By Terry Dean
Nearly 100 comments were generated by the OakPark.com story concerning Monster, the novel that was included in District 97's seventh-grade reading curriculum. Despite complaints from a small group of parents about the book's content, D97 chose to keep the book in the curriculum. Parents objecting to the book, however, will be given an alternative reading assignment for their kids.
Here's a sample of readers' comments:
D97 needs to re-evaluate this. This is not what 7th-graders need in their literature curriculum. There are much better book choices out there.
Give me a break! This is a perfect example of what is wrong with our culture ... sex, drugs, racism — OH NO! But wait! What if a teacher, a responsible adult, could encourage a classroom conversation that would facilitate an environment where these topics can be discussed in an open and productive way? The more we restrict, ban, and make these topics taboo, the more they are going to be on peoples' mind, especially young people who are coming into adulthood looking for answers. Kudos to D97!
OPRF student from Oak Park
For me, the most important question is why was this book chosen for the 7th-grade curriculum, a question that the panel did not answer. What educational purpose is served by this book? As parents, we are asked to partner with teachers to foster the best education we can, and this book prompted many questions, which remain unanswered. This book may serve a great purpose at some point, but is it the best choice to serve the objectives of the 7th-grade curriculum? Would no other book work as well?
'Huckleberry Finn,' 'The Catcher in the Rye,' 'The Jungle,' 'Fahrenheit 451' and 'Slaughterhouse Five' — all contained quite a few disturbing scenes and language. I'm not saying 'Monster' is anywhere near this literary level, but I consider those to be some of the best books I read in school and consider myself lucky that we had a middle and high school English program that supported the reading of such books.
Joe from south Oak Park
I opted to not have my child read this book. Having said that, I am reading it myself and can see within the work why it has won awards. However, the language and theme are adult in nature, no matter what society says. There is a time and a place for children to learn "the ways of the world" and it is definitely not in the seventh grade with this book.
Totally understand if parents want to opt out with another book. But good for the school district to encourage the reading of controversial material! Books should be read, not banned.
The question isn't whether 'Monster' is a good book. I've read it. It is. The question is whether it's the only good book, so far surpassing others that 12-year-olds should be required to read it, even if their parents object. Why does the district choose curriculum that is controversial and potentially divisive, given the countless other books students could read? There are other good books that don't require that 12-year-olds be exposed to the idea of prison rape, etc.
This discussion is what frightens me about Oak Park. It's changing and not for the better. It's not about "protecting" our children — of course they should be protected. But sheltered is a different issue. I think most 7th-graders wouldn't give a thought to this book if there hadn't been this raucous about it. I read plenty of controversial books in my middle school years and guess what? I never actually did any of the things I read about in those books. Stop pretending your kids are that naïve.
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