Words like mother-blank!
July 9, 2008 12:07 AM   Subscribe

Renegade high school English teacher Connie Heermann was suspended without pay for 18 months for using the book The Freedom Writers Diary in her class.

The book, which inspired a movie starring Hilary Swank, is still available in the school library, and 149 of 150 students returned signed permission slips authorizing the use of the book in class. The administration at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis, IN decided that the content was inappropriate on the day she handed out the books and demanded that she recall them. She was ultimately disciplined for insubordination.

The school district is no stranger to controversy: in 2006, there were efforts to prevent the student production of Ragtime.
posted by kyleg (91 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Obviously they were only thinking of the children.

not the ones whose suffering was chronicled in the book, of course; and not those in the class who could only benefit from exposure to the book, and whose parents were apparently almost unanimous in supporting use of the book in school; no, I mean the children of the sanctimonious folks who raised the ruckus, who apparently will only live a full, happy and fulfilling life if their parents can come home at night and talk about how they did it for the children.
posted by davejay at 12:14 AM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


LOLschoolboards
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:24 AM on July 9, 2008


High school English teacher Connie Heermann was suspended without pay, now she prowls the badlands, red pen in hand. An outlaw hunting grammatical injustices, a proofreader, a Renegade.
posted by stavrogin at 12:58 AM on July 9, 2008 [24 favorites]


Schools should be renamed to "Standardized Test Score Factories in a Vacuum." Because, really, that's what they're becoming. When we aren't obsessing over LOL TESTING, we're ripping out anything that might be in any way offensive even though such materials tend to be FAR more insightful than what's considered "safe and clean."

We no longer teach, we breed ignorance, because ignorance is safe and inoffensive. (Right.)
posted by Yoshi Ayarane at 1:00 AM on July 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


Kim Sons, a student said, "I agree with the comments about insubordination being treated too severely, but I think they treated it very fairly tonight."

Eighteen months with no pay is fair? Her lessons kinda went over this kid's head, didn't they?

On the earlier production of Ragtime -- this person wanted it banning because it used the 'n' word.

"It's wrong. It's hateful. They need to understand the history, and they don't," Oakley said.

God forbid any of these morons would actually bother to *read* the books they so quickly and happily ban. Or even, you know, take their heads out of their bibles for two minutes to just rent the fucking movie if they find it a struggle to read at more than four words a minute.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:02 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


a collection of at-risk teenagers' essays containing swear words and sexual overtones, to her 11th-grade English students in November.

With all of the books ever written in English at her disposal, she selects a collection of essays by "at risk teenagers" as being most useful for the teaching of English?
posted by three blind mice at 1:08 AM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Oh yeah, heaven forbid little Johnny and Janey will hear words like "motherfucker". Horrors! Clearly, bad language is at the core of our modern societal malaise, and if all those foul mouthed youngsters in the ghetto would just stop talking like that, all would be well.

Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Kurt Vonnegut... they all died in vain.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:08 AM on July 9, 2008


Three Blind Mice, have you read the book?

Here's the thing, now that I'm over my initial "LOLschoolboards" anger here. The people in charge of school boards and in charge of making choices about how our kids are taught are, more and more often, elected folks with no background in education. Why is it that we accept this in this country? We have businessmen telling teachers to follow business models, politicians telling teachers to raise standardized scores, poorly educated but elected moral parents trying to keep all kids from being exposed to things that they don't want their kids exposed to...

We don't have a whole lot of folks who actually work with non-family member kids or who teach or, in many cases, who actually have an education themselves making these decisions at the school board level. Thus, instead of having folks who kind of sort of know how to motivate kids to write, or know how to talk to kids in their own language, or who have a background in the basic scientific method, or (God forbid) knowledge about skills that are actually important to be taught to kids to be productive members of society in the twentieth century, we have the same sorts of folks on school boards that punished Galileo for his science experiments because they flew in the face of common sense deciding what goes on in the classroom.

Bah. We say we value education, but we really value making sure our kids aren't any smarter than we are.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:25 AM on July 9, 2008 [18 favorites]


The Stupid, it hurts.
posted by chillmost at 1:26 AM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Makes me feel so privileged that my final year English teacher let me use Trainspotting as my main study book.

Nutters.
posted by Jimbob at 1:50 AM on July 9, 2008


This teacher went to a workshop led by Erin Gruwell, the teacher who inspired and helped the kids write this book, came back excited to teach it to her own at-risk students, got no feedback or support from the administration, and raised private funds to buy books for each kid. The very day she hands out the book and sees the kids excited to read it, she gets told she can't teach it because there are words like "motherfucker" and descriptions of sexuality and violence. There is a teacher's guide available for the book, and it is taught in classrooms across the world. The content is nothing that can't be found on cable television, and is unfortunately a reality of many students' lives.

Getting kids to actually read the assigned books and giving them "excitement for English class" is no small feat. It's a damn shame that there are so many people out there trying to stop teachers from educating their students.
posted by kyleg at 1:54 AM on July 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


I did a series of papers on Bret Easton Ellis in my senior year, including presentations / class discussions on the more 'controversial' passages. This is interesting.
posted by roygbv at 1:59 AM on July 9, 2008




Seems there's still some book banning going on in one way or another. I remember reading books like The Chocolate War, Escape from Warsaw (The Silver Sword), and The Fighting Ground when I was young, in elementary school. I still hear rumblings about those being ripped from library shelves by school boards. But here we're talking about "at-risk" teens reading works by other at-risk teens. Censorship seems redundant unless you're going to duct tape their mouths shut too.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:05 AM on July 9, 2008


My son is still a bit too young for classroom instruction, but my wife and I are already strongly evaluating home-schooling as an option. I don't say that out of a desire to insulate him from ideas with which I disagree[1], but rather to keep idiots who are more interested in spreading ideology than knowledge from damaging his capacity to exceed his parents in all things. The school boards are constantly teetering on the edge with stuff like "Intelligent Design" rather than filling heads with intellectual tools to carry us into the future at the head of the pack. These are elected positions, not scholarly ones, and make about as much sense as having Bush personally take command of the day-to-day operations of a Brigade fighting in Baghdad[2].

[1] One look at my bookshelf and among the ~5,000 books you'll see Ann Coulter next to Al Franken, the Bible next to scientific journals, and everything else in between. I'm an agnostic (leaning atheist) liberal (I prefer "progressive" though) because I evaluated the evidence and made an informed decision, not by putting on blinders and assuming a priori that everything my parents told me was automatically true. I want my son to grow up with the same advantage to think for himself, and am willing to risk his disagreement on a great many things in order to ensure him such an opportunity.

[2] Don't tell the Supreme CommanderTM that, as he's thoroughly convinced of his operational, tactical, and strategic skills. Full Disclosure: I'm in the Middle East right now because of this folly, and every day is a struggle to put Humpty Dumpty back together. The longer I'm here the more thoroughly I am convinced.

posted by mystyk at 2:23 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Schools should be renamed to "Standardized Test Score Factories in a Vacuum."

Personally, I think Standardised Testing Factories Unlimited is a Capital name.
posted by Sparx at 2:52 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


"In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards."

—Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar in Following the Equator
posted by grouse at 3:16 AM on July 9, 2008 [23 favorites]


God, I love Mark Twain.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:24 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


See, the problem here isn't that troubled teens are reading this book -- the school board likely doesn't give a rat's ass about troubled teens. The problem is that they think some good Christian girl with pigtails and a gingham dress is going to read the word "motherfucker" and start start shooting heroin in between shifts at the local brothel.

There is an attitude prevalent among school boards that suggests schools are the guardians and arbiters of social morality. Thats why alot of Christians get in a huff about teaching sex ed or evolution in school, because they think that just the act of teaching it will legitimize it in the eyes of the students.

So having a book with a swear word in it = giving kids permission to swear. Teaching about condoms = giving kids a license to fuck. Teaching evolution = GOD IS DEAD BURN YOUR BIBLES, etc.

Shoot, just the other day my mom was saying that she's not going to get my little sister the HPV vaccine, because it "just encourages girls to do bad things".

Thats the mentality were dealing with here.
posted by Avenger at 3:30 AM on July 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


149 of 150 returned permission slips. I wonder who complained?
posted by Pollomacho at 4:42 AM on July 9, 2008


This is why I plan to participate in my child's school board and PTA and all that crap. And I'm bringing the biggest fucking gun I can carry with me to the meetings. It's either that, or a two-by-four engraved with "The Board of Education".
posted by Eideteker at 5:14 AM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


When I first went back to school with the goal of being a teacher, my goal was to be a high school teacher. But I had become more involved with the local school operations and stories far less extreme than this one that I would still characterize as the blind leading the blind were frighteningly common. I live in an area where the school board candidates come largely from well-educated backgrounds, but at the local, specific school level, the parental influence over what could be taught was too often based on some perceived offense that might happen if we did X rather than Y.

I realized I would not be able to successfully work in such an environment, and so I give respect to Ms. Heermann; I decided to be a college teacher. There are still inane skirmishes, but at least so far, the curricular decisions are made by people who can argue their positions relatively objectively.

Side note: TBM, what is your problem?
posted by beelzbubba at 5:18 AM on July 9, 2008


Bad teachers and schools beget bad students, some of whom grow up to become teachers and the glorious cycle of life continues. The good students, of course, either flee from the system as fast as their little legs will carry them or bravely fight the system for a year and a half before being politicked into oblivion.

Kids who never learn become adults who can't learn who become voters who can't evaluate the evidence. Faith based government is the direct result of our lack of an educational system.
posted by Skorgu at 5:28 AM on July 9, 2008


This is the website for the Indianapolis teacher's union, which kind of goes a long way to explain how a teacher in that district could get a 18-month suspension for doing her job.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:30 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


149 of 150 returned permission slips. I wonder who complained?

The child who didn't get a permission from his parents.
posted by ersatz at 5:42 AM on July 9, 2008


With all of the books ever written in English at her disposal, she selects a collection of essays by "at risk teenagers" as being most useful for the teaching of English?

If you look at the stats they seem to have declining graduation rates and rising numbers of students on free and reduced lunch, which seems to tell me that the community the school serves is becoming "at risk.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:43 AM on July 9, 2008


I did a series of papers on Bret Easton Ellis in my senior year, including presentations / class discussions on the more 'controversial' passages. This is interesting.

I recall my own kids doing Chaucer -- in particular, The Miller's Tale. They had great fun writing essays about the guy who gets a hot poker stuck up his arse when he gets caught fucking the miller's wife.

Have they banned that one too?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:44 AM on July 9, 2008


I remember when the whole Kansas/evolution school board flap came up a few years back, I wrote to each member of the school board (moving to Kansas being an option at the time) and asked them why I should bring my family and college education to Kansas in lieu of events. I got one apology from one of the dissenting votes -very sad to read, actually, to be in the that kind of minority and unable to change anything- but what I really remember is the scorching letter I got from one of the anti-evolution board members assuring me they didn't need my kind in Kansas. The words 'education' 'expectation' and -of all things- 'righteous'- were misspelled. The school board member spelled 'education' wrong. That still kills me.

Jesus, however, was spelled correctly. This is the turd of the future we're offering the kids. They could have had skycars and rocketships, but they'll end up with shitty ol' life-wasting, brain-killing religion again, just like most other generations. I suspect there can't be a thinking God, 'cause if there were, he would immediately exterminate religious sorts. I guess there's still hope. Maybe the Rapture is something a little different. All the morons go to hell instead. Sweet!
posted by umberto at 5:51 AM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Somewhat related public hysteria:
Following an apparent complaint from an irate theatergoer, the Chicago theatrical production of "Jersey Boys" has snuffed out cigarettes. from the Chicago Suntimes
The point being that politicians, or whoever listens to this crap, allow one "irate theater goer" to use a law to draconian effect. As far as anything I've been able to find out, just one "irate theatergoer" got this done, and there has been no information in the press on just what made him/her so irate about the depiction of smoking on a stage. I don't listen to mainstream press other than npr all that much, but I also haven't heard a single comment on how ridiculous this is.

Gosh, someone's pissed off? Let's not investigate, or explore, or debate, or for pity's sake ignore this crackpot. Just shut it down, ban it, vilify it.
posted by nax at 5:57 AM on July 9, 2008


I guess for suspension *with* pay, she would have had to burn a cross on one of the students' arms...
posted by Slothrup at 5:58 AM on July 9, 2008


I recall my own kids doing Chaucer -- in particular, The Miller's Tale. They had great fun writing essays about the guy who gets a hot poker stuck up his arse when he gets caught fucking the miller's wife.

Yes, but what member of a school board who already demonstrates such ignorance is going to wade through all that funny-sounding writing to actually know what is going on in the story?
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:03 AM on July 9, 2008


LOLschoolboards

LOLThatMemeIsStartingToGetOnMyTits
posted by fleetmouse at 6:04 AM on July 9, 2008


*Sigh*

Becoming a teacher is at the top of my list of professions I wouldn't mind doing someday (and it's a short list), but shit like this just makes me feel it would be a waste of time. It's just another job, keep the kids busy, learning not a top priority, etc. etc.

Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all you're just another brick in the wall!

posted by symbollocks at 6:16 AM on July 9, 2008


came back excited to teach it to her own at-risk students, got no feedback or support from the administration, and raised private funds to buy books for each kid.

This is where the "renegade" part comes in. Do they really care about the content of the book, or do they not want teachers buying their own books and creating their own curriculum?
posted by smackfu at 6:29 AM on July 9, 2008


Well, she was insubordinate. It was a stupid order required by a stupid school board, but she deliberately disobeyed it. 18 months seems more than draconian, but it seems relatively apparent to me that when an administrator instructs a teacher to do something, and the teacher willingly refuses, there have to be consequences. What if there was a science teacher who wanted to teach an Intelligent Design text, despite being told not to do so by an administrator or school board. Would you be OK with that renegade teacher?
posted by pardonyou? at 6:31 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Where I grew up, I think most of the people on the school board, or just less than half, had Ph.D. or other advanced graduate degrees. But just one county over, the school board was more like a popularity contest when I was growing up.

Lack of education of many school boards notwithstanding, if a local school board in another state wants to keep their kids from reading the word "motherfucker" in class, it's not really for me to condemn. Just like they shouldn't condemn my English teacher for assigning "multicultural books" based on the fact that the book was selected based on the race of its author. (I've actually heard that argument from some people...)
posted by bugmuncher at 6:38 AM on July 9, 2008


That Feynman link got my blood pressure up a bit, BTW. They got Richard bloody Feynman to review their math and science textbooks and still they f-ed up? Jeez...
posted by Harald74 at 6:40 AM on July 9, 2008


What Pollomacho said. I've worked for three school systems: two poor, one affluent. Guess which one has the good test scores, GPA, and grad rates?

One of my professors was on the state committee to approve the new science books in Alabama. They ended up with a book for high school which was based on evolution but with a sticker placed on the inside cover, a disclaimer of sorts, saying evolution was one "of many" theories about the origin of life. When I discussed it with him he defended the move by saying they got the book they wanted and didn't have to listen to religious nutballs each having their five minutes before the committee for two weeks.

Four words: School boards fear litigation.

From anyone, any POV. They act accordingly.

Alas, in many of what we call the red states, election to the school board is the first step in a distinguished political career.
posted by aiq at 6:48 AM on July 9, 2008


Four words: School boards fear litigation.

Truer words were never spoken.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:54 AM on July 9, 2008


I remember in 5th grade being told not to bring a specific book to school anymore. My mother had read it and she liked it, so I gave it a try. It was a most excellent book too, and even made a great movie. The book? 'The Exorcist.' Okay, I was 10 years old, and when the teacher looked at the page I was reading, it just happened to be the scene where Megan was ramming the cross into her vagina, yelling, 'Fuck me, God! Fuck me!' That was just pure happenstance though.

That was my first experience with censorship in schools, and I was about as resentful of it as a 10-year-old could be. How dare someone else tell me what is acceptable for me to read? Mind you, this was a school for gifted children; you'd think they'd have been more understanding of young kids with advanced reading skills.

I did find a way past the censorship though: I took the book cover off a book about Jacques Cousteau's oceanographic adventures and put that around 'The Exorcist' and went about my business. No teacher ever looked past that cover, so I used the same method to surreptitiously read whatever I wanted to read thereafter.

I did learn two important lessons from that experience: 1) there are people who want to be able to control what information is available to other people; and 2) people are easily deceived. I doubt those were the lessons they were attempting to impart, but that's what I learned.
posted by jamstigator at 6:58 AM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've worked for three school systems: two poor, one affluent.

I've had a number of friends who attempted careers as public school teachers and burned out after two years tops. If the parents didn't chase them away, the bureaucracy did. And these are smart, talented people, the sort of people you want teaching your kids.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:07 AM on July 9, 2008


"You don't take these people seriously, because they don't get anywhere nationally, but they don't have to. All they have to do is bit-by-little-bit get their way onto school boards and chambers of commerce, because that's where all the governing that actually matters to anyone really happens"

Jed Bartlett - The West Wing, "The Midterms"


Every time I see this sort of thing I'm thankful that in my time in High School in Oklahoma, the president of the school board had just skipped town with most of the school funds. A mixed-blessing, to be sure, but it meant that the school board had far more pressing issues to be dealing with than this nonsense.

As a result, we were reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Candide in Sophomore year, and No Exit and Waiting for Godot our Senior year. My Junior year I did my grand final project on Catch-22, and when my teacher, Mr. Core, expressed curiosity in my copy of Trainspotting, which I was reading at the time, I lent him a copy of the movie.

Next time I saw him, he gave me back the video, and insisted that for homework I had to find and watch A Clockwork Orange over the weekend.

He was also a fan of referencing Berke Breathed in his discussions.

Not a lot of point here. I just wanted to thank my old teachers.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:12 AM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Whatever, it doesn't matter. Nothing will change. People are scared, and when they have nothing to fear, they invent boogeymen to fear. "Oh no, this book has the F word in it. My blonde blue-eyed daughter can't read that or she'll end up having muslim babies." That's basically the operative psychology here.

You want to have incontrovertible proof of the fascist takeover of America? Take a story like this one and read it alongside stories about the success public school districts are having with magnet math and science high schools. By all accounts, magnet math and science schools are a big hit with students, parents, and districts, and they do what they set out to accomplish, which is substantially raise the math and science education of high school students that pass through them, often beyond the freshman and sophomore level they'd encounter at top colleges.

When was the last time you heard about a magnet school for arts and the humanities that wasn't simply an art school? Any magnet schools focusing on literature or creativity? We all have stories of a teacher here or there who had a special perspective and impressed upon us the value of literature, but institutionally, that message is absent.

Because ultimately math and science make for good workers and producers, and you can train their minds in such a way that they'll keep their opinions to themselves. Scientists are rarely agents for social change. In fact, the history of the internet since the rise of Google has been less about using the new technology to effect change in society, but rather how to replicate the community and social control structures that exist in society in online behavior.

Nobody with anything at stake in society wants you or your kids reading books that would cause them to rethink their perspective on the world. I read 1984 and Clockwork Orange in high school, but the discussion was always cast in terms of the books being about the problems in a communist society like the soviet Union. The perspective were were supposed to have was pre-loaded into the discussion. So in that context, those books had a safe right-wing message. I wonder if a teacher leads a discussion of those books now, but focuses instead on how much closer the US is to Big Brother, would that teacher be dismissed with the pejorative 'liberal'?

Literature and art create thinkers. The fact that people don't want certain books read means that those people don't want certain thoughts to be thought. Censorship isn't about what you can read, it's about limiting the scope of your thoughts, limiting your vision, and limiting your perspective. It's about controlling your mind.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:39 AM on July 9, 2008 [23 favorites]


I'm only in my second year of teaching, and trying to convince myself that I won't be like all the other smart, motivated teachers who burn out early because of the bureaucracy.

Then I read yet one more article like this one and I want to collapse to the floor in a fetal position and sob.

WE ARE RUINING OUR CHILDREN.
posted by tits mcgee at 7:42 AM on July 9, 2008


Every time something like this happens, I'm reminded of the two times (out of four) I wound up in detention for reading. The first was when I brought in the classified section of The Washington Post to school when I was in 1st grade. My friend and I were trying to find a friend for my brother. (Seriously, that's what we thought the dating ads meant.)
Second time, I read all of The Cricket in Times Square in one evening, when we were supposed to only read the first chapter. Apparently, we were supposed to make predictions on what was going to happen later in the book.
(Luckily for me, these were two times my parents actually went to bat for me and told the teacher that it was absurd to give someone detention for reading.)

The other two detentions were deserved however: one for swearing and the other for hitting someone. Even if they did deserve it.
posted by sperose at 7:48 AM on July 9, 2008


Man, English teachers and librarians. Threats to society as we know it.

Thanks to my middle and high school English teachers, for The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Black Like Me, Summer of My German Soldier, To Kill a Mockingbird, As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, Hamlet, Macbeth, Caesar, Of Mice and Men, The Hobbit, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. To this day I think that getting shifted over to the gifted English track at the beginning of 7th grade changed my life for good. Because my teachers started encouraging me to think at that point, and they were willing to take some risks to do that. It's troubling that it took a switch like that to get me into a classroom where rote memoriza

I've had a number of friends who attempted careers as public school teachers and burned out after two years tops. If the parents didn't chase them away, the bureaucracy did.

This is why I do not teach, but rather work with teachers. I have seen most of my friends who have tried it burn out trying to do it well and leave. All science teachers, all in the exact school districts that need them most, with the students who need them most. The systems in place do not help them teach. They hinder their teaching.

Because ultimately math and science make for good workers and producers, and you can train their minds in such a way that they'll keep their opinions to themselves. Scientists are rarely agents for social change.

You're wrong on this, Pastabagel. Science has its own thought-control battles waging at the moment: evolution, climate change, the age of the earth, Big Bang theory, critical thinking. Just as English teachers are finding their books restricted, science teachers are being restricted in what they can teach and how they can teach it. Or their colleagues are being allowed to teach creationism alongside evolution as if they're both science. Science is just now included in the NCLB tests-- it counts for the first time ever this year. And it's not scientific thinking that is being tested there.
posted by Tehanu at 7:50 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did only pardonyou? & I view the entire CNN piece? One can completely agree with the book's suitability (or not), but the teacher consciously disobeyed a direct order from the school board ... and got suspended, full stop. That's what's supposed to happen when one disobeys their employer, no?

I applaud her courage for championing the book and for her genuine concern for her students, but unless she intended to become a public martyr, there were other ways to help her students. Sure is good PR for the book, though.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:51 AM on July 9, 2008


It's troubling that it took a switch like that to get me into a classroom where rote memorization wasn't the only thing I got to do. So many other kids never got to have an English class that was challenging and fun.
posted by Tehanu at 7:52 AM on July 9, 2008


Unless schools have changed a lot since I was a kid, 149 out of 150 is an extremely good turnout, not because of any moral issues, but because permission slips get lost.

I definitely remember that any time we went on a school field trip, the teacher spent the first half-hour of the day trying to call parents at work to get their permission.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:59 AM on July 9, 2008


By all accounts, magnet math and science schools are a big hit with students, parents, and districts

No doubt they're good schools, usually, but reception and perception depends on the school district and the demographics of the people living in that school district. Around here, magnet schools may be in trouble -- they're funded with state deseg money, but now that the Little Rock district has been granted unitary status, there's a tremendous amount of pressure from some camps for the state to kill that funding. The racial minority population views magnet schools with extreme distrust, essentially seeing them as havens for middle class white kids, and over half of the LR school board is currently black, so if that state funding gets killed, it's almost certain that the city school district will let the magnet program die. Which really sucks, because that would limit the number of quality high schools to pretty much one, giving me reason to ponder the previously unthinkable and distasteful option of private schooling for my son.

I realize this swings wide of your main point (which I don't totally agree with -- I agree that arts and humanities programs are boogeymanish for a lot of conservatives, but I think the greater concern is more about return on investment than social control, as the average taxpayer doesn't want to fund something unless they can see a benefit to the local economy, and the average school board member is frankly not very bright or perceptive), but I just wanted to point out that it's not a universally loved institution and is in danger in precisely those school districts that benefit from such schools.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:08 AM on July 9, 2008


Couple points I would like to make:

1). I have read several comments on religion being a waste of time in the school system. I agree completely. It is a waste of time. I do not want my children being taught another faith in their schools. I do not want anyone else's beliefs being forced on my children. I feel that this is better handled by the parents. If the parents want their children to understand religion and God let them handle it.
2). Quit shielding children from the SCARY SCARY world! If they hear Motherfucker in a movie or from a book who cares. Also if they read success stories from kids their own age growing up in neighborhoods worse than theirs again who cares. You could look at a pile of garbage and if somehow it teaches you math then was it a bad thing?
3). Educating children on safer ways of doing things is a good thing! However I feel the parents should also do this as well. The bible beater "Don't do this because.... ummm errrr God will give you the HIV" isn't cutting it. Tell them if you have sex without a condom you can get sick and pregnant. Wow it is just that easy!
4). Let children make mistakes. Loss is the best teacher. Teach them to learn from their mistakes.
5). Don't be afraid to whip a little ass every now and then! Kids need it. About 90% of people who post here got their asses whipped once in their lives and I'm sure you all turned out good.

I'm done ranting for now...
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:09 AM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can't help but see a parallel between this and allergies:


The immune system needs something to fight, or else it will overreact to every single foreign particle and thereby cause allergies.[1]*

It seems that, when a schoolboard doesn't have any major issue to tackle, it will turn a minor concern (like bad language in a worthy book) into a major crusade.

Can't we keep these people busy? I know that a school in my area (though I can't tell if it was the board as well as the parents) spent some time trying to remove polystyrene trays from their lunchrooms... that couldn't possibly do as much harm as letting them address actual curriculum. This can help until we figure out a more permanent way to put teachers in charge.**

*This theory is still relatively new and the article only mentions one study having been completed
**Though of course we need some mechanism to keep the ones that do things like hawking intelligent design in line.

posted by Grimp0teuthis at 8:12 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


"LOLThatMemeIsStartingToGetOnMyTits"

pics or it didn't happen
posted by Eideteker at 8:41 AM on July 9, 2008


The most frustrating thing about this is that the teacher set out to teach a very valuable lesson about inner city students struggling to survive and find success - but instead the lesson became one of insubordination on her part.
Unfortunately, this is one lesson that will stick with the kids.
It essentially says, 'don't step out of line, obey orders, stay in your box, shut up, pretend you don't know bad words, and never speak them, follow the rules, don't argue, again, shut up, or you will get punished'.
How sad.
posted by Rashomon at 8:47 AM on July 9, 2008


The next time a parent wants to complain about a book being used in a class, I think they should have to read the entire story and write a report on it, explaining exactly what their objections are. I think this should be a mandatory action and no complaint will be investigated without clear proof that the parent has read the book from cover to cover.

I'd bet cash money that the number of these kinds of incidents would go down. First, because I think in a lot of cases, the parents couldn't be bothered to actually invest the time to read the whole thing, and second, and more importantly, I suspect that for those people that did read the books, they would find out that the thing they thought were offensive were actually necessary when given context and withdraw their objections.
posted by quin at 8:47 AM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Nope, this isn't about a person who disobeyed orders. It's about a school banning a book despite its educational veracity because it has a few choice words in it.

How many of us would be insubordinate in such a situation? I'm not even sure that's a question.
posted by jabberjaw at 8:48 AM on July 9, 2008


...the teacher consciously disobeyed a direct order from the school board ... and got suspended, full stop. That's what's supposed to happen when one disobeys their employer, no?

No. That's certainly what the *employer* wants to happen, but it's not often in *society's* best interest for that. Think of a soldier disobeying an order to commit an atrocity, a businessperson revealing an instance of a superior's embezzling, or anyone else doing an end-run around asinine rules that require a punitive measure irrespective of circumstances.

Yes, rules are important. But the rules are there to help ensure an outcome. If that outcome can only be met by disobeying the rules (and an adverse outcome would result from following the rules), then it makes more sense to disobey the rules, period. It comes down to "following the rules" versus "achieving the desired result". The latter should always trump the former.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:57 AM on July 9, 2008


People are scared, and when they have nothing to fear, they invent boogeymen to fear. "Oh no, this book has the F word in it. My blonde blue-eyed daughter can't read that or she'll end up having muslim babies." That's basically the operative psychology here.

That the supposedly enlightened, nuanced and sophisticated types on Metafilter make statements like this while (in theory) arguing against two-dimensional, black-and-white world views is a constant wonder. Pot, meet kettle.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:00 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


(That first section was a quote from Pastabagel--I should have italicized it.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:01 AM on July 9, 2008


> Nope, this isn't about a person who disobeyed orders. It's about a school banning a book despite its educational veracity because it has a few choice words in it.

Let's test that:
1) would the board have suspended her for just championing and recommending (strongly, even) that book to the board, or to the students? I'm betting no.
2) would we be all a-flutter here if the book in question was "Mein Kampf"? (oops, Godwin) , "The Anarchist's Handbook"?, "Biography of Larry Flint"? [insert own ludicrous title here]? I'm thinking not.

Sorry, I don't equate one board prohibiting one teacher from teaching ONE book an atrocity. Stupid, shortsighted, yes. of course. (This IS MeFi). There are other ways to promote a book to the public or to the students. And guess what? there are other books out there which would also be of value to the students. I also believe that a good teacher is more important than any one book, yet she by her actions she's put herself out of the picture for 18 months.

Let's acknowledge her courage, and the shortsightedness of her superiors. But as a tactician, presumably with the good of her students uppermost in her mind, she blew it.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:18 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dunno, Artful Codger. Couldn't we be Godwinning you just as easily? And in a world in which some schoolboards are explicitly telling teachers not to teach basic scientific understanding, our examples would be a lot more realistic.

Teachers are supposed to be champions of academic integrity even when their "bosses" make it difficult for them. That is their job.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:32 AM on July 9, 2008


Sorry, I don't equate one board prohibiting one teacher from teaching ONE book an atrocity.

I'm outraged over the outrage over the outrage.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:37 AM on July 9, 2008


Teachers are supposed to be successful champions of academic integrity even when their "bosses" make it difficult for them. That is their job.

FTFY (I always wanted to do that)

We agree more than we disagree, friends, really. I just wanted to stress that I think the teacher chose poorly by violating a direct order from the board. That gives the board all the cover they'll ever need for taking a disciplinary action, regardless of their real intent.

Now, in the greater scheme of things, maybe her "sacrifice" is just what's required to push the issue forward nationally, to get this book the exposure it really needs, to get more people to pay more attention to their childrens' education, and the people who control it. If that turns out to be the case, then the action was in the long run justified, I guess.

But her action hasn't (yet) resulted in the book joining the curriculum, and two or three classes have been deprived of a good teacher. Sort of a Pyhrric victory for her and her students, no?
posted by Artful Codger at 9:42 AM on July 9, 2008


...but I think the greater concern is more about return on investment...

A pox forever on that fucking term. ROI is relevant to business, not society. Some things need to be done just because they're right. I don't necessarily get any benefit from being as good a person as I can be; I should still strive to be good.

It's also amazing that the ROI discussion only really gets any play when it comes to programs that try to level the playing field; when it comes to dropping countless bombs on somebody or overthrowing other governments or bailing out corporations, the bucket is bottomless.

/rant

More on point, I wish we had more teachers like this.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:42 AM on July 9, 2008


Unfortunately, this is one lesson that will stick with the kids.
It essentially says, 'don't step out of line, obey orders, stay in your box, shut up, pretend you don't know bad words, and never speak them, follow the rules, don't argue, again, shut up, or you will get punished'.


They'll also learn that the powers that be can make really stupid and arbitrary rules, that one narrow-minded loudmouth can ruin everybody's fun, and about the importance of tactical subversion. And a lot of them will read the book to see what all the fuss is about.

I agree that this teacher did not show the necessary serpent-like wisdom in the way she went about her civic disobedience. There are lots of other books to choose from. She would have done better to have taught a good and important book and found some tie-in way to describe the "banned book" she would like to have taught in such a way that the students can't wait to read it. And to have kept her job. Dedicated and idealistic teachers like her can't do much good sitting at home.

And it's possible. There's nothing like designating something as forbidden fruit to make it wildly attractive. When I was in grade five in a Christian school, one of my classmates lent me a copy of Are You There God, It's Me Margaret. My teacher (an idiot who was later fired) saw it and gave me a talking to about it. I forget what she said, but although she didn't tell me not to read it (probably because she had NO authority to do so, so long as I didn't read it in class, and she probably realized my mother would never back her up since I was always allowed to read everything), she said something about the subject matter not being suitable for me. After that nothing would have kept me from reading it. And I have no respect for that teacher. You'd think her concern would at least have included the recognition that the book was a mediocre piece of crap. If I ever have a ten-year-old who reads that book, I'll be hunting up a half-decent book about the onset of puberty and religious questioning to give to her as well.
posted by orange swan at 10:02 AM on July 9, 2008


We have juries made up of people who know nothing about the law, or about the criminal justice system.

We have governments made of people who couldn't hack it in the professional world, and are chosen based on skill at bullshitting.

We have schoolboards made up of people with no background in education, sociology, or the subject matter.

It's the way we do things here in the U.S.

Even worse, we've created an environment where you'd have to be nuts to choose public education as a carreer. Thankfully this woman is that variety of nuts. We could use more like her.
posted by Ragma at 10:07 AM on July 9, 2008


Artful Codger, thank you for responding to me. Really, I'm not being sarcastic.

I see where you're coming from and, though I don't completely agree with you, I concede that yes, it's petty crummy that two years of students will be deprived of a good teacher.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:09 AM on July 9, 2008


would we be all a-flutter here if the book in question was "Mein Kampf"? (oops, Godwin) , "The Anarchist's Handbook"?, "Biography of Larry Flint"? [insert own ludicrous title here]? I'm thinking not.

Speaking only for myself: if the students were old enough for the material to be appropriate (high school is far past that point IMO) I wouldn't object to any of those.
posted by Skorgu at 10:10 AM on July 9, 2008


Artful Codger, I agree to some extent with your view to enforce chain-of-command in the school system, and you made a good point about this same action to prevent ID would be viewed as a good thing by most of folks in the Blue.

I think that where a lot of us who've been involved with school boards or school administrations are chafing is the lack of responsibility on the part of that administration and board to get back to that teacher in a timely manner.

I do not not know, but can guess, that they hoped Heermann and her book request would just go away, but like a lot of motivated and motivating teachers, she kept trying to make the system work. She tried an alternative method to get her book choice approved (the parental approval) and probably figured that a 149/150 ratio was better than some of the 5-4 school board votes to approve ID instruction, and on that basis, would probably gain approval.

Yes, she ultimately defied a direct request and paid a huge price (how many of us could forgo our paychecks for 18 months?). But what price should the administration pay for their mixed messages and seemingly deliberate lack of action following up on her legitimate request? If they wanted to say no, they should have said so within, oh, say, 6 weeks from her request, and not waited months into the school year?

Planning a course, scaffolding assignments, deciding what can and should be done when in a semester is not as simple a matter as being told you have the wrong hammer, use a different brand. They had a responsibility to her to act promptly as well. I would hope that I would have the same courage as she had to stand for her principles.
posted by beelzbubba at 10:24 AM on July 9, 2008


...the teacher consciously disobeyed a direct order from the school board ... and got suspended, full stop. That's what's supposed to happen when one disobeys their employer, no?

I think it's interesting that 149 of the 150 parents gave permission for their students to read the book. Does that fact not carry any weight with the school board? Do the teachers and parents views not matter? Well apparently not...
posted by shoesietart at 10:32 AM on July 9, 2008


ROI is relevant to business, not society.

I agree. Get every other US taxpayer to come along, and we'll take a big step toward fixing education problems.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:49 AM on July 9, 2008


There are other ways to promote a book to the public or to the students. And guess what? there are other books out there which would also be of value to the students. I also believe that a good teacher is more important than any one book, yet she by her actions she's put herself out of the picture for 18 months.

Choosing to assign a book to students is not promoting a book. She was not a marketer; she was a teacher. She chose to teach the material and she got parental permission to use it. The board disagreed, and she defied their decision. The point here is not to cling to that one book in the belief that somehow it is the book to teach-- there is no such thing. The point is that she chose that book as the reading material to base lessons on. Which IS her job, as a teacher. To choose how to teach something and what resources to use. The board interfered with that job on really thin grounds-- the book has obscene language in it. She chose to disobey them, no one's disputing that. You don't seem to understand exactly what it is a teacher aims to accomplish in a classroom and the decisions that need to be made to accomplish it. The point is not to show students how awesome some book is. It's to teach them something and get them thinking.

This doesn't parallel to teaching creationism because you won't see consensus statements issued by professional organizations of literary scholars and [whatever the equivalent of the National Academies of Science would be for humanities] spelling out point by point why the book is a complete misrepresentation of literature and should not be taught as such. You will find such statements on creationism, which masquerades as a science but is not one.

Mein Kampf is perfectly acceptable to teach with appropriate context. Surely you don't think the way to teach history is to ignore it?
posted by Tehanu at 10:57 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


The point is that she chose that book as the reading material to base lessons on. Which IS her job, as a teacher. To choose how to teach something and what resources to use. The board interfered with that job on really thin grounds-- the book has obscene language in it. She chose to disobey them, no one's disputing that. You don't seem to understand exactly what it is a teacher aims to accomplish in a classroom and the decisions that need to be made to accomplish it. The point is not to show students how awesome some book is. It's to teach them something and get them thinking.

I think there is something you may have missed too though and that is that it is the job of the board to set policy and diretion in curriculum. They voted, on thin ground given, that the book did not meet their defined policy and direction, yet she defied them. It is also the board's job to set diciplinary policy as draconian as they wanna be and the voters will allow.

It is the job of the vovers now (as it seems that they approved of the teacher's proposed curriculum at about a 149 to 1 margin) to remove the board members that set the lousy curriculum and diciplinary policies that lead to this mess.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:16 AM on July 9, 2008


Voters, not the vovers. They can pound sand for all I care, goddamn lousy vovers.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:17 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay. Read the entire thread through. Whine, whine, whine, kvetch, kvetch, kvetch. Not unfounded whining, not unfounded kvetching, mind you, but aside from mystyk, not a lot of action.

Mefi's done some mindblowing stuff before when we've gotten off our collective asses. I have no idea how to go about setting something up like this in a way where it is financially transparent (and thus more financially trustworthy), but how 'bout we actually take action?

Say, let's start taking up a collection for the teacher? A year and a half without her job is going to sting, even if she takes a new job somewhere else for the interim.

Or mail a few hundred copies of the book to each member of the entire school board. Or, hell, just a fundraising drive to donate $20 in the teacher's name to the ACLU, if all of the above is too difficult.
posted by WCityMike at 11:19 AM on July 9, 2008


The dilemma, from the God-fearing perspective, is that worldly education is trivial compared to obedience to God -- and, by extension, the promise of eternal bliss. And, I gotta say, if you accept the given, that the afterlife is real and as described by the Bible, then that's the rational position. I mean, finite life vs. infinite afterlife... easy decision!

That, to me, is the most heinous result of Pascal's Wager, that one has nothing to lose by a belief in God. There most certainly is a LOT to lose in terms of quality of life -- not just for one's self, but for others as well. This story is just another example.
posted by LordSludge at 11:36 AM on July 9, 2008


Pollomacho, where I said "She chose to disobey them, no one's disputing that" I meant that it's still within the school board's rights to dismiss her. I'm not disputing that. It was a stupid decision, but she did act against it. I was just remarking on the difference between choosing a teaching resource and promoting a book. Some people here seem to not understand the context and purpose of choosing background reading for a class.
posted by Tehanu at 11:45 AM on July 9, 2008


What is the point of English class? For an individual teacher to push a particular book onto her students, or to teach them English? I submit that the latter can - and should - be done without controversy. Math teachers don't have these problems. Pick another book - there are thousands to choose from. Who cares if her students won't be exposed to the word "motherfucker" in class. It isn't important.

"And if you don't like it Moss, there's the door."

Voters, not the vovers. They can pound sand for all I care, goddamn lousy vovers.

Well we have vouchers here in socialist Sweden and the result has been all around positive. Schools outside the mainstream and in the mainstream receive full funding based on their ability to attract students. This has created a diverse school system and most people like being able to choose where the program their kids take. Even the teachers I talk to speak well of the change.

I cannot understand the American teacher's union fighting this? What are they afraid of really? Loss of control over those big fat pension funds or something?
posted by three blind mice at 12:01 PM on July 9, 2008




Older, but still generally relevant I think: Mathematically correct.
posted by Tehanu at 12:21 PM on July 9, 2008


Does anyone else think that this teacher is kind of weird? I haven't read the book, but it seems to have some great teaching ideas:

Knowing that her students were all too familiar with violence, she introduced them to Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo. Reluctant at first to read the strange texts, the students of Room 203 soon paralleled their lives to those of Anne and Zlata- teenagers also surrounded by violence- and could not believe their intense connections to the stories.

Now that makes a lot of sense. It's a great idea to get kids into writing by introducing them to diaries-as-literature, which would expose them to some great writing, teach them some history, and encourage them to write about their own experiences. What seems weird to me is that a teacher would prefer to just give them the book she got the idea from so that they can read second-hand accounts of how other kids reacted to books and became interested in writing. And I think it's super weird that she would be so into it that she'd raise private funds to give each kid a copy - and it's kind of unfathomable to me that she would disobey direct orders (which gets you fired no matter what your job is) and distribute them anyhow when it seems the book would work as well or better as a Teacher's Guide than it does as an assignment.
posted by moxiedoll at 12:57 PM on July 9, 2008


I did a series of papers on Bret Easton Ellis in my senior year...

I wrote a short story "sequel" to American Psycho for my Year 12 English creative writing assignment (the theme was "wrongdoing"). I got a VHA+ (or A+) for it. Then somehow a copy of it got circulated through the school. And pretty soon people were looking at me funny. Then I got called to the principal's office. It was so cold in there that frost covered the windows, and my breath steamed. Green Day was playing from somewhere and segued into The Presidents Of The United States Of America, but I was thinking: techno techno techno.

"THIS IS VILE AND DESPICABLE! IT IS THE VILEST MOST DESPICABLE THING I HAVE EVER READ!" he bellowed.

"Dude, fucking spare me," I deadpanned, my sunglasses still on, then thought, I should ratchet the studliness down a notch. I reached into my pocket and fiddled with a roll of Mentos.

“I THINK IT IS PROBABLY THE MOST REVOLTING THING I HAVE EVER SEEN! YOU MUST HAVE SOME KIND OF SICKNESS IN YOUR MIND!”

“Well,” I sighed, “That’s just, like, your opinion, man.” I stretched so my shirt "accidentally" came untucked and he could scope my abs, which were pretty defined.

“PARENTS HAVE BEEN COMPLAINING TO THIS OFFICE ALL MORNING THAT THEIR CHILDREN HAVE BEEN COMING HOME WITH VIOLENT PORNOGRAPHY!”

I noticed a stray piece of confetti on my shoe, and leaned down to brush it away. “Hey, baby. It’s cool. You’re cool. I’m cool. You’ve got that whole…refined…uh, vibe going. Some kind of total vibe. You're hip, baby.”

“STOP SLOUCHING! WHY ARE YOU SLOUCHING?”

I shrugged. “The better you look, the more you see.”

“DO YOU EVEN POSSESS ANY REMORSE?”

In a moment of sheer panic I sat bolt upright in my chair. “Remind me because this Klonopin I'm on causes short-term memory loss, I mean long-term memory loss: is that some kind of, like, lotion I need to know about?” Then, “Your forearms are really tanned.”

“I BET IF I WENT INTO THE SCHOOL LIBRARY I WOULD NEVER FIND ANYTHING SO SICK AND DEPRAVED!”

I was so bored and this whole thing was turning out to be fairly bogus, and I wanted to split. “Yeah? What about Mein Kampf? What about fucking Mein Kampf, baby?”

That actually shut him up, and it was one of my proudest moments as a teenager, and nobody was there to see.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:44 PM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


What is the point of English class? For an individual teacher to push a particular book onto her students, or to teach them English? I submit that the latter can - and should - be done without controversy.
posted by three blind mice at 3:01 PM on July 9


Good luck with that. School boards routinely ban books which are considered classics of English literature.

Unless you think English class is only about grammar and spelling, in which case, yes, we can do without controversial books. But English class is also about learning about literature, including the classics, many of which are controversial.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:47 PM on July 9, 2008


100 most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000 according to ALA.

Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were not in the top ten for 2006, but they have often been recently. The banned books by theme each year is an interesting metric for what we as a society fear the most. We seem to be most afraid of sex, and gay sex specifically.
posted by Tehanu at 4:39 PM on July 9, 2008


Based on the overwhelming disapproval of the school board's action against Ms. Heermann expressed here, I guess Metafilter is ready to abolish the Dept. of Education and abandon the failed publicgovernment school system altogether.

Awesome!
posted by oncogenesis at 5:18 PM on July 9, 2008


Like the wise Time Cube Dude says, we are educated stupid. More so in Perry Township than in most others.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:14 PM on July 9, 2008


Well we have vouchers here in socialist Sweden and the result has been all around positive.

Do you have large districts where the culture comes from a history of poverty and violence? Or is your country more of a monoculture than that of the USA?

I think vouchers in the USA would be a worse disaster than the system they currently have in place.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:19 PM on July 9, 2008


When was the last time you heard about a magnet school for arts and the humanities that wasn't simply an art school? Any magnet schools focusing on literature or creativity?

Pastabagel, one could claim that Hunter High School is just such a place.

However, things like math, science, and the arts (including creative writing) are fields that can get studied intensely, understood, and practiced by very talented people when they are young.

Serious literary criticism, historical analysis, and philosophical study are the domains of people who are a little bit more mature, and thus the added value of focusing on these fields while one is a teenager isn't there. The science/arts magnet schools have excellent humanities programs and provide a lot of high-quality instruction in the humanities. However, the payoff for the students in terms of greater understanding is much higher if you intensely focus on nurturing the talents of the young on math, science, and the arts, while providing larger inputs on the humanities doesn't have a comparable benefit for the students. The only exception I can think of is foreign languages.

When was the last time, after all, you ever heard of a "historiographical prodigy"?
posted by deanc at 5:26 AM on July 10, 2008


Does anyone else think that this teacher is kind of weird? I haven't read the book, but it seems to have some great teaching ideas:

Knowing that her students were all too familiar with violence, she introduced them to Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo. Reluctant at first to read the strange texts, the students of Room 203 soon paralleled their lives to those of Anne and Zlata- teenagers also surrounded by violence- and could not believe their intense connections to the stories.

Now that makes a lot of sense. It's a great idea to get kids into writing by introducing them to diaries-as-literature, which would expose them to some great writing, teach them some history, and encourage them to write about their own experiences. What seems weird to me is that a teacher would prefer to just give them the book she got the idea from so that they can read second-hand accounts of how other kids reacted to books and became interested in writing. And I think it's super weird that she would be so into it that she'd raise private funds to give each kid a copy - and it's kind of unfathomable to me that she would disobey direct orders (which gets you fired no matter what your job is) and distribute them anyhow when it seems the book would work as well or better as a Teacher's Guide than it does as an assignment.


Moxiedoll, is my sarcasm meter just not working? Or do you just not have any idea of how she was using the book for students to journal about their experiences? As a writing exercise, journaling teaches invention (the discovery of ideas and arguments), and its many subsets of discovery. From there, teachers help students find topics they are vitally interested. Part of a recently recovered method of teaching by inquiry--not new, but quite in opposition to the sort of writing instruction that in America is/was based on the Harvard model of freshman composition begun circa 1800, and renewed with vigor by the Boylston Professorship held by Channing, Child, and Hill in succession.

We are all familiar with this mode of English instruction, and I think that 3BM would endorse it heartily:

Each candidate will be required to write a short English composition, correct in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and expression, the subject to be taken from such works of standard authors as shall be announced from time to time. The subject for 1874 will be taken from one of the following works: Shakespeare's Tempest, Julius Caesar, and Merchant of Venice; Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield; Scott's Ivanhoe and Lay of the Last
Minstrel.


I endorse Heermann's method. If your post was not sarcastic, then please tell me that you don't think Heerman just presented the book and did nothing to teach writing.
posted by beelzbubba at 6:02 AM on July 10, 2008


100 most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000 according to ALA.

88. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford


That's... just... Seriously? Why? Oh, that's why. Amazing. Crazy world.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:16 AM on July 10, 2008


One can completely agree with the book's suitability (or not), but the teacher consciously disobeyed a direct order from the school board ... and got suspended, full stop. That's what's supposed to happen when one disobeys their employer, no?

Antigone all over again. Creon doesn't seem to listen to the chorus though.
posted by ersatz at 5:01 AM on July 11, 2008


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