Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Written Word is Worth 10,000 Pictures ~ Dogwalk Musings

On the 10th of November I wrote a
regarding a split vote by the Coeur d'Alene school board as to whether or not Brave New World should be required reading. The decision was put on hold until the fifth member of the board could vote and break the tie.

The issue is once again in the headlines. It got me to thinking about what our school age children do read, required or not. Have you looked at the current crop of "comic" books on the market? Or what is readily available on the Internet; even in the public library and book stores? Or let's look at the newspapers. What are they filled with? Murder, robberies, rape, child molestation, an eighth year old who killed his father. It's all out there. And don't tell me that kids don't see it when every time I stop our papers for a vacation I'm asked if I'd like to donate them to the schools. They aren't lining bird cages with them.

Maybe current events is more important then reading and understanding great literature. It doesn't seem to resonate though. Look at the man on the street questions about the recent elections. The answers make Sarah Palin look like a member of MENSA.

I have yet to understand why some of these books haven't had permanent approval but then I'm not up on scholastic politics. Here are a few that are up for review. For eleventh grade - Catcher in the Rye, Death of a Salesman, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby and The Scarlett Letter.

A few from the 12th grade list - 1984, Frankenstein, Anthem and Slaughterhouse Five.

One parent complained her ninth grade daughter was uncomfortable reading two books because they contained profanity and sexually explicit situations. I've got a hot flash for that parent. You're ninth grade daughter is already familiar with both or she's not living in the real world.

What's next? Banning Shakespeare? Look at the subject matter of Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet.

One of the naysayers found Brave New World to be "repetitious" in descriptions of a "society gone amok with no feelings". After saying that the book was filled with descriptions of promiscuous sex and naked bodies, he also added the book wasn't "that well written." I wonder if he actually read the book or just skimmed it for its prurient parts like we did with paper backs when I was a kid!

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." attributed to Mark Twain. Quiz. Which part of that statement applies to the school board and which to the students that are to be denied? Of course we know Mark Twain hasn't escaped the critics eye either. Consider Huckleberry Finn.

It may be me, but I think the requirements to serve on the school board could use a review. If they are to review classic works of literature for students to read, they might first read the books and write a report themselves to make sure they understand the premise.

As for the language or descriptiveness, what better way to understand it's context than under the supervision of a teacher?

This story has yet to play out. I'm not encouraged about how it will end. I fear next they will march on our local book stores and pull copies of Mudgie and Millie because it tells the story of an unnatural relationship between a moose and a mouse!


Margie's Musings said...

What a tragedy. Life is not all pretty and one of the best ways to learn about it is through the classics. Why on earth ban them?

Rinkly Rimes said...

When studying literature it is the language that should be considered first, even before the subject matter.