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Issue in English class

post #1 of 128
Thread Starter 
My oldest (boy, age 14) brought home a permission slip for English class to read the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. The slip said that there was mention of sexual assault and rape in the book, so if we weren't comfortable with our child reading that, they could do an alternate project.

I've never heard of this book, and was shocked that it would be considered for an English project! I said no, my child would not read that book.

What do you think? Am I over-reacting as usual? Has anyone here read that book?
post #2 of 128
What does "mention" mean? Now I want to read it! As a former English teacher I'm curious and feel ill informed.

Really there's a lot of sex stuff "mentioned" in a lot of great literature. Off topic a bit but it always annoyed me when people got upset about Brave New World, something that really got me thinking as a teen. I'm so glad I read it in high school, and think it's terrible that it's now making the banned lists.

Hm, I wonder if the school would send a note about Romeo & Juliet? The only thing any of my schools ever sent a note about, that I can remember, was us watching a documentary on concentration camps. It was graphic. I distinctly remember some parents opted out of it too.
post #3 of 128
I had to look it up, and here it is in a nutshell:

"Melinda Sordino can classify every incoming and returning student at Merryweather High according to the clique to which he/she belongs. The only problem is that she doesn't belong to any of them -- not the jocks, punks, nerds, Marthas, bandgeeks -- not a single one. She used to, but not any more. Not after what she did.

What she did was call the cops to bust up a party at the end of summer. Not out of spite or stupidity, though that's what everyone thinks. They don't know the real reason, and most of them really don't want to know. Even if they did, Melinda couldn't tell them. Even if she wanted to.

Rape is not a word that falls freely from the tongue."

It's about a freshman girl who is raped at a party and almost speaks up but doesn't, resulting in her becoming withdrawn and alienated. If only that plot weren't so realistic. Sounds like it would be a good discussion starter. It deals a lot with the first year of high school so I'm sure that's why it was selected for his grade.
post #4 of 128
I don't see the problem with a 14 year old reading a book that has sexual assault mentioned or as part of the plot. I believe my Dd read two books when she was 12/13 that did actually.

What is your reason for wanting him to avoid it?
post #5 of 128
I don't know that book, but I will share this.

My hs'd teen and I just read To Kill a Mockingbird together , and rape is more than mentioned. It's a central theme. (My teen hser is 15). I think TKAM is a really important piece of American lit. As an unschooler, I was thrilled she indulged me my suggestion. . I was afraid she would say "No, thanks" , but she did not. I was grateful, as I think it's too important a piece of lit to pass by.

I don't think a book with a rape theme, in and of itself, is a reason to not read it. In fact, it may give voice to those without voice.
post #6 of 128
Quote:
Originally Posted by mommyofmany View Post
My oldest (boy, age 14) brought home a permission slip for English class to read the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. The slip said that there was mention of sexual assault and rape in the book, so if we weren't comfortable with our child reading that, they could do an alternate project.

I've never heard of this book, and was shocked that it would be considered for an English project! I said no, my child would not read that book.

What do you think? Am I over-reacting as usual? Has anyone here read that book?
I haven't read that book, but as a HS English teacher I can tell you that many of the books we read have at least some mention of sex, and rape is not that unusual. This isn't true because I am so salacious that I just love exposing children to sexual content, but rather because this is the reading list the district creates.

I think that being exposed to concepts in class is a fairly good thing for most children. I think that, given the description someone else posted, this book in particular sounds like a really on-topic sort of book for high schoolers. You of course have the right to restrict your child's exposure, but these things *are* in the world. It's better to think about them in advance in the abstract than to be totally ignorant and become a victim.
post #7 of 128
I think you are overreacting. If your ds is any kind of a reader at all, he has encountered such topics before. I'm sure he has heard of them. This sounds like a good book for an adolescent.
post #8 of 128
I read this book when i was 16, I loved it. Its an amazing book about a girl and her personal struggles. I think you should let him read it, because its such a good book.

I dont exactly understand why you wouldn't want him to read it. Maybe if he was 10 or 11 but he is 14 and in highschool so i think he should be able to read about more 'mature' topics. It could be a great discussion opener for you two too.

Edit/
Oh and there is a movie made out of the book too. Maybe after he reads that you guys can watch it to get a better understanding. The book is much much better then the film though.
Link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speak_(film)
post #9 of 128
I'd say you're over-reacting. Teens really get a lot out of reading books with deeper subject matter.

-Angela
post #10 of 128
Thread Starter 
I guess I'm just over-reacting then. I still said no though.
post #11 of 128
How does your ds feel about that?
post #12 of 128
Maybe you could just read it with him outside of school. I think my only concern as a parent would be whether his classmates of that age could handle the subject matter maturely in discussions etc.--that is to say if you don't know them well.

BTW, the school could have framed it in a better light. How about a brief explanation of plot and/or themes, rather than just saying sexual assault and rape...
post #13 of 128
I read it. It's an excellent book. Whether you're overreacting would depend on how ready your ds is to deal with disturbing themes.

I am a former English prof, btw, but I don't have a teen boy, so take my advice with a grain of salt.
post #14 of 128
I wish more young teens, girls AND particularly boys, would read books that give them a glimpse into the aftermath of a rape.
post #15 of 128
I have a teen boy (16). He read TKAM a few summers ago - I think between 7th & 8th grade. He's rereading it now for school. I don't always agree with his reading choices, but I've yet to censor any of them (much to the chagrin on my mother). He hasn't read Speak, but I would not have had any problem with his reading it, now or at 14. He read Night at 14, which is a pretty tough read, in terms of subject matter.

I also have a teen girl (14). She hasn't been as big of a reader as her brother, but has started to get more into it over the past year. Her topic of choice is.... genocide. She's currently reading two books - A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (about the Soviet Gulags) and Doctors From Hell (a very detailed and graphic description of the Nuremburg trials regarding medical experiment). Neither of them are "pretty" books, and both are quite mature reading. But again, I don't censor their reading choices.

I suppose that, if there was a book I personally wasn't keen on, I'd read it along with the kiddo.

What, exactly, is your objection?
post #16 of 128
Quote:
Originally Posted by alegna View Post
I'd say you're over-reacting. Teens really get a lot out of reading books with deeper subject matter.

-Angela
I agree. I've not read the book, but I wouldn't censor my child's reading at any age.

I do hope the teacher is at least mature about it. I had a sophomore English teacher who was uncomfortable talking about sex in relationship to The Crucible. I loved that play (long before it ever came up in class), was well-educated on it (again, long before it ever came up in class), and she was such an @$$ about it.
post #17 of 128
Quote:
Originally Posted by heather8 View Post
I wish more young teens, girls AND particularly boys, would read books that give them a glimpse into the aftermath of a rape.
Yes, me, too.
post #18 of 128
It is an excellent book. I would definitely let him read it.

It was on the high school summer reading list last year for the district I worked in then & it's also on my district's summer reading list.

They are likely asking for permission because they don't want parents surprised by the content & discussions. They wouldn't ask for permission for something like Romeo & Juliet because the content is well established.

It is more about the reasons the girl kept the attack secret, how it impacts her relationships with her friends and how she deals with the aftermath. I agree with the pp's that it's important for teens to observe the aftermath & far reaching effects of rape.

Since we're on the topic...Inexcusable by Chris Lynch is about rape from the boy's perspective & doesn't think he did anything wrong. It's not as good as Speak, but still pretty good & a very interesting perspective.
post #19 of 128
Quote:
Originally Posted by mtiger View Post
He read Night at 14, which is a pretty tough read, in terms of subject matter.
Oh yeah I forgot this one. I did a unit on it with 8th graders, in a Catholic school. They had many questions but I feel handled it fine. The other English teacher there was doing the unit as well.
post #20 of 128
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jessy1019 View Post
I agree. I've not read the book, but I wouldn't censor my child's reading at any age.

I do hope the teacher is at least mature about it. I had a sophomore English teacher who was uncomfortable talking about sex in relationship to The Crucible. I loved that play (long before it ever came up in class), was well-educated on it (again, long before it ever came up in class), and she was such an @$$ about it.
The teacher is 22 years old, fresh out of college. I don't think SHE'S mature enough to teach material like that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bu's mama View Post
It is an excellent book. I would definitely let him read it.

It was on the high school summer reading list last year for the district I worked in then & it's also on my district's summer reading list.

They are likely asking for permission because they don't want parents surprised by the content & discussions. They wouldn't ask for permission for something like Romeo & Juliet because the content is well established.

It is more about the reasons the girl kept the attack secret, how it impacts her relationships with her friends and how she deals with the aftermath. I agree with the pp's that it's important for teens to observe the aftermath & far reaching effects of rape.

Since we're on the topic...Inexcusable by Chris Lynch is about rape from the boy's perspective & doesn't think he did anything wrong. It's not as good as Speak, but still pretty good & a very interesting perspective.

So, how detailed is the sexual assault/rape?
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