Monday, September 20, 2010

Dumpster Diving or Buffet Dining?

Pin It Now! We are very religious. If you want to know we belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or otherwise known as Mormons.
As parents we strive to protect our kids as much as we can from the bad in the world. This includes limiting TV time and knowing what books they are reading and previewing movies before we let them watch them. We also limit internet access and only have it available in the main room of the house where people will see.

That being said I also believe that my kids can be a force for good, and so I send them out into the world. . . hopefully armed with a testimony of the Gospel. This is why I do not homeschool my kids, YET. I feel that the school systems are still ok enough that I can teach my kids and help them see that all things they learn in school are not the way we believe. I also feel that one day the scales will tip and I will not think it is worth sending my kids for the bad that they will be subjected to. I will them keep them home and teach them.

Now that you know where I stand. . .
What would you do?

My son is in 4th grade this year. . . that means he is 9.

New school, new area, new thoughts and ideals.

I went in for open-house and his teacher informed us as parents that one of the books she is going to have them read this year has some bad words in it.
The book: The Great Gilly Hopkins
I have bought it off amazon have started to read it. I am through the 3rd chapter and already there have been 9 swear words, and ones we consider pretty bad. Lots of taking the Lord's name in vain. It is also a very negative book.
I asked one of my dear friends that has been a school teacher for more than 30 years to read it. This is what she said about it:

I just finished the book. I can't believe that anyone let alone a teacher would want to expose this book to children of any age. Swear words are used countless times. This is not the worst part. Talking about the word adultery and breathing hard on the phone was ugly. Are the students supposed to read this book or is the teacher going to read it to the class. What is the teacher's purpose? I don't think that the average 9 year old could read it. Let alone understand many of the references. When I taught high school English, I wound not have had this book on the shelf. I am worried about how the teacher will treat your son if and when you confront her on this choice of reading. I wonder if the principal has read this book or is he allowing it because of lack of knowledge of the content.

I think it would be a good idea if you read it and took notes and then talked to the principal. Let me know how it turns out. I would not recommend this one to the Book Club. I know that I am rambling, but I am upset that a wholesome child would be exposed to this.
So what do you think? What am I as a parent supposed to do? How will this teacher treat my son if I object to his reading it? There is actually one other little boy that goes to Church with us that is in his class. I am thinking I need to talk to his mama. Maybe if there are a few of us that are upset about this it can be changed.

I just don't understand. She said, "It has some bad words in it, but it is a really good book. Award winning and everything."

I don't care what kind of award it got. If it is crap it is crap! Right?

I listened to a talk on Saturday night at one of our church meetings and it just reaffirmed this idea. The speaker said,

Let's go to dinner, let's do a buffet. The store is clean and all the china is shining. They have all the yummiest looking appetizers, then all your favorite entrees. And for desert they have all forms of cakes, pies, and decitante chocolates.
Out back though, there are 10 dumpsters in a row. They hold all the trash that is thrown away from the buffet that isn't eaten. There are rotting vegetables and putrid meats, all covered with flies and maggots.
Where do you want to eat?
The Buffet or the Dumpsters?
Of course we want to eat at the Buffet right? Well why is it any different for our spirits? Why should we feed them garbage? Can we have the spirit of the Lord with us to guide and protect us if we are partaking in the dumpsters?

I know how strong the written word is. I am not happy that my son might be reading these words and thinking them. I heard once that "we Live the way we Think, and we Think about the things we See, Hear and Read".

So how do I tell his teacher this?
What would you do?

Still Sane,
Mama V


I'm Mama :) said...

I would not want my 9 year old reading it either. Using the Lords name in vain bothers me more than the curse words.

I would do exactly what your friend told you to do.. but she is VERY right that the teacher would probably treat your son unfairly if you do.

But you have to stand up for this.. those other children don't need read it either.

Good luck, keep us informed.. I hope it goes well.

Don't let your son eat out of the dumpster. :)

Slee said...

read it, take notes, talk to the principal.

Jennifer said...

I would most definitely do something. There is no way my 9 year old would read/be read that book. If you can't read the bible in schools, you should be able to read the exact opposite either. I would not go to the Principal first, the teacher would most definitely be extremely offended if you did. If after speaking to her, she still insists that the book be read, then I would go to the principal.
Have you considered private school? They aren't near as terrible as public schools, but they certainly are not sheltered either.

Heather said...

before i had kids i probably would have said your just being uptight about it and that kids should be exposed to all kinds of things, but now that i have a kid (he's only 2) I completely understand where you are coming from.
i read a summary of the book and it sounds innocent until the very bottom where it says this
"Because of its subject matter and the language and conduct of the title character, The Great Gilly Hopkins has been the subject of controversy. It is frequently banned from libraries across the U.S., particularly in schools,[1], and was ranked #20 on the American Library Association's list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books for 1990-2000."
Challenge the book and say your child will not read it and find a different one for him to read.

Mama Campbell said...

I would definitely read it & talk to the principal first instead of the teacher. My dad did something very similar when my older brother was in 4th grade. I don't remember what book it was, but it was inappropriate for 4th graders and went against what we as Christians believed in as well. He did talk to the teacher first and she thought the book was harmless. He went to the principal then & the principal agreed it was not appropriate for them to be reading. So the teacher announced to her class that Adam's dad requested that they don't read this book and they will have to read it on their own if they want to finish it. She tried to embarrass my brother, but luckily he has tough skin & didn't care one bit. I hope it goes well for you & the teacher will treat the situation with dignity and not make any trouble.

saskia said...

you know how I feel, stand for what is right- 9 is too young for that trash as it is! I know my 8 year old would be very offended and wouldn't want to read it.

Melissa said...

I would read it, take notes, and then talk to the teacher first. My sister is a teacher and she hates it if a parent goes to the principal behind her back. If you don't get the response you want from the teacher then go to the principal. Good luck!

Heather said...

As you know I have a son the same age. He hates riding the bus home from school because of the language he is exposed to. They are tenders spirits given to us to teach as well as protect. I am all for fighting it. He will remember as he grows it was important enough to you to make a stand.

Victoria said...

As an elementary school librarian I want to give you my advice. This book is a great book (it's won several awards), BUT, it is intended for grades 5-8. I really don't think it is super appropriate for 4th or even the recommended 5th grade.

While I would have no problems recommending this book to any mature 4th or 5th grader with the permission of their parents, I think it's a bit inappropriate to read as a class, especially if there are a lot of swear words.

I also suggest that you talk to the teacher and the principal together if possible and see if you can get some input from other parents in your sons class. I would write up or explain your reasoning for this being an inappropriate book to read as a class. I would make sure that you point out other items that are of concern to you besides the swear words, unfortunately swear words may not be enough to get it pulled.

If they end up going ahead with the book have you thought about maybe seeing if you can set up an alternate assignment or reading for your son to do? You are allowed to request it and I would hope your school would be accommodating to such a request, especially if it goes against your beliefs. My school has always been amazingly accommodating to parents and children with religious differences, allowing them to come to our library during holiday parties or during Ramadan.

Please let us know how it all goes, I hope it all works out for you. I certainly wouldn't want my 9 year old reading that book either.

I hope that helps :-)

Sherrie said...

I would go straight to the principal. I can not believe that the teacher would want to expose the students to this crap. good luck!

Susan said...

Hi Vilate,
We had a similar situation when our oldest son was in 5th grade--not exactly the same but it concerned the students being taught morals/values that were completely opposed to ours. When we contacted the principle about it, we were told that she didn't have any other parents who were as "concerned, conscientious, and picky" as we were. (We were not "complainers" but were supporters of the school and had never complained about anything before.)
After that year, we chose to homeschool and our only regret is that we didn't start homeschooling from the beginning. Our children are very well-rounded, yes, we "shelter" them from some things because we want to teach them about "wordly issues" from a Biblical point of view before they are introduced to them from other sources. Our 2 oldest started college when they were 16 and are doing well with their studies. They are at GA Tech and UGA and are doing wonderfully! Our other 3, including an infant, are still being homeschooled. WE LOVE IT!!

Hannah said...

I have different religious convictions than you, but probably similar concerns of what I want my child exposed to.
I do want him to know about the evil that is in the world: disrespect for God, killing, broken promises, lies and deception, false portrayals of what life is about. I want him to, at some point, be exposed to people/writing that believe or portray these bad things as good/normal/OK. I want myself, his teachers, or other trusted adults to discuss with him that a certain writing (or people, or movies, or website) may portray something as normal/good, but that is not the truth. I want him to learn to discern what is truthful based on the Bible. I want him to debate and discuss with others what makes a piece of writing "good writing" (says something well and clearly, tells a captivating story), and whether or not what it says is true. Those are two separate things.
However, 4th grade is not that time, in my opinion. That is still childhood, where I think some degree of "protection" is in order, and children are not ready for that kind of discussion, except maybe at a small scale. They do need to be taught to evaluate the messages they are bombarded with from friends, TV, movies, etc. Even "kids" media can give false messages, with advertising being an obvious example with it's message that a person's worth and happiness is based on what they own.
I have not read the book in question, so i can't comment on that. It perhaps may be "good writing" (says something in a powerful and well-written way), but whether it's message is true, and whether the message is appropriate for 4th graders to be thinking about and discussing, are separate questions from whether or not it is good writing.

Khrys { Mom of 3 Dolls } said...

If you feel strongly about the book, I agree with talking to the teacher first then the principal. Maybe other parents have also voiced their concerned. Good luck!

I also want to let you know you have an award,

JKMommy said...

Hi it's Julie from A Year With Mom and Dad - just discovered this post on your blog. As a Language Arts teacher I am apalled that a 4th grade teacher would trot out such garbage (but pleased to note that in a later post you mention that the book would NOT be used). I always tried to keep my classroom library "clean" for my 7th and 8th graders, although I taught at public school so kids were always bringing in books I considered trash to read. I always informed them when I thought a book was too "mature" for them, and even had some kids call their parents if they wanted to read something I thought was going to be disturbing (I couldn't censor it b/c it was from the school library not my classroom one, and unfortunately the parents could care less and always gave permission!!! What are they THINKING!).

Sigh - anyway, nice illustration about the buffet/dumpster and I'm glad you stood up to that teacher!