Domestic Bliss Report

Motherhood is hard work. If we don't stick together, we'll all fall apart.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Okay, I'm finally motivated for this.

I've ranted before about the dumbing down of our public education system. I've wondered in my available moments about school book choices. Here's some concrete examples I can provide.

In eighth grade, my class read Paul Zindel's The Pigman and S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders. [We even watched the movie for the second.] Neither of these contain really objectionable material; they don't even have swearing if I remember right. They kiss--once--in the first; and they do drink beer. The second does have a murder but it is related not witnessed.

Not so bad. But are they literature? Are they worthy of study in school? Aren't there better things out there?

Before I'd gotten there, a class titled something like Horror Literature had read Poe, Blatty's The Exorcist, King's The Dead Zone, Levin's Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby, and Amityville Horror. No joke. Someone else I know studied Salinger's Catcher in the Rye in ninth grade. I have a feeling there's somebody I know who might find such an idea... problematic.

Then I read about a school district bowdlerizing Girl, Interrupted for class. Why? Again, I ask: aren't there better things out there that they don't need to tear pages out of to present in class?

Just to make me feel better (and test your memory), what's your nomination for the worst book you had to read in school? Not most boring; the one with the least redeeming value.

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At 12:36 PM, Blogger Kasia said...

FWIW, in junior high we read at least one S.E. Hinton...but not for class. It was actually for a semi-extracurricular program called Battle of the Books: we had a list of books to read and then had a quiz bowl type of competition about them.

Least redeeming value? Hmm. I was of the opinion that, irrespective of their sociological and historical value, The Return of the Native (junior year Brit Lit) and The Epic of Gilgamesh (senior World Lit - required a permission slip) were pretty mediocre literature. I also wasn't dazzled with Earth Abides (freshman lit). I actually resorted to Cliff's Notes - which I objected to on principle even in high school - to get the gist of Return of the Native. I hated it that much.

Junior high. Hmm. I think we primarily used textbooks with excerpts, rather than actual stand-alone books, so it's hard to say. I know we read an excerpt from Flowers for Algernon, but I rather like that one.

Oh...I am a mnemonic failure... :-)

At 6:13 AM, Blogger HISchild said...

Not from school but college . . . don't take African literature class.

Palm Wine Drinkard . . . ugh

I've blocked the rest out. No points of reference, not even bad ones.

At 7:27 AM, Blogger Daisy said...

I have been searching my memory, but since I was an avid reader before kindergarten, there are so many books that I was allowed to choose rather than required to read that I can't think of anything! I graduated from high school in 1994, so it's not like I missed the insanity. I just can't think of anything.

But that freedom, which I was given by my teacher's because I was so far ahead of my class in reading, has motivated me with Kasandra. Unfortunately, she has to attend public school in order to receive proper therapy for her speech delay. So I have been teaching her to read independently. She was reciting spelling words to me yesterday on the way home from school! If she can read on her own, I hope she will be freed from the idiocy just like I was.

At 7:29 AM, Blogger Catherine said...

Okay, somehow my old blogger account got in there. That last comment was me.

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Art Deco said...

We actually had The Pigman read to us by a teacher who, I suspect, wanted to be free of lesson plans for a few days. It was actually quite a hit and inspired a number of people in the class to read his other books on the side. Paul Zindel was persuaded to give a talk at our school not long after. I cannot say as I minded him but one of the English teachers told me some time later that Mr. Zindel came off badly, as far as he was concerned. "Contrived" was the word he used, I believe.

Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, G.B. Shaw's The Devil's Disciple and a book of poetry called On City Streets I would not have assigned if I had been running the zoo during those years.


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