Thursday, May 8, 2014

Teens, Required Reading and Sex. When is too much too much?
I recently read an article about high school students being required to read graphic content as part of their English grade. The story went viral after the father of a freshman was arrested at a local school board meeting. You can read the article here. 

The controversy centers around Jodi Piccoult's book, Nineteen Minutes,  which is about a fictional high school shooting and the after affects. While I have not read the book, nor do I wish to comment on the subject matter, I would like to explore the subject of required reading.

Apparently, this book has been part of New Hampshire's Gilford High School reading curriculum list since 2007 as part of the advanced freshmen English curriculum.

According to the latest brain research, our mind processes stories as it does real life.

"The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated." ~NY Times                                                   

This is why when our beloved characters die we grieve. When our hero slays the dragon we cheer, or when the guy finally gets the girl we swoon. Our brain processes the information as if it were real.

But our mind does not distinguish between an innocent wizarding world or one that is riddled in bullets and rape.

Our brain processes all stories in the same manner.

Now knowing this, put an extremely graphic and disturbing story in the hands of a fourteen-year-old child, one that finds themselves in a school of over 2,000 students, all from different walks of life. Then require that child to not only read explicit subject matter but discuss it in class, write about it, even read it out loud.

Makes me wonder if young minds can actually go through Post Traumatic Stress. Seriously.

Most parents don't monitor what their children are required to read. The basic understanding is that reading is good, and the schools have already assured the reading material is appropriate.

I don't believe in banning books. But I also don't believe in assigning books that have explicit material either.

 So here's the question of the day: Who makes the required reading list, and how do high schools determine which book is appropriate for students to read and discuss in class? And, most importantly, how are students affected when they read graphic content at such a young age?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.