Controversial Wall Street Journal Article about YA Lit Trending #3 on Twitter!

Discussion in 'General Education' started by StudentTeach, Jun 5, 2011.

  1. StudentTeach

    StudentTeach Comrade

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  3. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Many young adult novels are controversial, but many young adult novels were controversial years ago. Just as parents decide what movies to allow their children to watch, which video games to allow them to play, parents need to monitor the books that their children read.
     
  4. JustMe

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    I skimmed the article but didn't search Twitter. I know I'm not necessarily in the majority, but I agree YA has grown into something that should be evaluated carefully by authors, publishers, librarians, teachers, parents, and readers. I'm often shocked, saddened, and made angry by the contents of young adult novels, which are being read by children...not "young adults". I'm not a huge fan of the term and what it's come to mean.

    ETA: In response to mopar, I believe there are without question more controversial books now and deeper controversial topics.
     
  5. StudentTeach

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    In my opinion, books are meant to give us a sense of belonging, understanding, and exposure to situations and kinds of people we may not be exposed to in our neighborhoods. Somewhere in the world is a teenager experiencing the pain, hurt and lack of understanding found in a YA novel. Somewhere else in the world, another teen is reading about it and bringing empathy and understanding.
     
  6. Jem

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    I agree the books are much darker now. When I taught fifth grade, I was collecting books that put a twist on classic tales. One bookstore employee handed me a title that was a twist on Peter Pan. I began reading it, and the first chapter has Mr. Darling having graphic sex with a woman during a party at the house, and it was not his wife. Whaaaat? This was handed to me quick as a flash for my for my fifth grade classroom! I passed it on to an adult friend without reading further. I was also shocked that a book wildly marketed to middle school students contained a scene where girls engage in an orgy together in a cave.
     
  7. StudentTeach

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    That is definitely not appropriate for fifth grade. When I refer to YA lit, I'm thinking of the 13-17ish age group. Anything marketed younger than that to me is considered children's literature and whole 'nother story!
     
  8. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Yes the content seems to be very controversial to us today, but the books that were once controversial to our parents and grandparents, our now acceptable. Not saying that it is right or our children should read these books, but that the definition of what is controversial changes with the times.

    I still think that parents need to monitor what their children read. I think much of what is on the young adult shelves deal with issues that some young adults are facing and having those role models or a book to make the dialogue begin allows these children to have a chance to talk about and recognize their own feelings.

    Do I think that my sixth graders should be reading the Twilight Series as a class novel, no! But if a parent buys them the books and allows them to read it, I'm not going to take it away and tell them that they cannot read it either.
     
  9. Jem

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    I guess I'm going to have to come in on the side of 'not appropriate', even for 13-17 year olds. I read a lot of YA fiction and I've read about things I as an adult didn't even need to read about. I think there is a difference between fostering empathy and describing dark situations in graphic detail. I started to read a book that began with a man murdering another with a pocket knife-detail by detail of how he used each tool. I threw up, and then threw the book away. The same would go for reading about shoving a gas pump down a kid's throat. I will never get those images out of my head. I hope they are never placed in my child's brain. Trash in, trash out.
     
  10. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I agree, I wouldn't want my children or students reading some books no matter their age, but take a look at the movies and video games they watch. I think that libraries and teachers need to let parents make many of these decisions child for child.

    A parent once told me that Shiloh was inappropriate for a 5th grade student because the dad was an alcoholic and this parent didn't want her daughter exposed to alcoholism.
     
  11. Jem

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    I think the movies and video games are inappropriate as well. Just because one bar is lowered is not a reason to lower others. We should work instead to raise that bar. And the books that deal with cutting, suicide, rape, homophobia, gangs, bullies, ect. do not offer students solutions or positive messages. They aren't realistic situations-they are sensationalized.
     
  12. JustMe

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    I agree with you, Jem—100%.

    From the article, with my focus being the second paragraph: "The argument in favor of such novels is that they validate the teen experience, giving voice to tortured adolescents who would otherwise be voiceless. If a teen has been abused, the logic follows, reading about another teen in the same straits will be comforting. If a girl cuts her flesh with a razor to relieve surging feelings of self-loathing, she will find succor in reading about another girl who cuts, mops up the blood with towels and eventually learns to manage her emotional turbulence without a knife.

    Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue."
     
  13. dibba

    dibba Rookie

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    5th grade is 11 years old right?

    So another year or so and they're ready for "Mr. Darling having graphic sex with a woman during a party at the house, and it was not his wife. Whaaaat? This was handed to me quick as a flash for my for my fifth grade classroom! I passed it on to an adult friend without reading further. I was also shocked that a book wildly marketed to middle school students contained a scene where girls engage in an orgy together in a cave."?

    Really?
     
  14. StudentTeach

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    I'm not saying that this particular book is appropriate for 13-17 year-olds. I'm only suggesting that the discussion is about what's appropriate for YOUNG ADULT literature, not children's literature. I see them as different genres. I would not compare what a third grader reads to what an 11th grader reads. Whether or not the particular book is appropriate for the 11th grader, I don't know, I'm merely stating the difference in categories.
     
  15. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I can honestly say that many of the books written for young adults were what got me through some rough patches in my life. I know that "A Child Called It" was my sister's saving grace from going down the wrong path in high school. This one book (that many educators found controversial) was what helped my sister to find a path that lead her away from drugs, pregnancy, gangs, etc.
     
  16. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I second a difference in categories of literature. Yet, I know that my sixth graders (11/12) are pulled to the young adult books because they are marketed for older kids and want to read them. However, parents also know that buying books in these sections needs to be something that they research before buying.
     
  17. mmswm

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    I'm pretty liberal with what I let my kids read. I've had some rather uncomfortable conversations with my 12 year old as a result of his book choices. Now, Matthew tends to gravitate towards the classics, so some of the topics are very adult. Most recently, I had to explain what a "whore" was when he got to the part in Les Miserables when Fantine turns to prostitution to survive. Now, talk about contemporary controversy! When that book was published, there was an uproar because Hugo was sympathetic to the plight of a criminal! I've also had to discuss with him issues of abuse, sex and inequality as he's read several novels by Alexander Dumas and Charles Dickens. The idea of social controversy in novels intended for young adults is not new (and those books were widely read by the late teens and 20 something set when they were published).

    For me, one of the primary purposes of art (and writing is an art), is to explore the social issues of the day. That exploration can, and should, make us uncomfortable and possibly even angry, as we begin to explore who we are as individuals and as a society.
     
  18. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Well said mm!
     
  19. TeacherGroupie

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    I'll second that emotion, mopar - and mm's engagement with what her sons read.
     
  20. MrsC

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    I agree!

    Just this year, I have had grade 8 students deal with all of these. Although I do find the content of some of the books my students are reading disturbing, I also know that the situations are the reality for some. Being in an elementary school, I am careful about what I give my students to read, but I won't censor what they bring from home or the discussions they have with peers about what they are reading.
     
  21. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    MrsC, my thoughts exactly!
     
  22. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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  23. MrsC

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    Forgot to add: I do tend to make a point of reading some of the books that the kids are talking about (although, not the vampire/werewolf ones) so that I can join in some of the conversations and provide an adult perspective on some of the issues.
     
  24. MrsC

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    Thanks for posting this--it's a great piece.

    I should add that as the parent of a teenager, these topics terrify me. However, I don't think that hiding them will make them go away. By allowing them to come out in the open, some of our teens may realize that they are not alone and they may talk about their experiences and seek help. I have no fear that Lauren will start cutting herself or develop an eating disorder because she reads about them in a novel. I do hope, however, that if she were feeling the kind of pain that leads to these behaviours, she would be able to feel that she wasn't alone.
     
  25. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I agree! I know that reading about these experiences can empower others to seek help for themselves or their friends. Often times books can provide the young adults with the vocabulary needed to truly talk about these issues as well.

    I too often read the books that my students are reading so that I understand their conversations and can guide discussions as well.
     
  26. dibba

    dibba Rookie

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    Personally, if I had to choose, I'd rather my daughter read about mythical vampires than being a willing participant in a cave orgy.

    No matter what her age.
     
  27. MrsC

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    So would I. As a parent, however, I know what she's reading and she would have some explaining to do about anything sexually explicit.

    I don't like the "vampire" genre, which is why I don't read them, in spite of the best efforts of many of my students.
     
  28. JustMe

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    As a certified library media specialist, I was taught (based on the ALA) that "young adult" in regards to literature begins at age twelve. Too young for many of the controversial titles.

    I fear that when someone expresses concern over the graphic nature of young adult books, others may see those people as simply being over protective, naive, censorship-happy, or just generally shut-off from reality. I don't believe that's accurate. Many, many books cover sensitive topics (abuse, eating disorders, etc.) in what I would consider to be an appropriate manner. Others simply do not...it's quite obvious some authors are shooting for shock value, buzz, or whathaveyou that young readers would enjoy because they too know what they're reading is edgy.
     
  29. JustMe

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    I always go back to being interested in a book so many of my sixth graders were reading a few years ago...I wanted to read it as well because it had to be amazing considering the buzz and waitlist. I almost cried when I started reading. Teachers having sexual relationships with students, "squirting cum", oral sex... :(
     
  30. dibba

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    What's wrong with students, even high schoolers reading about that? It's reality, happens in the news every week, hot teachers giving BJs to students and having gang orgies at their after school parties.

    It's the way life is, and kids need to know about it.

    Edit: and if it wasn't obvious, I was being sarcastic, but sadly, I think several on this thread will be thinking "yeah, that's true, they do need to read about that too..."
     
  31. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Parents who are strongly opposed to their children reading these sorts of books should closely monitor what their kids read. They don't have any business dictating what other kids should or should not be reading, though.

    I have always been a reader. When I was in elementary school, I read so many books with very adult themes--not porn, but lots of violence and gore. I was and am drawn to the darker genres. I'm not and have never been a self-injurer, contemplated suicide, had an eating disorder....For whatever reason, I just like reading about dark and scary things. When I was younger, I sought out books with dark and adult themes, so that usually meant just walking over to the adult half of the library. My point is that even if we eliminated these dark books from the young adult genre, many kids would still seek out books about those topics.

    I'm not all that opposed to young adult books that describe sexual activities, though I will admit that I don't really like the teacher-student stuff that has been mentioned here. Teenagers and pre-teens need to know about sex. The information they get from their friends and the media is often incomplete and inaccurate and usually involves words like "smooshing" and acronyms like "DTF". I'd prefer that a teenager were reading a book that's more realistic and honest.

    In my experience, kids who are the most sheltered are also the ones who go the craziest as soon as they're away from the watchful eyes of their parents.
     
  32. MrsC

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    I agree with you. Just because I don't think that we should keep difficult topics from kids, doesn't mean I support them reading pornography. I don't think that graphic s** has any place in the books our young teens (or older teens) are reading. It's difficult to stay of top of everything, but I often read pick up the books my students are reading and flip quickly through them.
     
  33. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    This is a case where parents need to have the say to tell their child not to read such a book or steer their child to something more appropriate.

    Do I want my little sixth graders (just turning 12) reading about teachers having sex with students with explicit sexual language or orgies, no. But I do understand that it is a short jump from censoring one piece of literature to many more appropriate pieces of literature.
     
  34. tchr4evr

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    It's not really that new

    Just like tv, etc, parents need to look at what their kids are reading. BUt, books like this have always existed. An earlier poster mentioned A Child Called It. I remember reading V.C. Andrews, as many of my friends did, and all her novels are about incest and abuse and sex. I also started reading Stephen King when I was 10 or 11. The opening scene of The Shining is the aftermath of intercourse between Wendy and Jack Torrance. These things are a fact of life, and children need to be able to read about them
     
  35. JustMe

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    An issue that teachers must deal with becomes what to do when parents allow their twelve year old children to read sexually explicit pieces who then bring those books to school and pass them around the lunch table so everyone can enjoy the graphic descriptions. That will get Mad Momma in the office fast...trust me.

    And when should school libraries pass on these books? Like the one involving teacher-student relationships? I don't consider removing that book from the shelves to be censorship...I consider that reasonable and responsible. But I know many people here disagree.
     
  36. JustMe

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    I disagree. They are children, as you said. Children shouldn't have to deal with all that is wrong, scary, or real in this world. Can some handle these truths more than others? Yes. Might it benefit some more than others? Yes. But I disagree with the argument that just because it's reality children "need" to read about it.
     
  37. dibba

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    Really? So where is the line drawn then, or do you have a line? Do you think it's OK for a 13 year old to watch porn, or how about read about men raping babies? How about you think of the most extreme scenario in your mind and think if it's OK for a child to read it, even if it does happen in the real world.

    And there is a huge difference in being one of the extreme sheltered children and having a parent and/or teacher monitor what goes into a child's young mind.
     
  38. MrsC

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    And, on the flip side, those who don't feel that they should be censored are not saying that, "anything goes" and that books with graphic or disturbing content are right for every child.
     
  39. JustMe

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    No, but some are saying that sexually explicit content is acceptable. But I understand what you are saying. There are those extremes, but the majority of people are balanced on this issue.
     
  40. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I don't think that anyone here is advocating for teachers giving teens books that are sexually explicit.

    JustMe, you raise great points about a school library. We have forms in our library for parents to fill out if they believe a book needs to be taken off the shelves. Then, we have a librarian or teacher write a review of why that book should stay on the shelves. Then these go to the school board with the book itself and these decisions are made by our school board.
     
  41. JustMe

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    mopar, we have a similar procedure in place which I've had to take advantage of once. It didn't need to go the board, but if there is a major disagreement that's the plan.
     

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