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Thursday, November 6, 2014

The first or second or third challenge of my daughter attending the public school

My daughter is reading, "The Outsiders," by S.E. Hinton.
She has been promoted into "PreAp" classes at Middle School.
I immediately thought of a recent blog post by Mr. Selfevident Truths. Click to read.
"The Outsiders" was published in the 1960's and did poorly on the drugstore novel racks until it was discovered by angst ridden English teachers a few years later.
The book is one of those "coming of age" stories where there are kids who are outcasts and have labels forced upon them and then there is a crisis and they decide to put on a show. Generally, all is solved by the show and there is singing involved. However, in an "edgy" novel there is another crisis and an unexpected plot twist at the end which shows "gritty realism."
Lulu really likes the book. It moves quickly and she says she likes the descriptions. She has not gotten to the killing of the rival gang member.
She has been reading the Percy Jackson series, which is a formula type book that rips off takes Greek mythology, removes human sacrifice, incest, nasty sex, and puts it into an adventure format with kids from the 21st century continuing as the "heroes" of old.
She said this morning, "Why couldn't the Percy Jackson series have been written like this (The Outsiders).  Thereby explaining the difference between "literature" and the dime novel.
I'm not really thrilled that she start out with this book. I felt that while the book provides a discussion for the class structure that young teens are constantly upset about, it also reinforces the idea that you can't change your caste. As I remember it, the gang members can't change, even though there is a sin/redemption/sacrifice/resurrection theme.
So I said to her, this book will challenge your thinking. You know what you believe, can you read a book which has themes of drug use, violence, and realize that these are not your ideals? How will you react to the idea that while you have a moral compass that you have built through your Christian faith, other people don't have that conscience and you will be presented with the concept that there is no real meaning in life, other than in the experience of living it?
And then I went off on the concept of Nihilism and Moral Relativism and how listening to Punk Rock and reading, "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner," made me the annoying cynic that I am now.
She seemed amused...
Later, I had to think of the shrill parents at her former school who had a nervous breakdown and gave birth to several cows when the Bible Teacher extended his middle finger during an object lesson in Bible Class.
Of course the children then went home and watched network television in their living rooms, with their parents, and saw really offensive material that really would negatively influence their lives.
But, that is what you get for trying to actually teach the kids...

And now for the real question... Should I call up my friends on the school board and express my nervousness over the subject matter in my daughter's advanced placement English class or should I read the book with her and try and entice her into arguments over the meaninglessness of life?

Update, another book discussion this evening. It has given us something interesting to talk about.


  1. I never had any kids so my comments would be meaningless. Hope you get it all worked out.

  2. You taught her how to operate that baler or stacker thing. That's important. She'll probably figure the rest of life out. My daughter is thirty and when we discuss where I may have fallen short as a father she simply says "cut the drama."

  3. "Lulu" is one smart little girl and has great parents. You don't have anything to worry about. She knows good from bad & truth from bullshit.

  4. It is sort of amazing to see her making decisions on her own. Developing critical thinking skills. Sort of frightening.

  5. I may have used this before. There are a couple of important insights in life. The first is when you realize you don't want to be like your parents. The second is when you realize you don't want your children to be like you. Good parents nurture and open gates.

  6. To me it sounds like you are on the right track if you want to produce a thinking believer. Too many parents hide the issues of life and shelter them when a good discussion at home can give them the ammunition to work it through.

    We have truth and we don't need to be afraid. Help her think now and she will think when you are not there.

    As for the school board, that is probably a lost cause. Educators never learned to think and freak out when yo present that requirement.

    Grace and peace.

    1. I don't want to raise a stink about this book. There are far worse books. It is actually tame compared to network Tv and movies. The themes are obvious and make for good discussion. It is the subtle subversive ideas that really get to your kids and are what I worry about.


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