Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Chocolate War: A Perennial Issue

I find it interesting that Robert Cormier's book, The Chocolate War even gets read for class assignments anymore, with the myriad issues parents seem to have with it. Certainly one parent in Milan has a great many problems with it, enough to demand that it be removed from classrooms.

I think I understand why this parent finds the book so wrong. It is one of those rare and dangerous novels for kids where the hero has to deal with bullying but doesn't get vindicated for his just stance: he gets humiliated and tormented, and nothing good seems to come from his actions. The power of such a book is that it forces students to confront the scary fact that doing something you feel is right sometimes doesn't work, and sometimes gets you in trouble.

Take Thomas for instance, over at Newsrack. He exercised his right to say what he felt in a demonstration, and nearly got hit with a felony count for wearing a hood at the "Freedom March".

The Chocolate War isn't didactic at all, and that's really why it comes back again at again as a novel that is useful for classroom work. Kids have to figure out the meaning for the story for themselves, they can't rely on the narrator to give them the answer to the problem of bullying.

But apparently the Mother in Milan is afraid children will think the wrong things:

"I feel so strongly that this book has a negative impact on all children, not just mine, that it needs to be removed from the curriculum,'' Anderson said. Profanity, references to masturbation, violence and the overall theme of the novel all make it inappropriate for young people, Anderson said. "The language in the book, and the situations, are in direct violation of the student handbook. ... I think it undermines the teachers' (ability to enforce the handbook rules,)'' Anderson said.

Direct violation of the student handbook? I hate to think what kind of ruckus she'll make when S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders gets passed out.


Blogger Thomas Nephew said...

Thanks for noticing my post and talking about it, Iris.

I didn't mind getting in trouble, although the potential felony charge did bother me of course. I also didn't mind the tilting-at-windmills aspect; I just didn't want this self-congratulatory farce of a "Freedom Walk" to go unanswered and unopposed. I'm going to get in touch with the ACLU to see if they think there's anything about the case worth pursuing, so stay tuned.

I think your focus following parental and political pressure on libraries is very good; keep up the good work.

10:16 AM  

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