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Fairhaven’s 8th Grade Summer Reading List Controversy [POLL]

Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Pia Noelle, flickr

There were some concerned parents last night at Fairhaven’s School Committee meeting. They’re worried about 4 of the 24 books that appeared on the 8th grade summer reading list. Parent Jaqueline Foster says the “Perks of Being A Wallflower” describes homosexual and heterosexual acts, along with bestiality.

When I first heard about the complaints, I had a relatively neutral opinion about them. I recalled reading “Catcher In The Rye” in 8th grade. I remembered reading some swears in the book. Admittedly, the swears most definitely had a “wow factor” for me at that age. I had never dreamed books could contain adult language, and it made the reading interesting. The book helped spark a life long interest in reading.

That being said, I am uncomfortable with the thought of teachers putting a book on the summer reading list with heterosexual and homosexual (or ANY sexual, for that matter) content as well as references to a kid getting drunk, going to a party and trying to have sex with the family dog. It was only when I read the passages from these books with my own eyes, that I realized that these books were no “Catcher In The Rye”. The sexual scenes are descriptive. They’re VERY descriptive. There’s teenage alcohol use, drug use, and teen abortion. Then, there’s the Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian that has shockingly racist language.  I’m not sure where along the way these very mature topics became acceptable material for middle school.  The inclusion of this material in school lends a level of credibility to some questionable, if not deviant, behaviors…particularly the teenage drug and alcohol use, teenage sex and bestiality.

One caller to the show this morning said, “it’s no big deal because (kids) are seeing it and they’re doing it.”  I think that’s a cop out.  I refuse to throw in the towel on my kids.  Here’s audio from that caller: 

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Some parents are calling for the firing of the people who included these, and two other books, on the Hastings Middle School summer reading list. I’m not there, but I am supportive of giving parents a heads up about the questionable content that exists in these books. We put ratings on movies. Why can’t the schools put ratings or warnings on the books that appear on our kids’ reading list?

I’d like to think of our schools as places where morality should be expected. Unfortunately, the definition of morality is rapidly changing. Something that one person considers immoral, may be perfectly fine for another. However, I don’t think it’s too much to ask schools to provide parents with a warning about these books. It would help parents make informed choices about which books from the list to allow their children to read. If, after reading the warnings, parents feel that their 8th grader is ready for the adult content, at least it would be a decision that a family could make together.

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