My daughter and I have a local writer friend who teaches at the elementary school level – a local quasi-magnet type school which advertises itself as offering a challenging college prep curriculum, and she is discouraged beyond words over how difficult it is to interest the pupils, especially the boys in her class in reading. Of course, given the run of books generated of late by mainstream establishment publishing, aimed at the YA and young readers and then approved by schoolteachers and librarians … most of them seem to be a grim wallow in social or familial dysfunction, misery, gloom, and despair … plus of late, lashings of sexual confusion as well – of the latter, it seems the more explicit, the better.
Frankly, I’m not at all surprised that our friend’s pupils are not keen on the written word, if the above is all there is thrust upon them. I suppose the thinking among the great contemporary kid-lit authorities is that the kids who are wallowing in social/familial dysfunction, misery, gloom, despair, and sexual confusion should feel validated by reading all about it, and those kids who are not will yet have their consciousness raised. In the trendy argot, they should be starting a conversation … even though I suspect that both types of kids relish that kind of reading as much as they would tuck into another delicious helping of filboid studge. The kids who are living the dysfunction/misery/gloom/confusion know it all too damned well, and the happy portion of those who aren’t living in such conditions are left baffled, revolted, and generally put off … not the least by having it thrust upon them incessantly. As a commenter on this thread remarked: “The passage the teacher wanted me to read was about hanging a puppy to get back at his dad. Apparently, it was from some award-winning young adult novel. I was rather horrified, and asked to do a different one. And this was almost 30 years ago. It seemed like every single book the AP lit teachers wanted us to read was just horrific or depressing or both. …”
What I wanted as a kid reader, what my daughter wanted in turn, and what my friend’s pupils want with the longing of a thirsty traveler in a desert is … escape, entertainment, adventure, derring-do, something entirely aside from their mundane and possibly miserable existences. Heroes, fights and festivals, as Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote in his book of poetry for children. They want to be swept away, to be the hero or heroine, to wander stranger lands and distant oceans, a bold quest and successful resolution … and if there is a moral and good and bad examples of behavior incorporated into the narrative, it had better be done with a subtle touch.
However, this variety of whackadoodle wokery is not the most noisome educational atrocity currently being perpetuated upon school students – as the comment above noted, unappealing books in the classroom has been a thing for decades, and likely even longer. The Victorians were no slouches when it came to pushing stories intended to improve the moral character of the young; authors like Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling pushed back against this with writing adventures for Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Stalky and his friends.
What has increasingly outraged parents are the twin scourges of whatever disguise Critical Race Theory is being mainlined into the student body. Whatever innocuous-seeming guise it goes under is essentially telling white kids that they are irredeemably evil racists, and students of color that they will never get anywhere in life ‘cause raaaaaacism. Parents of all colors are protesting this intellectual abuse, and certain schools – teachers’ organizations, administrators and school boards of them are shocked at this interference, aghast that so-called educational experts are being fought against, tooth and nail, after having had their own way for so long.
Parents are also outraged at what they judge to be grossly inappropriate sex education pushed by the education establishment for elementary and middle school age children. (See the proposed outline linked here.) In the eyes of parents, wildly inappropriate sexual content, encouragement of sexual practices and the transgender fad (and it is a temporary and damaging fad; no doubt in my mind about it) this amounts as abuse and grooming of the most vulnerable. Suspicion of this being confirmed when teachers encourage their students to keep secrets about what they are being taught in class from their parents.
If this weren’t sufficiently a matter of concern, it’s compounded when goofs like Terry McAuliffe state as a matter of campaign rhetoric that ordinary parents really have no right to object to the decisions of so-called experts when it comes to teaching children. That insult is redoubled by Merrick Garland declaring that parents at school board meetings are worthy of more suspicion and law-enforcement regard for being potentially violent … merely for objecting to public-school enabled abuse and mistreatment?
Seriously, to whom do our children really belong? To their parents and families … or to the education combine embodied by our more deranged public schools and the whackadoodle wokery which seems to infest them? And what can we do, as parents and grandparents to burn that establishment to the ground and salt the earth where it was? Comment as you wish.