Chris Crutcher, author of Deadline, one of the books taken out of the curriculum in an advanced course at Montgomery County High School, has, unfortunately, joined the barbarian hordes battering on schoolhouse doors demanding a lowering of academic standards. His reasons for supporting the Decline and Fall of Academic Standards are laid out in his remarks in the comment section of my previous post on this issue
Crutcher's first point is about Superintendent Daniel Freeman's remark that the books were for "reluctant readers":
I guess I'd like to comment on Superintendent Freeman's assertion that none of these books will help students when they go to college, that they are for "reluctant readers." For one thing, a lot of students going to college are also reluctant readers.The issue, as I keep pointing out in this debate, is that this is an accelerated college preparatory course we are talking about. Why would there be reluctant readers in an advanced college preparatory course? If they are in it, there are only two possibilities: either they do not belong in the class, in which case they should be placed in another class on grounds that they're not ready for it, or they do belong in it, in which case they should replace the class on grounds that the class is not what it purports to be.
Freeman understand this, but Crutcher doesn't seem to, which makes Crutcher's accusation that Freeman is somehow lacking in awareness of the important issues here somewhat ironic. the second point was about what is appropriate for a college preparatory course in high school:
Also, the issues focused on in many of these books are issues kids will face in college. I challenge Dr. Freeman to become a bit more informed regarding what many college professors expect from their students. I speak at colleges and universities all the time and my books, including Deadline, are part of many curriculums.The chief issue in college is how to handle higher level material. If Crutcher things that the best way to prepare students for higher level material is to familiarize them with lower level material, it is hard to know what to say except that his is a novel approach to college preparation. Maybe the football team at Montgomery County High School should start lowering the amount of weight the players are lifting in the gym to make their muscles bigger, huh?
Crutcher's own book is apparently written at a 6th grade reading level according to the lexile measurement. Now Crutcher maintains that those like Freeman who believe that books written at a 6th grade reading level (others of the books involve here score as low as 3rd grade reading level) aren't appropriate for a college prep course are unfamiliar with what colleges expect from their students.
Crutcher can be saying only two things here: either that his books are at a high enough intellectual level to qualify them for college prep reading or that college curricula are now in such a debased state that they are using young adult fiction in their curricula. We know the first isn't true because these books are written on an elementary reading level. So we are left with the second, a conclusion that can only be the cause of despair about the state of higher education.
As I asked in the comments section of the original post on this issue, which colleges are using young adult fiction in a serious college level course? I want the names of the colleges that are doing this so we can make sure prospective students know what they're getting for the $20-$30K that they are now being asked to fork over per year for a supposedly university level education.
Mr. Freeman's assertion about college bound kids and curriculum for college bound students is either disingenuous or misinformed. I ache for the old conservatism. My father was a World War II bomber pilot, a patriot and a conservative to his core. He was far better read than Dr. Freeman (for one thing, he read MY books) and there was nary a classic from which he couldn't quote. He was on the school board from the time my older brother started school until the time my younger sister graduated. And he would have run a nail through his eye before he would have allowed this kind of censorship. And it IS censorship. Agreed, Dr. Freeman did not BAN a book if the books are still available to all kids in the school library, but he did censor.Does Crutcher really believe that taking actions to strengthen the academic level of a curriculum is censorship? If he does, then he has a very strange definition of censorship. If he really believes this, then his definition of censorship is so broad as to be meaningless. It means that any curricular decision that selects some books and reject others is an act of censorship, which in turn means that most of what curriculum staff in schools do is censorship.
This is not only silly, it is preposterous.
In the old days, conservatives invited ideas. They weren't afraid to discuss and debate issues that made them uncomfortable. They also heartily believed in the separation of church and state, for the good of the church AND the state.In the old days liberals did accuse serious people making serious decisions about what belongs in a curriculum with censorship. They weren't afraid to discuss and debate issues without charging their detractors with the suppression of ideas either. And in regard to church and state...
... What does church and state have to do with debate? This has to be a textbook example of a red herring: a point that has nothing to do with the question at issue. The debate has absolutely nothing to do with church and state. If it does, Crutcher ought to explain why. Did Freeman quote the Bible or something? Was his church involved in this decision?
These kinds of debates are in one sense disappointing because they show that the people who are in charge of the much of the popular culture in our country--in and out of schools--are clearly not capable of making fundamental distinctions like that between popular culture and academic culture, between what does and does not constitute serious literature, and what is and isn't censorship.
Here's an alternative look at what is good for college bound kids: Read everything you can get your hands on.No. Sorry. One of the worst problems we have is that there is a flood of literary junk out there. I spend a lot of time in bookstores and at book sales and I read and read about reading. The tide of poor quality literature is at close to epidemic proportions. The exact thing we shouldn't do is to have our children "read everything they can get their hands on."
The chief reading problem today is the lack of discrimination. Picking out books isn't like gorging yourself at a buffet; it's like panning for gold: most of what you pick up isn't worth much. You have find the stuff that is worth your trouble. And the nice thing about it is that much if it has already been done for you. In the case of older books, the vetting has already been done for you, otherwise they wouldn't still be around. In the case of new books, the problem of determining whether they're worth reading is more difficult.
In any case, the judgment about whether a book is good or not is not always the same as the question of whether it needs to be part of a curriclum, and the question of whether it should be part of a curriculum is not a matter of censorship.