I don’t know much about Kentucky. It seems from a distance the best thing that ever came out of Kentucky was the whiskey, in honor of which I’m currently sipping a manhattan instead of a martini. I know they also have the Creation Museum, which apparently has displays of humans interacting with dinosaurs. You can’t get that sort of thing where I live. Lately though, Kentucky’s been giving us the juiciest book challenges.
First, there the two busybodies who violated the privacy of patron records to protect an 11-year-old girl from what amounts to a somewhat naughty comic book. Considering what I hear about 11-year-old girls today, smutty graphic novels are the least of their concerns.
Until now, I’ve somehow missed the story about the Kentucky teacher being challenged by parents because she teaches popular young adult novels in her accelerated English classes, and the students are surprising everybody by actually reading them. At first I thought the shocking thing was that they were reading at all, given they’re from a state that has the Creation Museum, but then I realized that it’s been a long time since Kentucky was full of nothing but anarchist hillbillies distilling whiskey and backwoods religion. About 200 years, I think. Or at least a hundred.
According to the news article, "Some parents have complained that the novels contain foul language and cover topics — including sex, child abuse, suicide and drug abuse — unsuited for discussion in coed high school classes. They also contend that the books don’t provide the intellectual challenge and rigor that students need in college preparatory classes."
The parents could be right about both, of course, though most teachers and librarians would never admit it. Some of these are senior English classes, though, so I’m not sure how many topics are really out of scope for 17-year-olds. That’s partly what seems odd about this challenge. This isn’t fifth graders reading about fondling dog scrotums for fun or anything. I suppose the moment they turn 18 they’re ready to discuss sex and suicide.
As far as the rigor and intellectual challenge, they’re probably right about that one. These books don’t seem very "accelerated" for high school students. It seems more like dumbing down the curriculum. I’ve worked in higher education for a long time, and I’ve never noticed the students being assigned juvenile novels. Maybe I’ve just worked at the wrong places, though.
What I found far more disturbing was what else was being taught. Again, from the article: "The continuing ruckus revolves around contemporary, young-adult novels that have been used in conjunction with classical works like The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and the epic poem Beowulf in some sophomore and senior accelerated English classes." I’m quite frankly shocked that the schools would teach Beowulf or Chaucer, and I think the parents should be very concerned about this. One would think the parents hadn’t actually read Beowulf or Chaucer.
In Beowulf, a gigantic monster goes around killing human beings in large numbers. Whenever he gets bored, Grendel just pops into a castle full of knights and murders them all. After Beowulf rips his arm off and beats him to death with it, his mother becomes even worse. This is sort of thing horror movies are made of! Absolutely disgusting violence, and those parents should protest that such stuff is being assigned their little ones.
And Chaucer! Talk about smut! That Wife of Bath is basically just a dominatrix. These days she’d be wearing leather and carrying a riding crop to discipline her compliant husbands. I like having sovereignty over husbands as much as the next gal, but let’s call a dominatrix a dominatrix, or at least "mistress."
Or that Miller’s Tale? There’s a reason the lady turned a whiter shade of pale when she heard that one, I can assure you. A married woman and her lover try to figure out ways to cheat on her husband. That alone would be some saucy stuff, and teaching very bad moral lessons to the kiddies. But add in people kissing anuses and flatulating in faces and sticking hot pokers into people’s bottoms and you know what you’ve got on your hands? Smut, that’s what.
The article doesn’t mention Shakespeare, but he’s more bawdy, naughty, and violent than Beowulf and Chaucer put together. That Bowdler guy was on the right track, and Kentucky needs more like him.
I urge the parents of the delicate Montgomery County High School students to seriously reevaluate the reading list for that school, and pay attention to things besides the trashy juvenile books the students might read anyway. They should take a long hard look at these so-called classics.
The high school students in Kentucky should read wholesome literature instead. I suggest the King James Version of the Bible (without the Song of Solomon, or some of those violent historical books, or Revelations), the McGuffey High School and Literary Reader, Little House on the Prairie books, and anything published in Guideposts Magazine.
Remember, the children are our future!