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Protect Your Children from the Classics!

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!




  1. loudmouthedlibrarian says:

    OK, parents need to stop coddling the “young’uns”. Worse topics are probably discussed at the bus stop!

  2. Yes, the whiskey is good (how was that Manhattan?), but you forgot horses. Good horses in ol’ Kentucky. And where there are horses, there are horses asses. Obviously lots of them.

  3. Don’t forget “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight!” That little story is practically the script for the Monty Python version of The Tale of Sir Galahad. Talk about naughty – a trip to Castle Anthrax anyone?

  4. Plain Jane says:

    All this smut in our classrooms is horrible!

    Children should be reading the Bible instead– because it doesn’t have anything like “sex (take your pick, really), child abuse (Isaac and Abraham spring to mind), suicide (Samson) and drug abuse (the entire freakin’ Book of Revelations).”

  5. What about the Farie Queen? Goodness knows that could be taken in all the wrong contexts.

    And by the way, it’s the Book of Revelation. Singular. The whole thing is one long dream, not a series of them. Pet peeve.

  6. Your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian says:

    You can’t get pregnant or catch STDs by reading about sex. You can’t die from reading about suicide. You can’t get addicted by reading about drug use. If you get abused by adult caretakers it probably isn’t because someone read about it and decided to act out. But apparently these nutcases are all about magical thinking, aren’t they?

  7. David Dunkerton says:

    The Creation Museum is one of the more intellent things Kentucky has to offer, and if you don’t think graphic novels are appropriate for high school reading, I’m guessing you’ve never read one!

  8. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  9. David Dunkerton – jeeze! That’s all I can manage. Reading does not translate to action on the part of a reader. If you don’t want your kids to read something, fine and dandy. Do not presume to tell me what my kids can read.

  10. Montmorency fan says:

    I’m sure there’s plenty of parents in Kentucky who are just as against teaching the classics as they are against anything else. So AL need not worry.

  11. David Dunkerton, did you completely miss the point of the post?

    Great works reveal uncomfortable truths about the human condition. That’s why we read them. Sometimes they have to be graphic. Human beings have done “ugly” things (a subjective judgement indeed) for their entire history (what is that, 6,000 years to you? [btw, the Bible is a book of myths that point to greater truths, not a scientific journal]). Don’t you all say “there’s nothing new under the sun?” Shouldn’t we help kids to understand the human condition? Won’t that lead to more tolerance and forgiveness (oh, most of you fundamentalists are in NO position to give a lesson about tolerance)?

    Anyway, teenagers already “get it” – talk to a 16 or 17 year old, and they know pretty much all about these things, sometimes even more than some adults. So, the problem is not really keeping them from being exposed to “BAD THINGS!”, but it’s helping them to understand how and why to control their behavior. That’s not really a librarian’s job. Suppression and censorship will generally lead the poor kid to backlash and rebel someday, and the results will be 10x worse than if you had guided him, rather than paranoiacally controlled what he sees and hears.

  12. Dan Kleinman of says:

    Funny, as usual.

    Hey, a number of authors and the superintendent are talking in comments on my blog post here:

    As author Kelly Milner Halls puts it, “DO NOT MISS the action at this blog.”

  13. TheIlliterateLibrarian says:

    Once again, I’d prefer to have young adults exploring serious and potentially life-altering issues such as sex, sexual identity, depression, suicide, abuse, etc. within the safe confines of the pages of a book and classroom discussion, than having their first experience with such things be in “practicum,” as it were. I really am baffled by this idea that if we just shelter our kids from the uglier or more controvercial things in life, kids will never ever think of them or try them. If we just don’t talk about depression, or suicide, teenagers will never ever have depression or attempt to committ suicide! *shakes head*

  14. David Dunkerton says:

    Torino, I understood the point of the post, and I was only sharing some of my own views in my comment. I agree with the concept that young adults do not need to be shielded from the world. I am tired of people who don’t know anything about graphic novels saying they are not valuable literature. Teens should learn to discern, and if anyone censors what they read it should be their parents, not teachers or librarians. Also, I am convinced that the Bible is historically accurate and consistent with science, and dinosaurs and people were on the Earth at the same time!

  15. Trolly Bear says:

    Stop trolling the yesterthreads.


    It promotes socialism.

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