Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Body of Christopher Creed staying in schools!

The Body of Christopher CreedI haven't read The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci so I can't really comment on content and how good it is. (But it is a Printz Honor, so that counts for something.)

It's being used in the Appleton (Wisconsin) Public School District as required reading in 9th grade. After reading it, the students talk about gossip and bullying and the consequences.

It's been challenged.

The reconsideration committee (which is always convened, but hasn't had to meet since 1984!) says to keep it. The superintendent has the final say and we'll see what he says, but I'm hoping he keeps it.

And not just because censorship is bad and un-American.

But because I used to be a 9th grader in Appleton public schools. I was in honors English and the way my hazy memory works, we read several short stories and poems, and we had to read a novel of our choice every quarter and write a really long book report on it. We spent a lot of time on grammar and the subtleties of language, connotation and denotation, and word choice. It drove me batty at the time but is actually one of the more useful things I learned in school.

We only read 1 novel-length book as a class the entire year. We only read this book because all 9th graders were required to read it, followed by a mandatory unit on suicide and why we shouldn't do it.

The book was the super-relevant and relate-able Romeo and Juliet. Now I'm a nerd and was in honors English so I didn't mind. (I had also already read it a few times.) It's a good classic that's easy to introduce at that age and if you're college-prep honors track, I think a grounding the classics is good. Many of the girls found it one of the more enjoyable "school books" we had to read. I was just happy because we were reading something and not deconstructing the differences between glitter, flash, and sparkle. Or having pop quizzes where we had to write down ALL the prepositions in 3 minutes. Even then, we spent most of the unit analyzing meter. What I remember most is realizing that Romeo and Juliet are both really, really annoying characters who make horrible life decisions.

BUT. It wasn't really relevant. None of us connected to it on a personal level. We all saw it as an easy way to work in a mandatory unit on suicide with a book that we should all read. We saw it as a nice-try-but-kinda-stupid gimmick.

And I bet today's 9th graders feel that The Body of Christopher Creed being tied to units on bullying is also gimmicky. But I also bet it's a book they connect to much more deeply and because of that, no matter how gimmicky, the tie-in lesson will have more impact and stay with them much longer.

And, with current issues we have with bullying and suicide and the current "It Gets Better" campaign* those are lessons we need to be keeping in schools in every form that we can.

*And to all my younger readers-- IT DOES GET BETTER. Mama always said that maybe if we stopped telling students that high school would be the best years of their lives, we'd cut the teen suicide rate drastically. I agree. My high school experience was pretty good, actually, all things considering, and those years are still some of the worst in my life.

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