I don’t normally talk about the media and current affairs on this blog (it gets in the way of cat and knitting topics) but there are two articles I saw in today’s paper on which I have Opinions that I must share or I will explode.
What the fuck is wrong with people? Beyond the fact they shouldn’t have done it because the prank is in no way clever, funny or entertaining, it’s a hospital. Sick people are there. No-one in any hospital should have to deal with this type of crap because some moron on the other side of the world is trying to fill some air time. Everyone from the producers to the presenters should have to explain why they did this really stupid thing to the Australian Broadcasting Authority. Morons.
Example Number 2: A teacher thinks that Love in the Time of Cholera, despite its recognised literary merits, is not suitable for a high school curriculum
While I concur that Love in the Time of Cholera shouldn’t be on the VCE teaching list, it’s because I think it is mind-numbingly boring and we shouldn’t do that to our VCE students when VCE is hard enough. That said, this book is a hugely popular and highly regarded literary novel and is rich source for analysis and as such it is perfectly appropriate for study in an English class for 16 and 17 year olds.
Firstly, this teacher massively overvalues the impact that reading a long (and boring) novel will have on teenage students who have a million more interesting things to do. It perpetuates the myths that a: teenagers are children who, at the stroke of midnight when they turn 18, are magically able to deal with topics and concepts they couldn’t deal with the day before; b: that teenagers’ minds are empty and just waiting to be imprinted on because (obviously) they have absolutely no facility to process information independently and c: that as soon as anyone reads/sees/hears about a topic such as incest they will immediately do that thing, in this case head out and bonk their uncle/sister/cousin. Just like reading Tales of the City didn’t magically turn me gay, reading this book isn’t magically going to turn students into incestuous paedophiles. This is the Internet generation – they have seen and heard far worse things than one aspect of one complex involved novel that a whole bunch of them won’t even read the whole way through.
Secondly, if we are going to start deciding what can go onto the reading list based on its appropriateness, let’s have a look at some of the other titles. This is the list of books in 2013. Since Bantnick is so concerned about how this book will affect young girls (because clearly they will regard this book as a manual for life rather than a literary text to be studied, those silly girls. Sexism is alive and well and perfectly okay, clearly), should Wuthering Heights be on the list? I love Wuthering Heights and it’s one of my favourite books but the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff that drives the novel is seriously fucked up and not a healthy model for anyone. The school that this man teaches at is religious and there are heaps of instances of rape, incest and misogyny in the Bible, as well as lots of sex (what 14-year-old at a religious school never giggled at Song of Songs?). Should teaching the Bible also be banned?
Like it or not, incest and paedophilia do happen. One of the best places for these taboo topics to be discussed are in an environment like a classroom where they can be addressed and talked about. Avoiding studying texts because they contain difficult subjects is about as effective at making them go away as putting your fingers in your ears and singing 'La la la'. It's far better to provide these students the critical and analytical tools to deal with this information than continue to pretend that these issues don't exist until they are adults. The fact that we are reading about this ridiculously hysterical overreaction from an actual teacher who is currently working and in charge of shaping young minds gives me a massive sad. I just hope that he is not in charge of deciding the reading list at his school and that parents and his boss are intelligent enough to treat this article as it should be treated - by dismissing it immediately.