24 April 2010

Fine Literature

Patrick's English teacher is one of those East Coast liberal types, full of crazy ideas, Patrick tells me. She spouts off nutty ideas in class and runs the school's Native American Club after school. No, there's nothing wrong with "Native Americans," but basically, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture is pretty consistently denigrated by her. About half the works assigned weren't even originally written in English! In an English class, that's just wrong.

She's figured out by now that Patrick is a Christian, and a conservative one at that. She has a few snide things to say, and Patrick has a few snide things to say back. When assignments are handed out, Patrick gets the ones that refer to the Bible because she knows he likes all that stuff. We can't really avoid the Bible, she tells the class, because it's the most classic literature written by a committee, not to mention the fact that it gets referenced in the *older* literary works.

In short, Patrick is the God-boy of the class. He takes advantage of this unique opportunity to be an ambassador for Christ by using the cartoon assignment to portray his teacher as a two-headed worm that takes in assignments at one end and um, produces grades at the other. He writes things like "our honourable chairman said..." in his reviews. He compared the current public educational system to the Nazi concentration camps for his "satire" assignment. Obama, of course, is vaguely alluded to as the Communist, Nazi leader of the free world, and he writes about what a great thing that is that teachers will have more power than pesky parents with much sarcasm.

In short, he gets her goat and she grades him accordingly. Sigh. Brown-noser, he is not.

This is the same young man that I got a worried phone call about a couple of years ago. They were studying ancient Greece and he refused to look at the nudie statues, the social studies teacher told me. He needs to complete this assignment. Could you tell your son he can look at the statues? Um, ok... I told him he could look but not loooook. No ogling. Compromise met. Patrick wasn't particularly pleased, but he dealt with it.

Patrick said that he was just assigned a "mature" book in English class. He raised one eyebrow as he said it and told me I ought to look at it. "Mature," I guess, is eduspeak for "written porno that no way any decent, God-fearing American would allow to be distributed in the local library, let alone keep in his home."

My. This book is the most smutty, disgusting, amazingly bad work of "literature" I think I've ever seen. I tried to give it a good chance... tried to see some redeeming literary value in the OVERALL of the book. Sometimes when a rape scene or the like is included, it's used to demonstrate injustice or bring to light some element of the human condition, etc. I really tried to give this book a fair chance.

I got through about 20 pages. Lots of incest. Large breasts. Genital smells as turn-ons. Chastity belts and marital rape. Spears through the throat. I finally put the thing down when it went into some detail about how the mom in the book is checking out her young teen son's penis and thinking about its size in comparison with his dad's.

Done. Just done. So I wrote the following excuse note:

Dear Mrs. English Teacher (note I did not use preferred MS. title, sure hope she's married):

Please excuse Patrick from reading One Hundred Years of Solitude in English class. Surely some other, more ennobling work can be selected that fulfills class requirements. We would like one that does not cater to the prurient interests or is otherwise unwholesome.

Thank you for your prompt consideration on this matter.

Mrs. C
email address here

Patrick had a good chuckle when he read the note. "This is just what she needs to hear," he said with a big grin. "Perfect." He wanted to know why I wouldn't just email his teacher and why I handed him the note.

Honestly? I am giving him the note because he is nearly 17. In a year and a half, he will be able to watch porno without my consent if he's out of the house. He will be able to do all kinds of things without my permission. Patrick knows my preference on the book. I told him, though, that if he wanted to fill his mind with that smut, that he is old enough to understand the potential consequences.

But I am giving him the note so that the decision is truly his. He can hand in the note, or not hand in the note.

I have a feeling that he will hand in the note because not only does he not want to continue reading this book, he will also drive his teacher batty with the parental backup.

18 comments:

  1. That is appalling - anyone in education should strive to be as neutral as possible when it comes to politics and religion. And knowing basic Biblical themes and stories isn't limited to the "dead white men." Anyone who has ever read Toni Morrison should know that!

    I haven't read the book - and I suspect that my level of tolerance for sexuality in literature is higher than yours :) - but I grow increasingly concerned with how much sex there is out there, especially in a twisted/violent context. And if you found all *that* in a mere 20 pages, I agree - definitely catering to prurient interests! What will his teacher assign next, I wonder? Marquis de Sade's writings?

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  2. 26 pages, but I stuck around longer than I should have. I know this teacher probably is a little nutty... but I also know my son is not the type to just sit quietly and deal with things... and with some people that makes things way worse.

    I don't have a problem with teachers expressing their political viewpoints with older children so long as there is a clear delineation between "opinion" and "you need to feel the same way to pass," yk? So I am letting him handle it. I know he will have enough "diversity training" and the like later on when he gets a job, and he might as well learn to handle things now. :)

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  3. You managed 26 pages?! Wow. I'm impressed. I find this guy unreadable. I've never got far enough in anything I've tried to know what the content was. I don't like pretentious books, or pretentious writing or writers trying to be clever & I definitely don't like gratious sex in my novels. Nothing makes me put a book down faster. I'm glad for Patrick that he likes messing with his teacher's head space. He could get some real ball time with this one!

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  4. Yeah, I TOLD you I really, really wanted to give this work a chance. Sometimes good works of literature can have some awful spots in it. This was definitely gratuitous, disgusting, overdrawn animal-like sexuality at its most carnal level.

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  5. I glanced over the spark notes on this to get a better view. It is really heavy stuff to be handing to high schoolers. How on earth she can safely promote class discussions considering the topics covered? It's not even just what's appropriate (and I don't think it is). The typical high schooler is likely to be so distracted by the scenery (sex, etc) that they'll miss the literary devices. Is this her first year of teaching high school in the Bible Belt?

    If she has any sense at all she'll give him something else to read without any argument.

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  6. Yeah, we'll see if she has any sense at all. I'm not in for a fight, but no way my kid should be forced to read this stuff.

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  7. Thanks for raising a son with a Godly backbone! It's something I pray for everyday for my four boys... that when the time(s) come(s), they'll be willing to stand up for whatever is right and whatever is true!

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  8. Aww, thanks, Erika! Though really, after a certain point, these young men (and my little girl) must decide for THEMSELVES what to do with their lives. So I'm not done praying, either. :)

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  9. Wow - your son sounds like a great kid! bravo to him for standing up for what he believes and not just going along with all the liberal crap teachers try to feed students. it's awesome he has the conviction that grades aren't everything when it comes to morals. good job, mom!

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  10. I love the smell of good literature! But that is not it.

    -- D

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  11. On one hand, you have a lot to be proud of - you have a son who is willing and able to speak his mind. That takes courage.

    On the other, is this really the best use of that courage?

    -- He compared the current public educational system to the Nazi concentration camps for his "satire" assignment. Obama, of course, is vaguely alluded to as the Communist, Nazi leader of the free world, --

    The Holocaust is not or at least should not be a meme - it is a trauma that involved real live people being killed, maimed, starved to death, shot at for fun, raped, and many other horrible things. And there are still survivors alive today for whom all of this is a personal memory.

    However bad or oppressive the school system is I doubt it comes even a fraction close to someone taking his physical life. However pained you are by the way the system treats your son, I sincerely doubt it is equivalent to watching him die. Next time you are tempted to treat the Holocaust as a bit of give-it-to-them-good rhetoric, please imagine yourself as a mother walking into Auschwitz and think twice.

    As a Christian, you ought to understand better than most that life is sacred.

    While you are teaching your son respect for the body, perhaps a little respect for trauma might also be in order. The Holocaust or any other genocide is not an appropriate symbol for satire. If you don't teach him, who will?

    Beth from Israel

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  12. Mrs C--I applaud you wholeheartedly for raising a son (s) who is godly. That is rare in this day and age. I'm not a prude and just had a conversation with my more liberal mother about kids watching PG rated kid movies (like Madagascar). I think most kids live in a PG world--parental guidance is always necessary. But I struggle with our 11 year old cousin not being able to watch PG rated kids movies. However, this book being offered in a high school English class is really appauling to me. We don't have enough trouble with teenage sexuality and the expression thereof without condoning pornography by calling it literature. Wow. Sometimes I wonder just where these teachers come from. I think Patrick is learning a very valuable lesson here. We all have different opinions. It is okay to disagree, but sometimes that disagreement makes you unpopular--like his grades reflecting his desire to spar with his teacher. What a great thing to learn now! Stand up for what you believe in, even if it isn't the most profitable or popular thing. How many people wish they had learned that at 17?

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  13. Good grief! The teacher can't come up with anything better? She should be ashamed of herself.

    I'm interested in hearing what kind of response you get.

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  14. Thank you, Mrs. K! It was nice chatting with you the other night.

    Beth, apparently I didn't make the context of the "satire" very clear. The children were to make their own based on Swift's "Modest Proposal." Surely if Irish children being eaten by English people is proposed as a decent solution to anything, my son can allude to the Holocaust in writings modeled after that work.

    Bonnie, I sometimes have not allowed my children at 11 to watch PG movies, but then I go off and let the older four watch Lord of the Rings, which certainly has lots of blood and gore. So I get that. :)

    I'll keep you posted, Sue!

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  15. Oh my. Love it.

    I had one particularly bad teacher who constantly reminded me--and the other male WASP-types--that she had to struggle to get where she was. I'm sure she did, but I still don't know what she was trying to accomplish by telling me that fact.

    We read some interesting books in her class. A few of them I even liked until she started talking about them.

    But who am I kidding? After my Sonlight background I was disappointed with most of the "fine literature" we read in English classes. [sigh]

    I was the God-boy in my classes as well. [smile]

    ~Luke

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  16. "We read some interesting books in her class. A few of them I even liked until she started talking about them."

    Bwa ha haa! That just sooo reminds me of "life in college." :)

    And Luke, one of the BookLinks we did recommended the House of the Sixty Fathers. It was *awesome*. I don't usually go for the historical fiction stuff, but it was *awesome.* I could see myself very disappointed if I were you as well, because this literature is total poo. Cereal boxes contain more epic adventure (Now with whole grain!) than some of these novels.

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  17. Bravo! I remember reading a couple of books that turned my stomach in high school and hated. I vowed I would never make my son read Lord of the Flies and I did not! I read it in eighth grade in an very troubled school (North Chicago). I was LIVING Lord of the Flies. Another hopeless book about a kid named M&M living in a drug infested world. EIGHTH GRADE!

    I've been involved in a Charlotte Mason curriculum planning group and we put all of the edgier books that are not porno but have strong themes in the last year. I promise you, there are many WONDERFUL books out there. Great literature. It breaks my heart that we have kids reading garbage because of some nutty professor. Ug!

    That is not education.

    High five to Patrick and you.

    We've been lucky with David. We are in the deep south. One of his classes is off campus at the Christian Learning Center. He is taking New Testament history for a history credit. Pinch me! His government/economics teacher was a conservative. He didn't admit it but David could tell by the way he explained things. His science teacher this semester is a Christian: she explained that she does not believe in evolution, but she still teaches what is required on the syllabus and does not try to brainwash the students (according to David). However, the movies shown when the band teacher is absent . . . definitely, definitely, have NO cultural value whatsoever! Zero, zip, nada.

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  18. Tammy, I'm glad you and the schools have arrived at a right understanding. I don't have an objection to an "edgy" book, but I think there are decent limits on what even children in public school should be expected to tolerate as well. :)

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)