Monday, November 14, 2005

Coming of Age at my local high school

There are so many influences out there which can harm our families. Schools now go out of their way to expose children to what a few years ago adults found distrubing. For example, my local high school's Freshmen Honors English has an interesting agenda. The theme is called "coming of age." Every book contains a plot line that includes one or more of the following: attempted child rape, child rape, rape, incest, homosexuality and prostitution. The stories are downers: life is ugly, sex is sordid, family doesn't love you, dog-eat-dog.

I want to know what ever happened to the old classics. While these themes are in some of the old classics, they are not explained in graphic detail. For example, Les Miserables deals with suffering and prostitution but with a redeeming message. [In fairness, they did have one classic on the list: Romeo and Juliet. Of all the Shakespeare out there to choose from, they had to pick the one with stupid teenagers who fall in lust and kill themselves in less than 72 hours.]

The main book used in the class is, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in which Maya Angelou writes in detail about an abusive childhood, being raped as a child, as well as other ugly and depressing stuff. While Maya Angelou may be a talented author and the book may have some redeeming message, this is not an age appropriate book for most students.

What's worse, children are forced to read the book, participate in class discussions and do a class project on the it. I know of one parent who complained and was given an alternative book, A Member of the Wedding. While not graphic in nature, it is still one of those downer books with an attempted rape. Because of doing the alternate book, the student is required to do the group project alone. The student still has to participate/be present for the group discussion of the objectionable book.

[Note: if you use the book links, look at the differences in the reviews. Teens saw the book differently than adults. I was struck by how differently I viewed books that I had read as a teen when I reread them as an adult. I'm not against books that deal with difficult topics. I'm against children being forced to immerse themselves in ugly or disturbing adult topics at vulnerable developmental stages. I'm against the the school playing head games with teenagers. ]

I was most upset by the "classical conditioning" ramifications. The students in the class are mostly 14 year olds. At that age and stage of development, boys and even girls can be very easily aroused by sexual descriptions. This arousal is now being associated with violence and rape. So instead of sexual arousal being elements of love and marriage, it is part of rape and incest. Yea, right. That is just what I want the boys who may someday date my daughters to learn in school.


Andrea said...

I am still young enopugh to remember what went on when I went to high school, and it seems what was common knowledge in grades 11 & 12 is now what the 8th and 9th graders know.

I dunno why people seem to think this is "normal". So sad.

Janine Cate said...

I've been informed that the English class is also reading OF MICE AND MEN. No graphic sex in that one, just a "mercy killing" and something about a brothel. Of course, it's one of those downer books. Can't have happy teens, you know.

dayzee said...

Are you familiar with this book:

It discusses exactly the the type of adolescent literature you mention. It's a great book!

Janine Cate said...

Thanks for the pointer. They have it at my local library. I look forward to reading it.