Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Laura Miller is an Ignorant Nazi

So thought it fitting to print this drivel today:
"some classics are painful enough to ruin reading forever"


No,  No, Laura Miller.

Some teachers and some children and some parents are ignorant enough to ruin reading forever--but that's not the fault of the books.  Some writers are painful enough to ruin forever, too, but that doesn't stop them from writing.

In her tiny, ill-conceived screed, Ms Miller chastises Beowulf, The Lord of the Flies, The Pearl, Animal Farm, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, A Separate Peace, and Ivanhoe.  The comment section gets far worse.

Now let me be the first to say I was underwhelmed by A Separate Peace.  I wasn't really interested in "Brinker's salient buttocks" or anything else that happened at that private school.  I also set my copy of The Pearl on fire in seventh grade.  I don't like Ivanhoe or Oliver Twist, either (or Hardy or Austen or most pre-20th century novels [except Victorian children's literature--that stuff is the truth]).

But Beowulf is amazing.  Read the Heaney translation.  Read the Old English aloud.  Beowulf. Is. Amazing.  Sure you've got to do some frontloading as a teacher to make kids understand it but so what--that's your job?  

The Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, and A Tale of Two Cities are all great reads--again requiring work on the part of the teacher--but honestly none of that really matters.  What matters is that Laura Miller doesn't get it.

Because one of your jobs as a high school English teacher is to teach kids how to extract information from texts they couldn't care less about because they are likely to have to do that for their entire professional lives.  That's the point.

So I'm sorry, Ms Miller, if you had a bad English teacher (or string of them) who couldn't make the books come alive for you--but grow up.  Threatening, suggesting, or joking about banning books is bad form in the extreme.  Not only does it make light of the very real past and present evils of censorship but it also adds fuel to the fire of future censors.

Before you open your big keypad next time don't.  Open a book instead.

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