WEGG book pulled from school

by Peter Hedges

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nickidepphead
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Unread postby nickidepphead » Fri Dec 01, 2006 7:28 am

theresa wrote:
nickidepphead wrote:
Carroll Schools' Superintendent Rob Cordes has pulled a critically acclaimed Iowa author's novel from a high school literature class over the administrator's concerns that the book has "inappropriate" sexual content.


What age is High School over there- would it be 11 and over, or more like our UK college age, ie 16 and above? I agree with inspired, in that I have two daughters aged 11 and 13, and I know I wouldn't want either of them reading this type of thing yet - they don't need THAT much information! :-O

High school over here is generally age 14 and up.


Ah, thanks. I guess it still depends what year the kids are in that are going to use the book. If it were me I think I'd rather my daughters didn't read it until they were about 16, but then I haven't read it so don't know how explicit it really is! I wonder if the books are vetted by anybody before being bought by the school? And how long they'd had it before this happened...? You'd think they if had used it before, somebody would have picked up on it previously if it were that *offensive*... Hmmm. It does seem a bit much to ban it as a result of just one parent phoning the school!
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Unread postby stroch » Fri Dec 01, 2006 8:09 am

Public schools are in a difficult situation because they operate with public funds, and do not have the resources to fight legal battles with every parent who has an opinion about what should be taught. Education is a state issue, so there are 50 different systems in this country, with subdivisions for counties and municipalities--not counting private or religious schools.

Here, a student can bring a novel with graphic sexual content, the kind that used to be sold in plain brown wrappers, and read it in class, but a teacher cannot assign such a novel.

Teachers can be fired for showing PG-13 movies without parental consent, for displaying nude art work unless it is in a state-adopted textbook (No Michelangelo's David if it is not in the text), or for discussing sexual behavior in any class but health.

Students can use foul language in speech and in print. The teacher may counsel them that such language is not appropriate in a school setting, but unless the speech is actively directed at the the teacher, as in "F... you" that's as far as it can go. The teacher, of course, would be censured, perhaps fired, for saying "D... it, get to work."

It is not so much censorship as fear of retribution that causes schools to yank books. One single parent can complain, and the administration will fold. It's like the controversy over Halloween vs. harvest celebration, or Christmas vs. mid-winter holiday.

The sad thing is that with so much diversity of belief in this country, the diverse groups persist in thinking that everyone should do things THEIR way.
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Anna
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Unread postby Anna » Fri Dec 01, 2006 8:12 am

Just wondering... did all your kids see WEGG? My eldest saw it and he liked it because of what appeals to him i.e. the banter and fighting between Gilbert and his siblings, the hanging out of Gilbert and his mates, the dreams of travelling and achieving greater things, the butterflies of first love, the sometimes difficult love in a family. When he saw it, he didn't get what Betty was doing to Gilbert because it wasn't in his psychological make up yet. He understood from the kitchen table thing that they were secretly making out, but he didn't get the oral sex scene because he didn't know that such a thing exists. Like GG said it´s only explicit if you understand what´s going on so these things take place mainly inside the reader's mind.
My son picked up the lessons from the film that were appropriate to his age. If I reread novels now that I read as a teenager I often read an entirely new novel because I have changed/matured. WEGG, both film and novel, does not have sex as its subject matter and does not exactly offer a manual on how to perform a certain sexual act. To get that, one just has to switch on MTV.
I think it´s far better to help kids to understand life by having them read books so that they themselves know how to distinguish between art and sleaze. It will never work by us telling them which is which. We never believed our parents when they tried to do that so why should we expect our kids to do so?
Last edited by Anna on Fri Dec 01, 2006 10:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby Anna » Fri Dec 01, 2006 8:13 am

Thanks stroch, that explains a lot to me! :cool:
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Dec 01, 2006 9:27 am

Anna, you have a good point. When I go back and listen to some songs that were popular when I was young, songs that horrified the adults of the time, I have a better understanding of their point of view now. Things I understand now went right over my head at the time because I didn't have the frame of reference.

I will say that the high school my sons attended had a very strict policy on profanity in the school, and it was a public school. Any student that was overheard using foul language by a teacher was automatically disciplined and the profanity did not have to be directed at the teacher. This was a result of rules set down by our principal so I think there is room for some variance in the public schools as to what is acceptable behavior. We also had a rather strict (for these days) dress code. In our state, textbooks are approved by a state textbook committee. As far as extra-curricular reading, which WEGG would be considered here, I believe each teacher/department in the school makes up their own lists.
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Unread postby Shadow » Fri Dec 01, 2006 9:54 am

For another perspective....

It seems to me, from reading the article that the book was simply removed from the required reading list for that particular class. The book wasn't outright banned as it is still available from the library or media center. To me there is a big difference between saying, "you don't have to read this book" and saying "you aren't allowed to read this book."

I would think there would be other books that address the teenage issues in question without the sexual passeges. Would we have been as offended if the principal had simply substituted a different book for WEGG?
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Dec 01, 2006 10:42 am

I see your point, Shadow and I agree that the book was just removed from the required reading list but is still available for check out and not summarily banned. I have a problem with the way it was done, solely based on the complaint of one parent (to the best of our knowledge). While parents play an important part in the educational process, curriculum should not be changed based on a single complaint without any further discussion. I think this story came to our attention because the book in question was WEGG, but for me, I would have a problem with this situation regardless of the book.
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Unread postby Anna » Fri Dec 01, 2006 11:07 am

I agree with DITHOT on this. I'm grateful we can have discussions like this with respect for everyone's viewpoint so please do not think I'm trying to tell anyone off. :blush: Being a language teacher myself, this is just an issue very close to my heart.
Shouldn't the teacher be the one to be able to select appropriate books for reading lists? As a teacher in training I had to take subjects as developmental psychology in teenagers, literary theory, reading comprehension skills and I had to hand in 'a declaration of good behaviour' when I got my first teaching job with under-eighteens. It's a matter of defining a school policy on propriety and then hiring the right people, or am I being naive about the American educational system?
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Unread postby Endora » Fri Dec 01, 2006 12:24 pm

The more centralised the system, the smaller the value put on the professional judgement of the individual teacher. I think that what happened with the withdrawal of this book is indicative of the state's lack of faith in its teaching profession, something that to me is also happening here.

Incidentally (and Anna I have said this to you already, I'm sure) recently I had to reason with an extremely irate parent who objected to This be the verse by Philip Larkin being on the nationally agreed A level curriculum. (ages 16-17). I wonder what Iowa would have thought?

Note: Extreme language, should you choose to look it up. But a powerful poem.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Dec 01, 2006 12:30 pm

Anna and Endora, I agree with you that teachers should have the say in what is taught in her classroom. If a parent has an issue with a book, they certainly have the right to voice their concern. I would hope the parent would have that discussion with the teacher first and the two of them could come to a workable agreement. I also agree that teachers are not given enough credit for what they do and in general are not treated like the professionals they are! I am not a classroom teacher but do work in the education profession and this is one of my pet peeves...as you can probably tell! :soapbox:
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Unread postby fansmom » Fri Dec 01, 2006 3:25 pm

Endora wrote:Incidentally (and Anna I have said this to you already, I'm sure) recently I had to reason with an extremely irate parent who objected to This be the verse by Philip Larkin being on the nationally agreed A level curriculum. (ages 16-17). I wonder what Iowa would have thought?

Note: Extreme language, should you choose to look it up. But a powerful poem.
This be the verse by Philip Larkin--That was quoted by a character in the Nick Hornby book we read, remember?

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Unread postby inspired » Fri Dec 01, 2006 3:33 pm

Endora wrote:The more centralised the system, the smaller the value put on the professional judgement of the individual teacher. I think that what happened with the withdrawal of this book is indicative of the state's lack of faith in its teaching profession, something that to me is also happening here.

Incidentally (and Anna I have said this to you already, I'm sure) recently I had to reason with an extremely irate parent who objected to This be the verse by Philip Larkin being on the nationally agreed A level curriculum. (ages 16-17). I wonder what Iowa would have thought?

Note: Extreme language, should you choose to look it up. But a powerful poem.


Endora, I have to admit that at first glance I too was offended by this poem, more for the subject matter that the language, although I wasn't crazy about that as well. However, after looking up the poet online and doing some further reading I think that if presented in the right way it could prove for some good discussion. "Do you agree/disagree with the poet? Why? How much do our parents influence us and how much is our own doing?" At a Jr/Sr level I think that this could prove very interesting. However, I still stand by my original opinion that WEGG is not appropriate due to the sexual content. But thank you for challenging me to think a little harder and look a little deeper.

Bravo also to all you ladies who posted here as well, no matter which opinion you hold. Your ideas are well thought out and thought provoking. I welcome these types of discussions as they force me to think through things more carefully and to look at an issue from all sides. In addition, they are a change of pace from my usual debates on the merits of fractions and why it's not alright to hit your brother even though he hit you first. :lol:

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Unread postby Endora » Fri Dec 01, 2006 3:45 pm

Inspired, I sometimes use it as a starter for discussion in a topic which examines social exclusion in cities.

Yes, an interesting debate over the last few pages. I've enjoyed reading it.
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Unread postby Anna » Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:32 pm

inspired wrote: Bravo also to all you ladies who posted here as well, no matter which opinion you hold. Your ideas are well thought out and thought provoking. I welcome these types of discussions as they force me to think through things more carefully and to look at an issue from all sides. In addition, they are a change of pace from my usual debates on the merits of fractions and why it's not alright to hit your brother even though he hit you first. :lol:


Hear hear! :applause:

Thanks for taking the time to read up on This Be The Verse. One should not make the subject matter the main focus but place the poem and its poet in their historical context (1971, generation gap with Flower Power, the sexual revolution, student protests, the Free Speech Movement) to know why it was written how it was written and with what intention. Only then can one look beyond certain offensive phrasing and appreciate the poetry for what it is. If one would read John Wilmot's poetry, for example, out of context and just consider its often sexual content, one would deprive oneself of the beautiful music, images and erudite witicism in many of his poems. Art has to make one think, make one see things differently, shake up everything one thinks one knows. Quite often that will be painful or scary.

BTW, WEGG also deals with why it's not alright to hit your brother even though he hit you first.
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Unread postby gilly » Sat Dec 02, 2006 11:47 pm

Talk about gutless and just because ONE parent put in a complaint..not even in writing....Sheesh :-O ..I could go on but I won't :capnjack: ..The book is definitely more on the edge than the film and Gilbert is not a sweet person as Johnny portrayed him..In fact,I didn't enjoy the book much at all..BUT...Having someone else's 'standards/morality' imposed on others who don't agree..It makes my blood boil....But then I guess this form of censorship is happening in libraries all the time,but we just don't get to hear of it..Who actually decides,for example, what new books are bought in a library?.Maybe Glendaleigh could tell us? :cloud9:
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