I went to Chestnut's curriculum meeting the other day. Do you have to go to curriculum meetings? It's where you go and visit the classroom where your kid sits every day, and listen to their poor teachers tell all the parents what they're planning to study this year and why, and the parents either sit listening placidly or flip out on the teacher.
There are all kinds of parents there normally, and I always think that we are somehow expressing the student selves we were lo these many years ago. I get snarky and obnoxious, for instance. Other people raise their hands and impress the teacher with their well-thought-out questions.
At this particular curriculum meeting, my attention was caught by a parent in the ELA (English Language Arts, for those of you who are blessedly free from acronyms like this) (aka: the class formerly known as English) presentation, who asked the teacher a question. "I'm concerned about the darkness of the stories you're having them read." (Note: kids had read Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" the night before.) (Full text is in a PDF here.) (And a bunch of other stories, The Scarlet Ibis, etc.) "I worry that we're telling them the world is a terrible place with all these awful things in it, and we're somehow spreading the message that it's their job to fix it."
And I thought: Wait, that's true though, right? I mean, it's not ONLY their job to fix it. It's our job too, it's…well, it's the job of every human being? As much as we can? To be a force of light and healing in the world, to bring relief to the suffering, to stop the wicked, to counteract evil?
I had one of those all-too-frequent moments as a parent where I think, "Oh shit, am I doing this totally wrong?"
I don't mean to harsh on this person's literary desires. Well, I sort of do, but not in a mean way (I'm sure she would appreciate that). But while I bristle a bit at the thought that literature is for anything in particular, surely it's for that. And while I, too, have been given pause by various things the school system has thrown at my kids, and I wouldn't argue that in 7th grade they're fully grown and ready to read The Exorcist (no one is ever ready to read The Exorcist), I do think that, well, what the lady said, except that it's ok. As in: It's telling them that the world is full of terrible things and it's their job to fix it. Oh, and also that they should read things that are good and interesting.
What say you?