Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Here's Why Obama's Economic Stimulus Plan for Education is So Important!

After reading what a guy I follow in Twitter showed me, we need it to find and pay better teachers.
However, with an African American about to be inaugurated as president, Foley wonders whether 'Huck Finn' ought to be sent back down the river. Why not replace it with a more modern, less discomfiting novel documenting the epic journey of discovery?

"The time has arrived to update the literature we use in high school classrooms," Foley wrote in a guest column this month for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "Barack Obama is president-elect of the United States, and novels that use the 'N-word' repeatedly need to go."

Hmmm, let's see, how can I put this delicately? Oh, I've got it...

No. You're wrong.

How about, "Only if every piece of literature that has any word that any race or demographic can find offensive, regardless of context, comes off reading lists with it."

See where I'm going? Honors 12th Grade English would suddenly consist of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.
"It's just my experience teaching, especially 'Huck Finn.' Every year, it seems to be a tougher sell to the kids. I have a lot of passion for 'Huck Finn,' and my enthusiasm usually carries the book. But I have kids come up to me, very smart kids, who say, 'Mr. Foley, I hate this book.' " They hate not only the difficult dialogue, he said, but what students -- usually white ones -- object to as "demeaning stereotypes."

First - your students need to grow up. Not everything they read has to be (or will be) easy. I read EVERY FUCKING WORD of The Scarlet Letter and Of Human Bondage without pulling my eyes out (though I wanted to) or whining to my teacher. So can they. Oh, and Huck Finn is a tough read? Are you sure these students are "very smart kids"?

It's sad you have to try and educate the "angry mothers" of your students on the meaning of context as well as try to get your students to understand. You shouldn't have to. But it makes it that much more important that you take the effort to make the students, not give them an easier read. That way, maybe future teachers won't have angry parents asking why a book has the "N-word" in it.

If you can't do it, won't do it, or are too tired to do it, you need to find something else to do.


Dr. Momentum said...

I can't imagine many thinking people going along with this dumbed-down bullshit.

We have to look at our history, our heritage straight in the face. Sometimes the good is mixed into the bad.

Not reading "To Kill a Mockingbird"? Unreal.

We just saw Barack Obama inaugurated. How could we even appreciate the uniqueness of this moment without looking at the past?

If this spreads, our kids are doomed.

Randal Graves said...

I'm sorry, but The Hardy Boys offends me. Please remove that as well, Mr. President. Thank you.

In fact, reading is for unemployed communists.

briwei said...

Two comments.

1. A-frakking-men!
2. Why did you have to remind me of "Of Human Bondage"? I had blotted it from my memory. I'll get you, W. Somerset Maugham!

Julie said...

The Nancy Drew books would not be acceptable in their original form either. Most of them were extensively rewritten in the 60s to remove racist language and outdated references. Some have been rewritten multiple times.

I have a copy of the original version of the first Nancy Drew book, which depicts a "colored" caretaker as a lazy, incompetent, superstitious drunk. He's included mostly for comic relief, and when the cops are finished questioning him they don't give him a ride home. That's supposed to be funny.

It's fine with me that they got rid of that stuff since Nancy Drew books are usually read without adult supervision (in other words, there's no assurance that a young reader will understand this is not appropriate), but the rewrites also eliminated more sophisticated vocabulary, literary references, etc.

Eh, well, anyway, getting back to the racism thing, it's unfortunate that some people can't see any value in Huckleberry Finn, which has some outdated language but depicts interracial friendship as a good thing. If they can't tell the difference between that and a KKK rally, much less explain it to kids or their parents, then something is horribly, terribly wrong.

Bull said...

Dr. M - well put. And I don't think this will catch on much, but like you I'm shocked that this comes from someone in "education".

Randal - what offends you? Is it their thinly-veiled, pro-gay evangelical aetheist neo-con agenda?

Bri - oh shit...I forgot you sat next to me in that class. Didn't I talk about Iron Maiden when we did the unit on Samuel Taylor Colleridge?

Julie - count on you to make sure I learn something doing this. I absolutely had no idea that was the case! And hey, tweens now have Hanna Montana books to read instead!

Mary Ellen said...

Oh man, you just hit on a nerve for me. As Dr. Momentum said, we have to stop dumbing down the education of our kids. What's next? Get rid of Shakespeare? Sheesh!

Bull said...

M. E. - I'm sure it's crossed somebody's mind!