Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Required Reading?

The other day I read an article about some books being suspended from the curriculum due to parents' concerns.  I saw the list of books and personally, I can't think why any of them were in the curriculum to begin with.

No, I've never read any of them.  I'd never even heard of 4 out of the seven.  One of them we had in the house for a while because it was required for one of Hubs long-ago college courses.  I got rid of it years ago because meh.  All of this brings me back around to wondering why they were in the curriculum in the first place.

Some are talking about it like it's a book ban.  I think it's more along the lines of someone wasn't paying attention to what the educators were using as material and once the parents pointed out what their children were being forced to read (yeah, forced, because it was a case of read it or get an F), the district stopped to actually think about what was being read in their classrooms.

Long ago when I worked for a private school system, I brought a required-reading book to the attention of the president of the company because I thought it probably wasn't the message the company wanted for their customers' children to read.  I never did hear whether he agreed, but even if he had taken it out of the curriculum, it wasn't a ban.  It was a choice about what the school syystem wanted to be stuffed into a kid's brain under their watch.

And as I always say, be careful what you put in your brain because once it's in there, you can't get it back out again.  Think about when you have no choice but to read something and it's stuck in your head forever.  Think also about impressionable young minds being forced to read something you, as a parent, would never allow to be put in there, if you had any choice in the matter.

The book I brought to the attention of my boss was required reading for a grade.  If I had read the book first, I would've said 'hell, no', but instead, it was brought to my attention by the heart-rending sobs coming from my daughter's bedroom.  I read the book then.  And it was horrible.  Yeah, I cried, too.  It was that kind of book and totally inappropriate for the school's mission and for impressionable children's brains.  Maybe if she was 14 like the kids at the school in Texas, I would've told her to read it if she wanted to.  But to be wary.  (Which were pretty much my instructions for her reading anything past a certain age.  She was inhaling books faster than I could keep up with.)

One argument being made in the article I read was that the kids were probably going to read the books anyway.  Probably already had read the books, in fact.  And if you tell a kid they can't read a book, they're going to hunt it down and read it while their parents aren't looking.  Possibly true.  Doubt it when looking at the titles on the list.  They don't really seem like books the average kid would waste their free time reading.  And it's really not an argument for what is and isn't in a government funded school's curriculum (or even a private school's curriculum). 

These are educators.  Their mission is to educate.  Any book in a curriculum should be put there with that purpose in mind.  Of course, some educators see their mission as to inculcate rather than educate, and they choose reading material to further that agenda.  Sad, but true.  Somewhere, someone has to watch what is being used to educate and determine whether its purpose is to educate or to inculcate.  In this case, the watchers the parents.  It probably should've been the administrators, too, but in the end, the parents are the first line of defense.

And maybe the parents and administrators should be looking at the educators and their reasons for choosing certain books to put into their curriculum.  For instance, why Old Yeller and not Big Red?  They're both dog and boy stories.  One with a positive, hopeful message.  The other?  Hopeless and sad.  Hell, even Where the Red Fern Grows is better than Old Yeller.  Come on.  I guess there it comes down to your general philosophy of life.  Personally, I prefer to give children positive and hopeful messages.  There's plenty of time later - after they've got a good basis and their armor is thick - to expose them to the other crap.

Jus' sayin'.


  1. The problem is, the administrators belong to the same union as the teachers. And yes, there is an agenda. Since Only was in public schools, there wasn't a whole lot we could do beyond giving her a different point of view and backing her whenever she chose to question a teacher over something said/taught/required in the classroom. Yup, spent a lot of time in principals' offices, as well as the administrative building. She still managed to graduate with honors. The same in college.

    You've got me curious as to what those books are. I missed that article.

  2. After reading a couple of depressing books in high school - 1984, (memorable) for sure, and I think Lord of the Flies (long forgotten) - I started checking the next semester's reading list and juggling my schedule. I had to take a couple classes I would never have touched otherwise, but it was better than reading anything else that gave me nightmares.

    Teachers really should take into consideration WHAT these books teach kids. All they taught me was TRUST NO ONE. Oh, and to look ahead. :-)