it to high school students.

“I love the writing. It’s written in a way that feels like poetry,” Alberts said. “It's also a beautiful story, and it’s also a great way to learn some of the history you might be learning in history classes.”

These books might get complaints because of the reading difficulty, but these books would really help students be more prepared for AP classes with the benefit of not having sensitive topics.

In conclusion, “Crime and Punishment” has an abundance of triggering topics that can affect a student’s mental health. There are much better options than an outdated Russian novel about committing murders.

In Defense of “Crime & Punishment”: Why We Should Keep Reading It
A student holds a copy of “Crime and Punishment.” The book details the mental turmoil of its protagonist Raskolnikov.
A student holds a copy of “Crime and Punishment.” The book details the mental turmoil of its protagonist Raskolnikov. (Photo By Helen Hao)

“Crime and Punishment” is a difficult book.

That there’s no denying. From its heavy content to its character’s names, nothing about it is easy. Almost any Sage Creek student who survived the book will attest to this point.

Yet it makes top 15 in the “Greatest Books of All Time”, holds a spot on Amazon’s “100 Books Everyone Should Read Before They Die” and is number 10 on Penguin Random House’s “100 must-read classics.”

Sure, it could be people pretentiously sticking to the classics or just someone forgetting to update the lists, but “Crime and Punishment” is on more than 30 of these “best book” lists.

There is a reason why this book has gained so much recognition. There are reasons why we read it and why we should continue doing so.

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” is set in the slums of St. Petersburg, Russia in the 1860s. It follows broke law school dropout, Raskolnikov, who plans to murder a greedy, old pawnbroker to whom he owes a debt. The question for him isn’t whether or not the murder is moral, but rather if he has the guts.

Raskolnikov believes that killing the pawnbroker is for the “greater good,” so he kills her.

Dostoevsky’s novel explores the concept of the ubermensch, a superior human who can rise above common morals and force his will onto others. At this time, Russia had a very utilitarian view on science and education, influencing the beliefs Dostoevsky gave Raskolnikov.

Goodreads user Emily May, who gave this a rare five stars, is one out of its many high reviews.

“The reader is pulled so deep inside the dark depths of his mind that it's hard to avoid becoming completely absorbed in the story,” May says. “He is at times nasty, at others funny, and at others pitiful. Dostoyevsky has created one extremely well-rounded and complex character.”

Dostoeyevky ‘s character building is one of the things that make this book exceptional. And we soon find that his protagonist is no ubermensch as he becomes more and more deranged.

Yes, this book does include potentially triggering material – mental illness, alcoholism, sexual assault and murder. And unfortunately these issues are still very much relevant today, so we should learn to face them.

Teachers are trying their best to create a safe environment for students when discussing “Crime and Punishment.”

Sage Creek English teacher Andrea Fett started reading this book with her classes two years ago.

“I think in general, our students are very open and receptive to having conversations around those things,” Fett said. “We're still relatively new at teaching it and still learning how to engage with those ideas in a way that's safe.”

It may be better to discuss such material in the relative safety of a classroom than have students learn about them from a random internet page.

Sage Creek junior Kiera Casey read “Crime and Punishment” last year.

“I think right now is a good time to start learning about these really complex type topics like the psyche and what leads people to do certain actions that might not necessarily be within their nature,” Casey said.

“It could be pretty complex sometimes in terms of the tools that are going on the writing,” Casey added. “But I think ultimately, you can get past how old and complex it is, and it does have a good message that you can pretty easily understand.”

When asked why many don’t enjoy “Crime and Punishment,” both Fett and Casey bring up its length. But in school, its length is a good thing.

“It’s intended to be the challenge before you get to AP Lang and so there is something to say about reading stamina,” Fett said. “That is something you need as someone who's going to be in high level English classes. Especially if you're looking at UCs or Ivies, they're going to be having you read books this long.”

“Crime and Punishment” challenges us to be better readers, and in the end, that is why we should continue reading it.

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