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Smut Is the New Bobbsey Twins

March 9, 2014

Thanks to a Momma Bears blog post, today we learned that certain Shelby County elementary schools  have been offering positively-reviewed materials like Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age. 

stuck in the middle

According to the publisher, this

“anthology of illustrated tales about the agonies and triumphs of seventh and eighth grade” has “an important message to share:  Everyone can survive middle school!”

Comics about middle school life? Sounds like fun!  We all survived that that awkward period, and all have embarrassing stories as souvenirs.

“With a sense of humor as refreshing as it is bitingly honest, seventeen artists share their stories of first love, bullying, zits, and all the things that make middle school the worst years of our lives.”

GoodReads reviewers (541) rate it 3.39 stars out of four. Good enough. So, what’s the problem, Momma Bears?

Read the post here. Then come back and we’ll talk. (Our extreme, Miss Manners-like sense miss manners bookof propriety here at Back in River City prohibits us from reprinting the post, which contains images of pages from the book containing language too raw for our Old Memphis sensibilities.)

You’re welcome.

time out

Read it now? Are you outraged? If you aren’t, we live on separate planets. Eddie and I don’t want our nine year old granddaughter to learn about oral sex from a comic book she checked out of the school library. But then, we’re just old fashioned that way.

A little online research today revealed that Stuck in the Middle is on the American Library Association’s hall of shame list of banned books, right alongside To Kill a Mockingbird and The Diary of Anne Frank. It was pulled from the shelves of a Sioux Falls, Iowa middle school library in 2009, two years after its publishing date, when the parents of a sixth grader made a fuss. Here’s how an Amazon reviewer sees that scenario:

old lady cats drawing” . . .  I was having a problem while digging through this finding anything that would be objectionable to anyone but the straightest-laced tight[wad]s. I have this mental image of tea-drinking old ladies with three dozen cats each in the basement of a South Dakota saloon forming a censorship cabal, and let me tell you, it’s terrifying. Especially because they all brought all their cats. It’s like a cat swap meet and censorship committee meeting, and what could be scarier than that?”

It’s hard for those slick, cosmopolitan folks who didn’t grow up in  a flyover state to consider that some prepubescent children in Tennessee do manage to maintain a soupçon of  innocence well past their tenth birthdays. This is due primarily to the efforts, Todd Starnes would say,  of proud, finger-licking, Bible-clinging, gun-toting, son-of-a-Baptist Papa and Momma Bears.

rsz_flyover_country_onion_7885

Here’s what Eddie and I want to know (and we are posing these questions to every member of the Shelby County School Board):

  1. Do our public school officials believe this book is suitable for SCS elementary school students?
  2. Who approved this book for the shelves of an SCS elementary school (K-5) library?
  3. Did it slip through because a librarian only read the publisher’s glowing and innocuous version of its content; or did the librarian think it was a solid choice for our children?
  4. What are the policies governing the purchase of SCS library materials?

This is just one book, one incident, that came to our attention due to an alert and outraged Momma Bear. It represents a vast number of things that parents and even non-parents should know, but don’t, about today’s public school experience in Greater Memphis.

It’s time to get involved. It’s time to take a stand. Remember the slogan of Tennesseans Against Common Core:

if you aren't outraged

[For the benefit of those Back in River City readers below-a-certain-age who are scratching their heads, wondering if the Bobbsey Twins are hot NFL cheerleaders, uh, No. Here’s their picture, and  you won’t find them in manga or the aforementioned book.]

bobbsey twins in tulip land

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. samanthaerin permalink
    March 12, 2014 2:39 pm

    I think that the real problem in all of this is the way that books and other media are evaluated for educational consumption. The CommonCore, an initiative adopted in Tennessee and 44 other states, classifies books by difficulty. Unfortunately for everyone, the rubric for classification is based solely on word choice, syntax and sentence complexity, and makes E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web technically “more difficult” than Hemingway’s The Son Also Rises.

    I’ve been saying for years, we’ve industrialized education to the point of absurdity and have let common sense rot. Obviously, content considered, this comic is grossly inappropriate, but the guy who picked it for the library basically looked at the Lexile score and said, “Well based on word choice, syntax, and sentence structure, this is acceptable for a third grader.” Well, it does have a lot of four letter words….

    Check out this quiz from BuzzFeed. Pretty enlightening?

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/kevintang/new-teachers-reading-guide-says-dan-brown-more-complex-than

    • March 12, 2014 6:30 pm

      Four letter words, for sure! You make an excellent point, samanthaerin, and thank you for adding to the discussion. The attempt to apply business and industrial models to education may have some benefits in challenging entrenched thinking and inefficient processes, but students aren’t widgets. Good teachers, level-headed administrators, and common sense trump standardized, mechanical approaches that eliminate human insight.

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