Tuesday, November 20, 2007

WTF is up with this reading list

Kid just brought home a list of classic novels from which he must choose one to read and report on. The list is fine, though there is no Thomas Hardy and the only George Eliot book they have listed is Silas Marner. In order to avoid the "OMG what are you recommending my children read" section of over-reacting parents, books with stars are "more sophisticated- in either content or concept" and require parental approval.

My problem is what books they think are sophisticated. Here's a sample:

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
Emily Bronte: Wuthering Heights
Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre
Kate Chopin: The Awakening

Let's see, we have Austen doing what she does best by describing the marriage market in late 18th century England. There is no sex or violence anywhere in the book. There is not even a kiss if I remember correctly.

Wuthering Heights: Jealousy, revenge and brutality are the basis for this novel which reinforces the idea that a woman can drive a man to violence. (I should note that I am not a fan of either Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre- I prefer Austen, Hardy and Dickens for that matter).

Jane Eyre: The classic "slutty women lose their mind and get locked in attics" scenario.

The Awakening: married woman is bored with her stifling life, leaves husband and children, has affairs, commits suicide.

Guess which book is marked as more sophisticated?

If you guessed Pride and Prejudice you would get a great big old sack of gold stars. So a novel where women act as rational creatures in choosing whom to marry is more sophisticated than three novels where women who act outside of societal norms get punished for their behavior.

Yes, I can see how the idea of women acting rationally in their own best interest is a concept that might be too sophisticated for 7th graders, since we rarely give them the idea through media that women are in fact rational actors in their own lives.

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