28 September 2008

Because Sunday School Isn't Long Enough!

During an excellent lesson today I heard about a young sister who decided she didn't want to read a book the professor had assigned in her college English class. The commenter was proud of her daughter for standing up for her moral values. And I respect this sister, and her daughter, especially because so frequently in Utah (outside of the Lord's University) the professors seem to take it upon themselves to expose the poor sheltered naive Mormons to the "real world" by making them read books that would make a Clinton blush. (Ask Alex about the U of U's Art Department sometime. You'll get an earful.)

Still, I was wondering what the book was, and if I would blush to read it. I have read a few books that I consider to be hair-curlers, and actually enjoyed a couple of them. (Judge me. It's okay, I judge inadvertently and advertently all the time.) What I am wondering is, where is the line? At what age will I want my daughter to be allowed to read the Twilight series? A friend of mine is making her nine-year-old buy her own copy of New Moon so that the mom can black out certain passages with a marker. Ugh. This is such a difficult topic. I'd like to think that regardless of literature my children are exposed to, they will make the right and intelligent decision. But parents have to draw lines so their children know they are loved and don't grow up into professional soda can collectors. So where do you draw the line? Please broaden my horizons.

(And please comment politely even if you feel strongly, as I am very sensitive in spite of having listened to Of Mice and Men on TAPE where the swearing was OUT LOUD instead of written.)

18 comments:

Brittany said...

What I want to know is if the girl just used the cliff-notes for exams or if she actually stood up for her belief and said something to the teacher. (Cheating with cliff-notes because you are morally against a book is ironic in it's own way, though I must confess, I have done it. I didn't see it that way at the time and would like to think I wouldn't do that now.)

Jen said...

Her mom said she was willing to work very hard the rest of the class and fail the test. I assume that's what she did. Luckily I went to the BYU so I probably have weak moral fiber because it has never been tested.

Gina said...

I just want to know what book it was!

The Yoder's Three said...

I just have problems with people wanting to ban certain books or circulate rumors about them even if they've never read them. I read the "His Dark Materials" series ("The Golden Compass", etc.) and then found out that all these people had their panties in a knot about it, when I didn't see any problem. Remember when the Harry Potter books first came out? Same thing.

People need to have open minds at the university level, but shouldn't be forced to do things they don't believe in either.

LeBaronFam said...

Great topic! I heard of a similar situation recently where a 20 yr old (recent convert of 2 years-ish) was in a required English class and the whole syllabus was sex-related (I could give you the title of one if you're really interested...it sounded more porn than literature-with-sex-in-it...). Anyway, the girl was freaking out b/c she needed the class to keep her scholarship but didn't want to read the book and was afraid to bring it up with the professor. If that were my daughter, I would be a lot more interested in her being able to stand up for what she felt was right than anything else. At this same college, my husband had a Mythology pro who centered their reading around Zeus' sex life. My husband was very vocal about this and got a lot of public ribbing from the prof. My husband ended up dropping the class, not b.c he was embarrassed, but b/c he felt like the prof wasn't giving him a fair shake...

sammygrace said...

i'd just use the good old fashioned 'you can read it when your older' and explain why. i think there are a lot of books that are inappropriate for kids, and i think the line drawn is up to you of course but that it shouldn't be too early. Idk, Jenny i think you'll know your children and their maturity levels, but maybe the real question is, if you have to question the book in the first place then why even worry about it? it probably isn't a book thats really worth it.

Angie Lewis said...

I actually thought a lot about all the young girls reading the Twilight series. I think a 9-year old reading it is pretty young...that's for sure. But I agree you can't lock your kid up in a closet forever. I guess what I'm saying is I have no idea...let me know since your daughter will be a teenager before any of my kids! By the way, I sat at the "Bramall table" at the women's conference dinner...said hello to Grace, Myrna, Jane, and Helen. :)

angela michelle said...

my 13yo reads a lot and occasionally encounters little moral choices. I just talk with him about the issues in general and tell him that I trust him to make the right choice.

I think we should read more widely than we watch--in other words don't watch an inappropriate movie for the sake of artistic value but maybe, sometimes, with judgement--as an adult--do so for literature. I mean, life is dirty, sexy, complicated, etc. and we can't totally close ourselves off to all that.

Leisha said...

Here is what I think. Sometimes, sheltered children become the exact opposite of what their children want them to be. Sometimes it is the children of the wild, liberal, hippie children that become the most conservative. My theory is to expose my children little by little to the world we live in so they can survive on their own without being consumed. Every parent has the right to make their own rules, but the Mom blacking out the book her daughter bought? It would make me, at 9 years old, MORE curious and a little bit rebellious.

I've read some hair curling books. I've been assigned to read some hair-curling books. Some violent, some sexy, some mind-numbingly boring. Kind of like life. I wrote my paper, gave my opinion on it and moved on with life.

There is something a little too "precious" about bearing your testimony about your moral stands against school-assigned literature for me. I've walked out of movies and of my own volition put down books I thought were just too much, but standing from the rooftops declaring your righteousness for doing so? Bleck.

Leisha said...

Duh, sheltered children are sometimes not what their PARENTS want them to be.

The Rookie said...

As a high school English teacher in Utah, a member of the LDS faith, and an avid reader, I am always amazed at what offends some and doesn't even ruffle the feathers of others. I will be honest, there is literature that everyone says "YOU MUST READ THIS!" and I've given up on it because of how offensive it can be--the language, the sexually gratuitous nature, whatever. But then there is literature that has scenes which might offend some, but because of how that material is handled, I tend to not get offended.

It is all just so subjective.

I really never know how to gauge book choices in my classroom. I respect parents' opinions on what they do/do not want their child reading and I try to supply an alternative if ever the parent/student requests. But sometimes, I'll be honest, I think there is a great irony that exists here. They send their child to a PUBLIC school (where I am frequently offended while walking through the halls). They'll allow their child to watch television and get on the internet with a great deal of freedom in their media choices, but I select "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelous which happens to have a somewhat graphic rape scene, and the protests begin.

I look at this and say. HEY! The reality is that rape exists. It is violent. It is not pretty. It is a horrible, nightmarish thing. I think Juniors or Seniors in high school can handle this kind of material with maturity. I think they should know the truth about such a human travesty.

I'm going on and on here, and coming to no real conclusions. Other than this makes me think. Where do you draw the line between over-protecting and over-exposing? I think it needs to be considered on an individual basis. I think sometimes I have to ask these questions of my own reading choices.

And I am with you, other than the B-Y-Woo (no offense to alumni/students of said university), Utah higher learning institutions are a little to radical in what they try to expose students to. But then, I think a lot of academia is this way.

And that was more post than comment. Sorry.

Jesse said...

I think that you can keep your kids from some things for a time, but when it's time for them to be exposed, you need to talk about it with them. If you let them wonder, then they're going to try to figure things out for themselves, and that could go very, very wrong. I really feel like it's very important to discuss mature things with your kids way in advance, so that when things begin to happen in their life, they already have some knowledge about how things really are, and they're just prepared to deal with those things in their own life. I just think you have to be there to talk to your child about it. I felt mature enough to handle a lot of things that could be offensive (and I was exposed to stuff) but it is just nice to have somebody to talk to about it, because otherwise you might just be confused or think you're a weirdo or something. Kids don't understand a lot of things, but I think some exposure to stuff is important for them to learn to grow up and just handle it.

Dansie Family said...

so my first real exposure to something i felt questionable at the b-y and in an lds lit class. i was a naive freshman and we were given the assignment to read "saints" by orson scott card. it's all about polygamy. it is very explicit a number of times. i decided not to read it. but i did give it to my mom. she read it, enjoyed but did say if you didn't have a strong testimony it could shake it. i don't remember a ton about it 10 years later, but i do remember some explicitly sexual passages and some pretty harsh language. i guess i should pull it out again.

and i don't think i would want my tween daughter reading the twilight series. i enjoyed it, but the fourth is a bit trashy and the whole message is a little silly.

msjvd said...

I think you clearly underestimate what it would take to make a Clinton blush.

Jill said...

I agree with Sammygrace, use the "read it when you're older."
I haven't read the Twilight series, but if my 10 year old daughter wanted to read it, I think I would have her wait. (I would read it first)
There are so many wonderful books that are age appropriate that it really shouldn't be a problem to find other things to read.

Mrs. Bennett said...

I agree with Leisha and Rookie. And I think for younger children, if you are worried - read the book first and talk about it with your kids. Blacking out words is ridiculous. I once checked out a book from a library and one of the previous patrons had crossed out all the swear words and written in pencil next to each word an appropriate alternative (heck, gosh, darn). I thought it was pretty funny.

myimaginaryblog said...

Mrs. Bennett, that's hilarious. Don't burn books, just euphemize them!

I took a contemprorary lit. class at BYU that came with a warning about some of the stuff we'd be reading. I don't think anyone was required to read anything that offended them, but there was plenty of potentially offensive material offered. I think there were some things I skipped and others I read but that I really wouldn't want my pre-teens reading. (Actually the other day I found that my two-year-old had attacked a short story anthology and torn out part of Margaret Atwood's "Rape Fantasies," which was kind of funny to me.) In general I think there's lots of smut out there posing as literature, but also that as we mature we can handle weightier topics IF they're handled well by the author (aren't gratuitous, accurately depict consequences, etc.)

Amy said...

Sorry, but there were a few that Jared read, assigned by professors at the Lord's University, that I found not very good. Jared and I are constantly debating this topic. Media in all of its forms is our biggest debate. Good luck and let us in on what you decide.