My ‘Reprehensible’ Take on Teen Literature

by Megan Cox Gurdon / Wall Street Journal

There are real-world reasons for caution. For years, federal researchers could not understand why drug- and tobacco-prevention programs seemed to be associated with greater drug and tobacco use. It turned out that children, while grasping the idea that drugs were bad, also absorbed the meta-message that adults expected teens to take drugs. Well-intentioned messages, in other words, can have the unintended consequence of opening the door to expectations and behaviors that might otherwise remain closed.

When you press a wonderful, classic children’s book into a 13-year-old’s hands, are you doing so in the belief that the book will make no difference to her outlook and imagination, that it is merely a passing entertainment? Or do you believe that, somehow, it will affect and influence her? And if that power is true for one book, why not for another?

The argument in favor of such books is that they validate the real and terrible experiences of teenagers who have been abused, addicted, or raped — among other things. The problem is that the very act of detailing these pathologies, not just in one book but in many, normalizes them. And teenagers are all about identifying norms and adhering to them.

Sharon Slaney, who works at a high school in Idaho, touched on this nicely in an online rebuke of her irate librarian colleagues: “You are naive if you think young people can read a dark and violent book that sits on the library shelves and not believe that that behavior must be condoned by the adults in their school life.”

The problem with the darker offerings in Young Adult literature is that they lack this transforming and uplifting quality. They take difficult subjects and wallow in them in a gluttonous way; they show an orgiastic lack of restraint that is the mark of bad taste.

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Most Oppose Explicit Books in Public Schools Says Harris Poll

2011 Harris Polls have shown that people do have a strong opinion about what is appropriate for the classroom.

“The Harris Poll tested 2,379 adults (aged 18 and over) and showed that most people oppose banning books.  No kidding.  That is not the most interesting part of the poll since no books have been banned in the USA for about half a century, the last being Fanny Hill.

The most important information revealed by the poll was in response to the question, “Do you think that children should or should not be able to get the following books, or types of books, from school libraries?”  On average, 62% percent opposed “books with explicit language.”  No other category rated higher.

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American High School Students Are Reading Books At 5th-Grade-Appropriate Levels

/ Huffington Post

“A compilation of the top 40 books teens in grades 9-12 are reading in school shows that the average reading level of that list is 5.3 — barely above the fifth grade.”….

“David Coleman, contributing author of the Common Core State Standards, notes that not only must students read more high quality informational text, they must also read books of increasing complexity as they get older…”The single most important predictor of student success in college is their ability to read a range of complex text with understanding.”

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Darkness Too Visible

by Meghan Cox Gurdon / Wall Street Journal

How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.

Pathologies that went undescribed in print 40 years ago, that were still only sparingly outlined a generation ago, are now spelled out in stomach-clenching detail. Profanity that would get a song or movie branded with a parental warning is, in young-adult novels, so commonplace that most reviewers do not even remark upon it.

Now, whether you care if adolescents spend their time immersed in ugliness probably depends on your philosophical outlook. Reading about homicide doesn’t turn a man into a murderer; reading about cheating on exams won’t make a kid break the honor code. But the calculus that many parents make is less crude than that: It has to do with a child’s happiness, moral development and tenderness of heart. Entertainment does not merely gratify taste, after all, but creates it.

If you think it matters what is inside a young person’s mind, surely it is of consequence what he reads.

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Common Core Porn vs. Quality Literature

by Donna Garner / Education News

“…it is not just Common Core that has brought these offensive pieces of literature into classrooms.  For more than 33 years while I was an English teacher, I fought against the teaching of books and selections by such people as Toni Morrison, Cristina Garcia and other similar writers – many of whom gained popularity not because of their writing skills but because of the multicultural, politically correct (PC) agenda that swept them into prominence in this country.”

“Great literary pieces make us better people from having read them.  They have redeeming value.  The characters, plots, and setting raise us to a higher level of thinking, speaking and writing.  The historical events teach us lessons from the past that give us direction for the future.”

“Children are not “little adults.”  They are not meant to deal with complex issues that adults do not even know how to handle.”

“It is not right to steal precious class time from students by immersing them in erotic, below-grade-level literature while at the same time neglecting the teaching of the classics which will help to build students English proficiency, vocabularies, and reading levels.  Students become better writers then they are immersed in great literary selections.”

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Overexposed and Under-Prepared: The Effects of Early Exposure to Sexual Content

by Carolyn C. Ross, M.D., M.P.H. / Psychology Today

“They grow up so fast,” parents often lament. Today, children are being sexualized earlier and earlier, in part because they are exposed to sexual material in movies, television, music and other media earlier than ever. With widespread access to the Internet, curious teens may accidentally or intentionally be exposed to millions of pages of material that is uncensored, sexually explicit, often inaccurate and potentially harmful.

So what? If kids don’t understand it, how can they be affected by it? Even if young children can’t understand sex or its role in relationships, the images they see can leave a lasting impression. It’s a basic premise of marketing that what we watch, read and direct our attention toward influences our behavior. And, as any marketer knows, sex sells. That’s why we see products and services that have nothing to do with sex being marketed in increasingly sexualized ways.

Children as young as 8 and 9 are coming across sexually explicit material on the Internet and in other media. Although research is just beginning to assess the potential damage, there is reason to believe that early exposure to sexual content may have the following undesirable effects: [Early Sex; High-Risk Sex; Sex, Love & Relationship Addictions; Sexual Violence]

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