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12 May 2010

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Clover

I'd be interested to know which current books you'd recommend instead of this one? I've never read it myself, but have heard lots about it!

Leila

The Ellen Hopkins books are the ones that immediately come to mind: they have similar themes, but they're geared a bit older and while I certainly have plenty of patrons that age who read them (and LOVE them), the content would send the parents who challenged GAA right through the roof again.

Same goes for Jack Gantos' Hole In My Life. I know there are others that are escaping me at the moment (haven't had breakfast yet) -- I'll scan the shelves when I get to work.

CC

What about Burgess?

CC

Crap. And that newish Rachel Cohn. You Know Where I Am? Something like that.

Leila

You Know Where to Find Me. Yeah, those occurred to me, too, but I think they're geared more to high school than to seventh/eighth graders. I mean, I'm sure that there are plenty of kids that age who're reading 'em, but I'm guessing that it would be difficult to use them in a middle school classroom.

I thought of K. L. Going's Saint Iggy, too -- my kids all love that one. (I didn't, though.)

Gwenda

Plus, in the era of memoirs pulled off shelves for lies, why is this still being billed as a "true story"? It was debunked as written by an editor a million years ago!

Leila

I know that that has a lot to do with my irritable reaction to the book -- I did note that the administrators quoted in the article did refer to it as a novel, which made me happy. But the text on the cover! Yeesh.

hope

I know we're supposed to defend any book to the death, but if my kid brought this book home as an assignment in health class I would be all up in his health teacher's face in a red hot minute. You want to have it in the library? Fine. The kids want to pass it from hand to hand at the back of the bus? Fine. You want to give it an imprimatur of Truth with a capital T by assigning it? No Fucking Way. It's deceitful scare-tactics. "Crappy and lame" indeed, but most importantly-- just when you promise to talk to kids straight about their health you offer them Lies? No. I don't care how many little kiddies it saves from turning into Glasses of Orange Juice. I don't want you lying to my kid. And I reserve the right to stand up in front of my school board and say that I think that a school teacher lying to ANYONE'S kid, is unacceptable.

hope

Alternatively. Maybe I should just take a deep breath and let it go. Sorry about the french.

Leila

Hey, I'm fine with French. I come from a long line of Acadians.

I think it's a totally fair response to the book -- and if the challenger had made that argument, I wouldn't have been able to mock the argument at all, that's for sure. (My line about the orange juice was a reference to the book's horrible scare tactics, but that probably wasn't at all clear.)

It isn't really the book I think needs defending -- it's a crap book, period -- it's the one parent deciding for other parents part that always puts my back up. But it's a situation more complicated than most, and one that might make a great letter to the editor.

Jenny

I would be a little surprised myself if my kid was assigned this book in health class - on the other hand, I read this in eighth grade, when the sum total of my knowledge about drugs wouldn't have filled up a single page, and still thought, Huh, this is pretty over-the-top.

hope

No, your OJ comment was perfectly clear. More than mine was, I think. I was responding to the teacher in the article :

"In fact, she said, students there have had a great deal of success in learning lessons about the dangers of drug use from the powerful messages the book conveys."

So lying to kids works. I believe her. I just don't think it's ethical.

But this is the kind of situation that makes me question the validity of the argument that you can speak for your own kid, but not for someone else's. I mean, there are all kinds of times we speak for other people's kids. If my kid's teacher in the fifth grade is really,egregiously, incompetent, do I stop trying to get that person out of the classroom once my kid has moved on? I don't think so, and I'm perfectly comfortable as a member of the PTA signing a petition to get the math curriculum for the school changed. My kid should not go to bed hungry becomes NO child should have to go to bed hungry.

So the argument isn't really that you can't speak on behalf of other's kids. It's really, you can't impose your right wing conservative values on other people's kids. Being a liberal leftie, I'm totes okay with that one. But it's a trickier argument to make because you rapidly run into majority rules and what's good for the goose kind of problems.

Wendy

"Mrs. Kum says that she is well aware that there are likely students in the school who are going through the very same issues as the book's Alice right now"

Wait, how is that even POSSIBLE, when the "issues" Alice is going through... don't even exist? I mean, she gets hallucinations from marijuana. She deals drugs to the elementary school kids in her fancy neighborhood. She gets turned on to drugs--and back on to drugs--through no fault of her own, poor girl... maybe the school should be using that very special Sweet Valley High book where Regina Morrow dies because her new friends force her to do cocaine, instead. At least Sweet Valley High isn't unapologetically homophobic.

Gay kids have enough trouble in middle school without having to read, and having all their classmates read, a book that talks about how disgusting they are. I don't think that's censorship; I think it's judiciousness.

msyingling

I have problems with a lot of the books teachers assign. To Kill a Mockingbird? Really? NOTHING else has been written in the last fifty years? I'm a big proponent of a variety of choices on a related topic. That way, if students chose Go Ask Alice, it's their own fault.

Leila

I've been thinking about this one all night. hope, I think you have -- in part -- brought me around to your way of thinking. I think what it boils down to is this: it's being used in a health class, not a lit class. And in a health class, using fictional scare tactics in the form of Go Ask Alice does feel Wrong.

I'm big on not wanting people to tell me how I should think or how I should live, and I try to Walk the Walk in that respect, and I try not to tell other people how they should think/live -- so I think, given the choice, I might ask to have my kid removed from the class for that segment. And I'd certainly explain my reasoning to the teacher/curriculum coordinator -- as well as to the parents of my kid's friends. I think that's the way I'd go.

hope

BWA HA HA

This is how it starts. Soon you'll be wibbling and doubting your own convictions and then you won't know what to think, just like me!

Because, you know that if it really WERE your kid, you'd sit on the couch reading the book together and laughing your butts off. I'm not worried about my kid being exposed to a stupid book. I'm worried about what it says to my kid about his teacher and his school and the behavior of adults. It's all very . . . muddy. All I know right now is that I'd turn up at the school board meeting about it, for sure.

Leila

Yeah, there are a whole lot of people who are perfectly comfortable with lying to younger people For Their Own Good. I won't do it, but I'm not big on lying in general, to anyone. White lies even make me feel squeamish. But that's me. And I know that the For Their Own Good people probably feel just as strongly about their way of doing things.

I also thought about providing my imaginary, loudmouthed and argumentative child (who is apparently more like my sister than myself) with notes about exactly why the book is so stupid, and then loosing her/him on the unsuspecting classroom.

But then I thought that might be too mean. Sitting on the couch together and howling at the stupidity of the book would also be a good option.

Diana

I loved this book. I read it in middle school. If I read it now, I'd probably think it was laughable, but there are a lot of things that don't age well. I think if we start to challenge books based on our opinions of quality, we open a whole new can of worms.

Leila

Oh, of course. It's way subjective, and it would be a free-for-all if people actually did that. All anyone really needs to do for an illustration is read down through the one-star reviews of classic books on Amazon!

Enjoyyourstyle

Since Go Ask Alice was almost certainly fake (http://www.snopes.com/language/literary/askalice.asp) you can make a case that it should be pulled, just for that. There are better and more realistic books on teenage drug use, such as Dirty by Meredith Maran.

hope

Enjoyyourstyle, Go Ask Alice is *shit* in so many ways (Diana, that's why we loved in middle school). But if you successfully argue against having it assigned in health class, the local newspaper headline will be "BOOK CENSORED!" and if the reporter has a quote from Leila, the headline would be "LIBRARIAN FOR BOOK CENSORSHIP!" And the ALA would add it to their list of Book Censoring in the United States, and I don't know . . . come take Leila's Library License away or pelt her with balled up copies of the US Constitution or something.

The real problem is that you might embolden a whole lot of other censors. So what do you do when your school assigns something that on any objective measure shouldn't be assigned? Do you shut up and figure your kid isn't going be much bothered by it? Or do you stand up and risk supporting the enemy?

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