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Friday, December 07, 2012

I fail to see the downside

Every book the Baby Boomers consider "classic" should be eradicated from the school curricula:
American literature classics are to be replaced by insulation manuals and plant inventories in US classrooms by 2014. A new school curriculum which will affect 46 out of 50 states will make it compulsory for at least 70 per cent of books studied to be non-fiction, in an effort to ready pupils for the workplace. Books such as JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird will be replaced by "informational texts" approved by the Common Core State Standards.
It's not an accident that neither Salinger nor Lee published anything of note beside their one-hit wonders.  Neither of them were either good or interesting authors.  They both struck a chord with posers. Salinger resonated with those who wanted to think of themselves as alienated and cool, Lee with those who wanted to think of themselves as morally superior.

Insulation manuals will be of greater benefit to the young reader than either work.  So would the yellow pages.  It's about as significant as hearing that Bright Lights Big City and The Clan of the Cave Bear will no longer be imposed upon innocent, unsuspecting young minds.

88 Comments:

Anonymous Kane December 07, 2012 2:15 PM  

Any guesses on "informational texts" approved by the Common Core State Standard?

My guesses:

Howard Zinn
Noam Chomsky
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
Richard Dawkins
Someone gay
Someone flaming gay
Someone flaming gay who hates Christianity

Blogger James Dixon December 07, 2012 2:18 PM  

I've never read either book. I've seen the movie version of "To Kill a Mockingbird", and it was pretty good.

But largely, who cares? Anyone who only reads the books studied at school isn't going to learn anything anyway.

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 December 07, 2012 2:19 PM  

To be fair, Salinger did inspire two things: the death of John Lennon (but unfortunately, not Yoko despite being right there with him) and an anime series that was ultimately boring and anti-climatic (that would the first season of "Ghost in the Shell").

Anonymous MC December 07, 2012 2:20 PM  

I have never understood the obsession with "To Kill a Mockingbird". I don't think it's a bad book. It's kind of a kids' eye view of tragic circumstances, like "Number the Stars". But people treat it like it's Dostoevsky or something.

Anonymous RINO December 07, 2012 2:20 PM  

Clan of the Cave Bear was imposed on me .. it was quite scarring. Only in the mind of a feminist can a Homo Sapien female, inferior in both physical strength and coordination, walk into a Neanderthal clan and become an expert hunter with the ability to destroy every male heirarchy in her path.

Anonymous Daniel December 07, 2012 2:20 PM  

Neither of them were either good or interesting authors.

That's a bit of a broad brush. Harper Lee was terrible, but Salinger should be recognized for the short For Esmé – with Love and Squalor. Of course, he's not recognized for that, and Catcher in the Rye is drivel, so I'm not disagreeing with your main point.

Salinger would have been a good author, if it had been somebody there to shoot him every minute of his life. But Lee? It's no real pleasure.

Anonymous Azimus December 07, 2012 2:22 PM  

In which I take it that you are not against literature as a part of education per se, but the quality of the literature in the education?

Anonymous Anonymous December 07, 2012 2:24 PM  

This article was not correct. Checking the standards, they actually require such reading as the Grapes of Wrath, as well as Shakespeare.

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 December 07, 2012 2:24 PM  

Of course, I always got a bunch of fiction novels about the terrible Jim Crow south. It's a wonder there are any black people left in the Southern States after reading those books.

It wasn't until I reached IB courses that we got better literature. Still, spending four months studying Hamlet was a bit much.

Anonymous RINO December 07, 2012 2:26 PM  

Of course, I always got a bunch of fiction novels about the terrible Jim Crow south. It's a wonder there are any black people left in the Southern States after reading those books.

Were you subjected to Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry?

Anonymous Gen. Kong December 07, 2012 2:36 PM  

So, they'll now replace the 'soft' Marxist indoctrination published by the "free" press (all owned by the usual suspects) with something more hard core - perhaps Mao's little red book? It hardly matters. Anyone who has their kids in government indoctrination centers is quite beyond all help at this stage anyway. They just as well have wall to wall sermons by Jeremiah Wright, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and (of course) the holy writ of St. Martin the Adulterer.

Anonymous Koanic December 07, 2012 2:37 PM  

The hatred that burns in my heart over my subjection (operative word: subject) to those two books leaped with joy at this denunciation.

Anonymous Koanic December 07, 2012 2:40 PM  

I was once kicked out of a freshman rhetoric class for bringing up black crime statistics during a unit on bell hooks.

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 December 07, 2012 2:41 PM  

Were you subjected to Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry?

Yes, among others.

As for teaching kids Shakespeare, here's a good video I think sums why it shouldn't be taught in High School:

Teaching Shakespeare FAIL

Anonymous zen0 December 07, 2012 2:51 PM  

Catch-22 was worthwhile. Not the movie, however. It was recommended to me by my father, who was a bomber pilot and spent 2 years in prison camp. He didn't regard it as complete fiction.

Anonymous Athor Pel December 07, 2012 2:53 PM  

Catcher in the Rye, literary equivalent to writing "F@#K" on the wall of a public bathroom toilet stall.


Anonymous Roundtine December 07, 2012 2:54 PM  

As for teaching kids Shakespeare, here's a good video I think sums why it shouldn't be taught in High School:

They used to teach the classics to young children. You only learn to understand it by reading it because the language is so different.

Anonymous Cheddarman December 07, 2012 2:57 PM  

Clan of the Cavebear - I read it and thought it was an attempt at paleohistorical comedy.


sincerely

Cheddarman

Anonymous Toddy Cat December 07, 2012 3:13 PM  

Catch-22 is sort of Ok, as long as you don't draw all of your ideas about war from it. It's also an adult book, insofar as you have to be able to discount the author's obvious biases. It's not a book for HS kids.

Anonymous Noah B. December 07, 2012 3:14 PM  

I also think that many of these "classics" are way overrated, to put it kindly. But I'm afraid the likely scenario is that public schools will take these off the shelf and replace them with "Dreams From My Father," "Silent Spring," "The Return of Depression Economics," and assorted works of climate hysteria. The subtle variety of fiction-based propaganda just doesn't go far enough for the radical left.

Anonymous cheddarman December 07, 2012 3:15 PM  

More on clan of the CaveBear:

IMO, the Neanderthals were intelligent and bad-assed. To be able to survive in the frozen wastelands of Europe for hundreds of thousands of years required a lot of brainpower. I reject the accepted interpretations of who the Neanderthals were, and how they lived.

I would not be surprised if the Europeans have more Neanderthal DNA that the "accepted" 3-5% claimed by the academicians...or if the Neanderthals were a sub-population of homosapiens with somewhat different skeletons, caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D and genetics...

I want to ask the Almighty about that in Eternity.


sincerely

cheddarman

Blogger tz December 07, 2012 3:20 PM  

My only worry is Marx and Keynes is considered to be non-fiction.

Fiction is actually a very good basis, provided it is the right kind of "fiction". Virgil, Aesop, Homer, Shakespear, Milton - The list would be quite long.

Look up "A Thomas Jefferson Education".

Of course for anything you would need remedial English.

Things like the 1611 King James Bible which is the same language as Shakespear. Peter Kreeft commented that it is the most accurate english translation still (assuming you have the language skills to read at that level). We still say their translation of the "Our Father".

In addition to the Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye, there was Hemmingway and Fitzgerald.

Note how Homeschoolers don't do anything even close.

Blogger republicanmother December 07, 2012 3:22 PM  

How about Black Like Me.

I got on my teachers wrong side when I asked how did we know that any of this stuff happened? What was the corroboration?

The Color Purple is another book I threw in the garbage after going through my books.

Anonymous Razoraid December 07, 2012 3:26 PM  

Although back in the day it was required reading, I bet today the novel Of Mice and Men is declared unfit reading by our Publik Skool masters because it is considered raciss and might hurt someone's feelings. Of course nowadays it's perfectly okay they teach kids to sing Kumbaya to dear leader. mmmm mmm mmm.

Anonymous Daniel December 07, 2012 3:27 PM  

I think even geneticists claim that the 3-6% found in non sub-saharan africans is a minimum known, cheddarman, considering that there is still a significant portion of the neandertal genome that isn't mapped yet (or known to be mapped.)

But yeah - the savage was the homo sapiens, not the neanderthal. I think if you look at the facts of the anthropological studies, and not the fantasyland conjencture that they have to come up with to get more funding, it is quite obvious that neandertal is the bright and strong one.

Anonymous Daniel December 07, 2012 3:29 PM  

...Oh and we always referred to the required book as "A Separate Piece... of Crap."

Anonymous Tad December 07, 2012 3:30 PM  

@Vox Day
Insulation manuals will be of greater benefit to the young reader than either work

Everyone is a critic. However, it's pretty clear that not everyone is qualified to be.

Anonymous Noah B. December 07, 2012 3:33 PM  

"However, it's pretty clear that not everyone is qualified to be."

Ironic that you would say that.

Anonymous RINO December 07, 2012 3:34 PM  

Neanderthals were one of the first species ever to have some sort of spirituality - they buried their dead and there is some evidence that certain burials may have had flowers put in with them. Their brains were bigger but they were also lacking in many aspects including absract thought, drawings did not appear until Homo Sapiens arrived, as one example. They had similarities but they were not a subpopulation of H. Sapiens.

Anonymous fnn December 07, 2012 3:51 PM  

Congrats to Texas and Alaska for refusing to even join the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Having shown the right spirit, they can now start moving towards secession.

Anonymous Gen. Kong December 07, 2012 4:15 PM  

Something I never thought I'd see on Auster's VFR. One of my longstanding criticisms of Auster has been over his willingness to act as though the Banksta Banana Republick is somehow a legitimate regime despite the mountain-range of evidence that it has arguably less legitimacy than the regimes presently ruling over China, Russia or even Zimbabwe. While Auster hasn't yet gone into full resistance mode like Barnhardt has, he's come much further than I ever imagined he would.

Anonymous nateM December 07, 2012 4:24 PM  

As someone who loved to read growing up I still think this is a good move. A lot of the schlock I was forced to read not only made me dislike reading, but did make me realize that literary analysis is tremendously pointless and mostly is just mental masturbation. Even the lit that wasnt crap was usually completely lost on a 14-17 audience anyways.

Anonymous Tad December 07, 2012 4:33 PM  

I've always believed that any required reading list for high school ought to be integrated into a study of history. That is to say, the books on the list ought to be read and studied no merely for the message and composition, but also for what they teach us about the era during which they were written.

Anonymous jm December 07, 2012 4:44 PM  

I'm saddened to think that Richard Adams is included in the list of one-hit-wonder authors. Watership Down is such an excellent book, and it's a shame he couldn't reach those heights again.

Anonymous Daniel December 07, 2012 4:47 PM  

Good idea Tad:

Catcher in the Rye - 1951 - Be a psycho asshole silent generation cat, and hipster baby boomers will mistake you for an anti-hero.

To Kill a Mockingbird - 1960 - baby boom kids are going to look at the world and not understand crap. They'll think they get it real good.

The Great Gatsby - 1925 - Post-war, pre-crash elitists will look super cool self-destructing.

Roar of Thunder, Hear My Cry - 1976 - The South was once infested with magical negroes.

A Separate Peace - 1959 - Hey, peace-loving emo kid, break a leg!

Lord of the Flies - 1954 - These baby boom kids are really going to screw things up something awful.

Anonymous ivvenalis December 07, 2012 4:48 PM  

To Kill a Mockingbird was OK, but it's massively overrated. If high school students have to read a piece of Jim Crow agitprop, "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" is probably the better option. It's a little less well-written, but much less overwrought. We also read "Cry, The Beloved Country" which struck me even at the time as being way more about black dysfunction than white racism. I guess the implication was that if only the blacks ruled, things would get better? We know how that worked out.

I also read "Black Boy", but we were only assigned the first part about growing up in the South; I kept reading the next part where he moves to Detroit or Chicago or somewhere and becomes a hardcore Communist. Same deal: you get shown a bunch of squalid behavior, with the implication (much stronger here than "Cry") that this would all go away if whites weren't so racist / America joined the worldwide dictatorship of the proletariat.

Anonymous ivvenalis December 07, 2012 4:51 PM  

Also, Nathaniel Hawthorne is total crap, and should be read only for historiographic purposes.

Anonymous JI December 07, 2012 5:01 PM  

Great. I'm expecting non-fiction such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Assessment Reports. This will be part of indoctrinating the kids into worshiping Mother Gaia.

Anonymous Buckeyecopperhead December 07, 2012 5:13 PM  

Students in need of literature useful to their future needs should read "Alas, Babylon" and "Boston's Gun Bible."

Anonymous Noah B. December 07, 2012 5:14 PM  

"Watership Down is such an excellent book, and it's a shame he couldn't reach those heights again."

The warren was just never the same again after it was hit by The Holy Hand Grenade.

Blogger CR106 December 07, 2012 5:15 PM  

I have to say, I didn't read Catcher in the Rye until I was an adult. When I was done, I said to myself: "That's it?" What was all the hoopla about? I wasn't really impressed.

Anonymous Curlytop December 07, 2012 5:22 PM  

I echo others who seem a bit cautious over assuming the Non-Fiction options will be any better.


ivvenalis December 07, 2012 4:51 PM
Also, Nathaniel Hawthorne is total crap, and should be read only for historiographic purposes.

My husband would emphatically agree with this statement. If you really want to get him going on a rant regarding a pointless book, mention this one!

To Kill A Mockingbird is fine compared to the sewage my eyes were subjected to my senior year in high school. MY rants revolve around being forced to read AND somehow appreciate pampered, rich women who lament about the "pointlessness of their lives" as wife and mothers while living better than 95% of the population. ...ie, Ibsen's A Doll's House.

And what was that feminist crapfest where the little winch at the end decides to drown herself in the Gulf of Mexico? Takes place in French New Orleans along the Gulf Coast?

I remember my English AP teacher being shocked at me and the other females who tore the selections to shreds calling the female characters spoiled, selfish, and bad mothers for abandoning their children in that way. An insult to the female sex!

Madam Bovary was horrendous too!

Anonymous Stickwick December 07, 2012 5:28 PM  

It wasn't until I reached IB courses that we got better literature. Still, spending four months studying Hamlet was a bit much.

Another IB alum here. I remember beating Hamlet to death in English, but that's preferable to Salinger or Lee any day.

We studied The Hobbit in middle school lit, which was great fun. When I got to high school, I asked why LOTR wasn't in the curriculum, and was told that it wasn't considered literature.

Anonymous Outlaw X December 07, 2012 5:37 PM  

I think we should just chip kids brains to learn a skill and force them to read the disgusting Oedipus Rex (Throw in Johnathon Livingston Seagull) and call it English Literature. That shall be education; forget Orwell and all those classics. Then we can have a bunch of dumb perverts working for the cooperate fascists, paying their taxes as little slaves of empty consumerism.

Anonymous A Visitor December 07, 2012 5:38 PM  

From Daniel's list:

Catcher in the Rye - 1951 - Be a psycho asshole silent generation cat, and hipster baby boomers will mistake you for an anti-hero.

To Kill a Mockingbird - 1960 - baby boom kids are going to look at the world and not understand crap. They'll think they get it real good.

The Great Gatsby - 1925 - Post-war, pre-crash elitists will look super cool self-destructing.

Roar of Thunder, Hear My Cry - 1976 - The South was once infested with magical negroes.

A Separate Peace - 1959 - Hey, peace-loving emo kid, break a leg!

Lord of the Flies - 1954 - These baby boom kids are really going to screw things up something awful.

Had to read To Kill a Mocking Bird and The Great Gatsby in grade school and high school. The former I read and actually liked, the latter I read the Cliffsnotes.

Never had to read Catcher in the Rye and never understood why it was a supposed classic. I had to read Lord of the Flies too in high school. I thought it was really odd; thankfully, our English teacher bribed us by letting us watch the Simpsons' spoof episode of it afterwards.

I personally enjoyed all the Shakespeare we had to read. I guess that I've often wonder why many classics that sucked were ever termed classics. I know I'm going to catch flack for this one but I finally sat down the other day and watched 2001: A Space Odyssey from beginning to end. What a horrible movie! It's not the slow pace of the movie that got me. It was near the end with the guy in the bed chamber on Jupiter (?).

Also, A Clockwork Orange sucked too. I personally think the "classics" that really suck were put into that position by the hipsters of the period.

Anonymous Feh December 07, 2012 5:40 PM  

Anybody else forced to read Native Son?

Ugh, what a boring piece of crap that couldn't have been less relevant to the interests or concerns of a suburban white kid.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet December 07, 2012 5:54 PM  

Vox

Salinger resonated with those who wanted to think of themselves as alienated and cool, Lee with those who wanted to think of themselves as morally superior.

As if hitting any particular audience somehow negated any other literary goals or skills? Declaring them not good nor interesting authors here is about as relevant as saying one doesn't like Greek yogurt because well, the Greeks are ugly people and you know, whilst you're on the subject, you also think yogurt tastes funny.

From what I recall you've given us similar assessments on art at about this same level. Is there more behind your opinions of these authors? Regarding the quality of own work, what criteria and measure do you use?

Anonymous kh123 December 07, 2012 5:54 PM  

Anyone who didn't drink or shoot themselves into oblivion (this excludes most American authors), who inversely suffered something tangible and real like a stretch in a work camp (just about every Russian author) should be requirements for literature in school.

Anonymous kh123 December 07, 2012 6:04 PM  

Hemingway took the equivalent of a journalist's notebook account, added some finessing every second or third paragraph, and released it as a novel ("For Whom..."). If it was strictly a first-hand account of the Spanish Civil War, it probably would've been on the level with Capa's photographs or one of Thompson's older articles as a correspondent. As is, it comes across as a rushed and drunk pedestrian stab at fiction.

Blogger Survival Gardener, AKA David the Good December 07, 2012 6:05 PM  

"Lord of the Flies" is eminently applicable to modern schooling. That's probably all they should read... over and over and over again.

Except the little Public Skool piggies don't have near the intelligence of the Piggy in LOTF. Though they have the assmar.

Anonymous Sexual Chocolate Imperion December 07, 2012 6:10 PM  

@fnn December 07, 2012 3:51 PM

Congrats to Texas and Alaska for refusing to even join the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Having shown the right spirit, they can now start moving towards secession.

Agreed. Time for Texas and Texans to divorce itself from the Whore of Washington/Babylon. Texas has its own problems. However, much better to deal with when one removes the barrier of one half of one's budget tied to federal mandates (entitlement obligations).

Texas has some catharsis to endure. Far better not to endure the coming catharsis of the Union. Do a little research, and discover what the Fireman's Monument, on the State Capitol grounds, originally was. The original photos are down right creepy. However, this has since been rectified.

The San Jacinto Monument, does not have a Pythagorean/Isis/Osiris relationship that the State Capitol once had, that Washington D.C. (and the Vatican) has yet to cleanse. This is the difference. D.C. will never be cleansed for proper reform until the Washington Monument is either destroyed or re-positioned, to negate its intended magical power... [1]



-----------
[1] See Rob Skiba.

Anonymous Bastiat December 07, 2012 6:35 PM  

@Fey re:Anybody else forced to read Native Son?

Yes. It was horrible, but it was what convinced me that the "natives" were wholly alien (based on the thoughts of the main character).

One of my English teachers graded us on pages read, and luckily for my grade a bunch of Clancy books were on the lists.

Anonymous Anonymous December 07, 2012 7:37 PM  

I grew up in Massachusetts.

To this day, I am still amazed, that my reading lists included 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World and Atlas Shrugged.

I am sure that those books are now on the banned list.

Anonymous scoobius dubious December 07, 2012 7:50 PM  

At my high school they heavily emphasized poetry over fiction. We had to read "Mockingbird" because I think it was on the Regents list or something, but none of us could stop laughing, the teacher included. I think we maybe spent all of a half-hour or so discussing it before moving on to The Once and Future King. If someone had assigned "Catcher" I think they would have been tarred and feathered. The two major prose fiction books discussed at length were Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" and "Dubliners". And some Faulkner. For drama we did Greek tragedians and Shakespeare basics and then shifted gears to Oscar Wilde. There was sort of an assumption that we would fill in the gaps on our own initiative and that wasn't wrong: the first book I remember reading on my own as a wee mite of a shaver was Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

In class we read Browning and Byron, TS Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Hart Crane, Vachel Lindsay, WC Williams, ee cummings, Ezra Pound, Lowell and Sexton, and "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" in two or three different translations for purposes of comparison.

On my own I mostly read Shaw, Conrad, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Lanford Wilson. That was enough to get me into Prestigious University on a full ride.

What on earth is "Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry"? Is that like a song by Meat Loaf or something?

Blogger LP 999/Eliza December 07, 2012 7:51 PM  

Fine by me.

Informational texts...for what jobs? There are no jobs but in the industrial health care or prison system.

Blogger LP 999/Eliza December 07, 2012 8:05 PM  

And read what exactly? With school districts faking test results, what is the literacy rate in America today? Kids today text but can barely speak how they did in the 1950's. Nevermind, bad example...

Anonymous The other skeptic December 07, 2012 10:08 PM  

Meanwhile, Google is helping Silicon Valley kids move down a notch

Anonymous The other skeptic December 07, 2012 10:16 PM  

The morons at Reddit want to help us distinguish real science from bad science

Anonymous Idle Spectator December 07, 2012 10:35 PM  

I have never understood the obsession with "To Kill a Mockingbird". I don't think it's a bad book. It's kind of a kids' eye view of tragic circumstances, like "Number the Stars". But people treat it like it's Dostoevsky or something.

Read both. But yes, good books but not Dostoevsky-level.


Clan of the Cave Bear was imposed on me .. it was quite scarring. Only in the mind of a feminist can a Homo Sapien female, inferior in both physical strength and coordination, walk into a Neanderthal clan and become an expert hunter with the ability to destroy every male heirarchy in her path.

We really need a new version of this book for the twenty-first. Perhaps The EconoClan of the Bear Market where Vox Day comes out of the fierce rolling hills of Italy and goes to an American shopping mall or some place, and tames the savages of their primitive iPhones and hipster-style skinny jeans.


The Color Purple is another book I threw in the garbage after going through my books.

Is it wrong that I got a boner with The Color Purple? At the lesbian scene. But also at Oprah Winfrey getting beat down.

Was my boner raciss or not?


...Oh and we always referred to the required book as "A Separate Piece... of Crap."

That book is a piece of shit.


Catcher in the Rye - 1951 - Be a psycho asshole silent generation cat, and hipster baby boomers will mistake you for an anti-hero.

The Catcher in the Rye is a fantastic book for teenagers. It will be around for a long time. Vox don't know jack about this one. But he's still cool because he writes about... Elves... Yeah.


Also, Nathaniel Hawthorne is total crap, and should be read only for historiographic purposes.

Bzzzzzt. Big Scarlet Letter "F" for this post. Stone the language-adulterer. Try the short story Rappaccini's Daughter.


I know I'm going to catch flack for this one but I finally sat down the other day and watched 2001: A Space Odyssey from beginning to end. What a horrible movie! It's not the slow pace of the movie that got me. It was near the end with the guy in the bed chamber on Jupiter (?).

Bat signal received. That's because your brain does not touch your spinal cord. The fact was he was traveling so fast after touching the Monolith, time became meaningless. That's what happens in time dilation with the Minkowski metric and Lorentz transformation. It's just physics!


Also, A Clockwork Orange sucked too. I personally think the "classics" that really suck were put into that position by the hipsters of the period.

My little droog, the fact that it has been parodied so many times in television, video games, and other movies should give you a hint of the staying power of the old ultra-violence and in-out real savage. Hear angel trumpets and devil trombones. You are invited.


"Lord of the Flies" is eminently applicable to modern schooling. That's probably all they should read... over and over and over again.

Where's a giant boulder when you need it? Roll it straight down the hallway with the lockers as a nuclear weapon. Hopefully they'll get the metaphor literally.


Yes. It was horrible, but it was what convinced me that the "natives" were wholly alien (based on the thoughts of the main character).

One of my English teachers graded us on pages read, and luckily for my grade a bunch of Clancy books were on the lists.


The Hunt for the Red Sum of All Fears by Playing Patriot Games Presents a Clear and Present Danger Through Executive Orders.


I've never read either book. I've seen the movie version of "To Kill a Mockingbird", and it was pretty good.

But largely, who cares? Anyone who only reads the books studied at school isn't going to learn anything anyway.



And to sum it up... Agreed.

But they will learn to recycle and care for Mother Gaia.

Anonymous mts1 December 07, 2012 10:35 PM  

If I was making a reading list for a high school boy, why would I fill it with maudlin, introspective crap? I'd have the Allan Quartermain series by H. Rider Haggard, I'd have some Kipling; who am I kidding, I'd have tons of Kipling. Hemingway had some great short stories that took you by the seat of the pants for a fun sprint; it's his novels that by necessity had saddles of slow between some wonderful rushes. And Dickens, of course. What the hell, Twain, too.

I swear, the reading list for school had to be the sole province of bookish schoolmarm women. No wonder so many guys are turned off to reading by what they are shoved in school like castor oil. They don't know better until they accidentally get a hold of something that reignites their reading bug.

I wonder if giving kids big reading isn't wasted on them, since they haven't lived yet. It's like taking a 4 year old to the Louvre and expecting some deep appreciation. I'm in no way some cretin arguing against cultural development or expanding one's mind with education; I just wonder if force feeding the stuff where 90% of students do what they need to do to pass and put it behind them forever is doing any good. Seriously, would Cliff's Notes even exist if students read the stuff to appreciate it, and not to just get past the angry lit teacher by filling the blue covered composition book with just the right seasoning mix of b.s. to impress her.

As for using fiction to teach history, wtf? Don't we have enough true accounts from all sides of a struggle from which to draw without some demented author's filter straining it?

Anonymous Idle Spectator December 07, 2012 10:36 PM  

The two major prose fiction books discussed at length were Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" and "Dubliners". And some Faulkner. For drama we did Greek tragedians and Shakespeare basics and then shifted gears to Oscar Wilde.

Hmmmm, William Faulkner. Southern Gothic: it's Hannibal Lecter meets Gone with the Wind. Giving us... Deliverance! Duelin' banjos, bitches. But Oscar Wilde was a poofer who met his end with an ear infection. How fitting. Get me an otorhinolaryngologist stat, and sodomize his ear with the otoscope.

Blogger rcocean December 07, 2012 10:37 PM  

Schools teach crap like "Catcher in the Rye" and "Mockingbird" because they are more contemporary than older better fiction, they're short, and easy to read. They're like "classical fiction for dummies". Why the "Great Gatsby" or Hemingway isn't being taught - I don't know.

Blogger rcocean December 07, 2012 10:41 PM  

Also, most high school English teachers are liberal, female, or both - so well-written red-blooded classical fiction that would appeal to your average 16 year old boy is out.

Anonymous Idle Spectator December 07, 2012 10:45 PM  

Schools teach crap like "Catcher in the Rye" and "Mockingbird" because they are more contemporary than older better fiction, they're short, and easy to read.

Have you heard of... Animal Farm? Does that make it crap too?


Why the "Great Gatsby" or Hemingway isn't being taught - I don't know.

It is being taught. In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since: don't drink with Hemingway.

Anonymous NateM December 07, 2012 11:39 PM  

"The Color Purple is another book I threw in the garbage after going through my books.

Is it wrong that I got a boner with The Color Purple? At the lesbian scene. But also at Oprah Winfrey getting beat down.

Was my boner raciss or not?"

DATS.... Damn i'm not even gonna touch that

Anonymous Idle Spectator December 07, 2012 11:45 PM  

Why is it not worth touching? My self-esteem.

I really thought this place was going to be different...

Anonymous natem December 08, 2012 12:04 AM  

Stickwick-LOTR not literature? Hey if Boo Radley had battle a demon to a mountaintop before hurling it off, maybe id want to read about that.

Anonymous JP (real one) December 08, 2012 12:47 AM  

Was Holden Caulfield a beta or gamma? That question alone might make "Catcher" worthwhile.

I agree with some of the others. What will they replace these books with? 100-to-1 odds it will be something worse: enviro-fascist crap, Krugman, It Takes a Village, Obama's books. I'll take Holden or Boo over that.

Anonymous Kyle In Japan December 08, 2012 1:35 AM  

One of the benefits of being homeschooled in HS was that I bypassed all the awful 'literature' and got to read good stuff, instead.

I tried reading lit-fic along the lines of Salinger, Updike, and Vonnegut a few years ago. It was some of the most tedious, boring stuff I've ever slogged through. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to quit trying to impress people and read nerdy sci-fi and fantasy books I would actually like.

Anonymous Brian December 08, 2012 1:39 AM  

The only lesson worth learning from "Mockingbird": if you're a black man who can easily handle a chifforobe, a teenage white girl will let you easily handle her.

Anonymous Ain December 08, 2012 1:45 AM  

Ibsen's A Doll's House was a total piece of shit. My (male) English teacher wrote angry comments all over my report when I pointed out how much of a stupid bitch Nora was.

Anonymous Idle Spectator December 08, 2012 2:34 AM  

Was Holden Caulfield a beta or gamma? That question alone might make "Catcher" worthwhile.

Holden was a whiney little bitch in the book coming of age and first discovering his verbal menstration, BUT women love that. That brooding artist thing that they try to save from themselves. So maybe Sigma. Holden's whack-a-mole-pole is going to get repeatedly hammered.

Ibsen's A Doll's House was a total piece of shit. My (male) English teacher wrote angry comments all over my report when I pointed out how much of a stupid bitch Nora was.

Tempting to read that now.

The only lesson worth learning from "Mockingbird": if you're a black man who can easily handle a chifforobe, a teenage white girl will let you easily handle her.

It really needs a sequel. Mockingbird Don't Sing: The Adventures of Boo Radley. We find out he is really hiding in the house to build a time machine, since he accidently got stuck there due to temporal disturbances. He takes the objects from the tree stump to use as spare parts. I hear Hollywood is leasing the rights. It should be up to 9% accurate to the original story, which is more actual lemon than the lemon in Country Time Lemonade.

Blogger Spacebunny December 08, 2012 2:56 AM  

As for using fiction to teach history, wtf? Don't we have enough true accounts from all sides of a struggle from which to draw without some demented author's filter straining it?

Actually, often times and depending on the subject, no, there aren't that many true accounts - Alexander the Great comes to mind for example. For the high school student, historical fiction shouldn't be used, but for the younger kids (elementary and some jr. high) historical fiction can help them to get a sense of what life was like in a given period and help them to understand it better.

Anonymous scoobius dubious December 08, 2012 3:20 AM  

I think they should assign "The Autobiography of John Wesley Hardin As Written by Himself" (how's that for a title?). It contains such gems as, "My father was a preacher, and my mother was a blond."

Meanwhile, let's take peep into the modern-day high school English class, shall we?

TEACHER: Now class, today we are going to discuss Richard Wright's "Native Son".
[A student raises his hand.]
STUDENT: Ooh, ooh, I know the answer! Racism is bad!
TEACHER: Correct. And what about slavery? Is slavery also bad?
ANOTHER STUDENT: Slavery is bad, but it's a trick question. There's no slavery in the book.
TEACHER: Correct.
STUDENT: But, slavery is bad.
TEACHER: Also correct. You get extra credit. And that concludes today's lesson. For the rest of today's class time, you can play Angry Birds on your phones. Tomorrow we'll be discussing "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings".
A STUDENT: I know the answer! Racism is bad!
TEACHER: Correct. Tomorrow's class is now cancelled.

Anonymous Clay December 08, 2012 3:23 AM  

I wasn't fond of the plethora of the Louis Lamour's "Cowboy" books, but i
I liked his books "Last Of The Breed", and the "Haunted Mesa".

I suppose he was getting bored, too.

Anonymous Clay December 08, 2012 3:32 AM  

Oh. Here's a little joke for ya'll...mebbe you've heard it:

Two old friends were just about to tee off at the first hole of their
local golf course when a guy carrying a golf bag called out to them,
"Do you mind if I join you? My partner didn't show up."

"Sure," they said, "You're welcome."

So they started playing and enjoyed the game and the company of the newcomer.

Part way around the course, one of the friends asked the newcomer,
"What do you do for a living?"

"I'm an assassin, a hit man," was the reply.

"You're joking!" was the response.

"No, I'm not," he said, reaching into his golf bag, and pulling out a
beautiful Martini sniper's rifle with a large telescopic sight.

"Here are my tools."

"That's a beautiful telescopic sight," said the other friend, "Can I
take a look? I think I might be able to see my house from here."

So he picked up the rifle and looked through the sight in the
direction of his house.

"Yeah, I can see my house all right. This sight is fantastic. I can
see right in the window."

"Wow, I can see my wife in the bedroom. Ha Ha, I can see she's naked!!
Wait a minute, that's my neighbor in there with her..... He's naked,
too!!!"

He turned to the hit man, "How much do you charge for a hit?"

"I'll do a flat rate, for you, one thousand dollars every time I pull
the trigger."

"Can you do two for me now?"

"Sure, what do you want?"

"First, shoot my wife, she's always been mouthy, so shoot her in the mouth."

"Then the neighbor, he's a friend of mine, so just shoot his dick off
to teach him a lesson."

The hit man took the rifle and took aim, standing perfectly still for
a few minutes.

"Are you going to do it or not?" said the friend impatiently.

"Just be patient," said the hit man calmly, "I think I can save you a
grand here..."

Anonymous Idle Spectator December 08, 2012 5:26 AM  

John Knowles wrote A Separate Peace in 1959 and it was only about 200 pages. Are you sure?

I swear it felt longer.

It's a good book cover, the art not too kitschy, but I think passing bloody urine from Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is preferable to reading it again.

"My father was a preacher, and my mother was a blond."

He met her at the church choir? His gunmanship he was top notch, but the wordsmithery is a bit daft in the clause juxtapositions.

Anonymous zen0 December 08, 2012 6:00 AM  

It is good that the drones will not get their heads filled with silly ideas. Such frivolous pastimes reduce their ability to be efficient and effective in their roles of gathering honey for the elites, who have the breeding and time to enjoy it.

I look forward with much giddy excitement to the publishing of The Ebonics Edition of Nonpareil Corkboard Insulation Fo Da Cold Storage Warehouses .

Anonymous steve g December 08, 2012 11:44 AM  

Like everything that has been written it
depends of the time frame it was issued.
The two works VD cited if read today are
nothing to get excited about but when they
where first published they were very contro-
versiall to say the least. One dealing with
race the other with sexual mores of the time.
Does banned in Boston ring a bell? Would the
Nostradamus predictions rank with the Bible?

Anonymous Noah B. December 08, 2012 12:18 PM  

Nice one, Clay.

Blogger RobertT December 08, 2012 12:43 PM  

Thanks for clearing that up. I always thought I was missing something. Two of the most boring books in the universe. This is a danger of starting a rumor. It might get legs and grow.

My favorite book of all time is Catch 22. One of the few books that actually made me laugh out loud.

Anonymous Sheila December 08, 2012 2:51 PM  

We didn't have to read any "magic negro" books in high school. I remember an eclectic mixture from 10th and 12th grades ("Julius Caesar," "Romeo and Juliet," "Lord of the Flies," "Animal Farm," "1984," "Brave New World,"); 11th grade AP was taught by an imposing single woman from West Virginia who was in her "prime" and who taught me to write (first time most of us in her class ever got failing grades in English - lots of perturbed parents brought in by their little darlings). It was, if I recall, supposed to be American lit; we read a bunch of plays ("Our Town," "Glass Menagerie," "Long Day's Journey Into Night," "Death of a Salesman,") and novels ("The Scarlet Letter," "The Old Man and the Sea," "Moby Dick," "Of Mice and Men," "The Great Gatsby," "Look Homeward, Angel," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," and a quite a few others. I loathed "Moby Dick" and hated "Look Homeward, Angel" even more. I chose almost exclusively English literature in college, with the exception of one poetry course which included Frost and Wallace Stevens.

I never read Salinger. "Mockingbird" is a decent movie as a period piece and a moralizer; have the book but never read it.

Clay, excellent joke - had both me and my hubby laughing over brunch this morning.

Anonymous Azimus December 08, 2012 6:51 PM  

@ Brian:

Another lesson from Mockingbird: don't turn your back on a weirdo with a knife.

Anonymous super beta max plus December 09, 2012 6:16 AM  

"Was Holden Caulfield a beta or gamma? That question alone might make "Catcher" worthwhile."

roissy making pointless stuff worth reading.


'We were playing checkers. I used to kid her once in a while because she wouldn’t take her kings out of the back row. But I didn’t kid her much, though.
You never wanted to kid Jane too much.
I think I really like it best when you can kid the pants off a girl when the opportunity arises, but it’s a funny thing. The girls I like best are the ones I never feel much like kidding. Sometimes I think they’d like it if you kidded them – in fact, I know they would – but it’s hard to get started, once you’ve known them a pretty long time and never kidded them.'

Anonymous Anonymous December 09, 2012 6:25 AM  

I was homeschooled and most of my education in my mid teen years came from just straight reading a ton of books. I had history textbooks but I also read fiction(historical or otherwise) set in that period. Or I read biographies. Just about every other discipline was treated the same way. Yes, I did polynomial division, but I also read about math and the people who developed it.

My point being that while I know I have an IQ over 100, most of the people in my age group while I was going through highschool and college considered me a genius. I just figure that I read ten times as many books as they did and the right ones at that.

-Siah

Blogger Nate December 09, 2012 8:35 PM  

Harper Lee is from a little town just up the road from me. The whole family is crazier than a shit-house rat. This is among the most widely known facts in the area... right up there with... "Don't go to pritchard after dark."

Anonymous Anonymous December 10, 2012 10:42 PM  

I read both aforementioned books in high school. Mockingbird I had to read in 8th grade, which I actually kinda liked. It had a fairly engaging plot, plus I accepted the liberal worldview then. I read Catcher on my own for a book report two years later. Didn't dislike it, but didn't relate to it either. Read it again years later. Still didn't do much for me.

Later on, I had a pretty good American Lit teacher who assigned us The Great Gatsby and Billy Budd. I remember struggling to understand them. They weren't easy books for a 16 year old with almost no life experience and little maturity.

Many times, I've questioned the value of reading. I have read a lot, but mostly to learn or get information, not for pleasure. I remember going on a tear when I was around 20, buying and reading all sorts of novels by famous writers to try to become a better thinker and speaker. I guess I was too pragmatic and self-conscious in my approach, because I always felt I came up short in both skills. Maybe one has to have had from the start a knack for reading to truly benefit from it.

I think there is a lot of bad books promoted by the public school system, but the problem won't be remedied by just assigning so-called "great books" unless the student is unusually bright or mature for his/her age. In fact, I think reading the classics (or whatever you want to call them) should be reserved only for exceptional students with promising futures. I would also suggest that the problem of mis-educating our kids touches on many different aspects and issues, of which assigned reading is only one.

Blogger Eric Mueller December 30, 2012 9:45 AM  

I read "Mockingbird" in 6th grade. Also saw the movie at one point in school. I managed to infuriate a lot of people (including my wife) by facetiously referring to it as "How To Kill A Mockingbird".

I borrowed Catcher from a friend last year, and decided to finally get around to reading it, which reminded me of this post and inspired me to look it up. I'm two chapters into Catcher, and I already hate the character.

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