Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back To School Randomness

Forget what the calendar says -- summer is over. At least it is for me and my family.

Just a few minutes ago my boys trotted off, not-so-happily, for their first day of first and third grade. My wife teaches at the same Catholic school they attend so that means for the first time in nearly three months I am alone on my days off from work.

At the risk of sounding selfish and uncaring, let me say ... "Boy am I glad."

Don't get me wrong I love my family and the time we get to send each summer, but by mid August I'm itching to get my Thursdays and Fridays back. Jennifer supports my writing and never complains when I spend time writing, but one hour alone in an otherwise empty house beats five or six hours with SpongeBob in the background and the slamming of doors and what not.

Right now the only sound in the place is the clicking of my keyboard and the droning buzz of a gimoungous fly. Soon as i finish this post me and the fly will do battle. Though I should probably keep him around sine I plan to work on my Feedstore Chronicle Memoir. Flies were pretty standard there so who knows maybe that fly is my muse. Of course flies are attracted to manure so if it really is my muse 'tis no wonder all my recent writing has stunk.

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My last post was about my messages on twitter and I received several questions about one tweet in particular. This one ... I don't even know what TAT is, but given the goods it's normally traded for, it's some mighty valuable stuff.

For those enquiring minds the tat I was referring comes from the saying ... Tit for tat.


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One more nuggett on the back to school front. Last week I stopped in Barnes and Noble to pick up Richard Russo's latest, That Old Cape Magic and while in the store i stopped to peruse the various school's required reading table.

Many of the old standards were once again being assigned, To Kill A Mockingbird, 1984, Of Mice and Men, and the like. there were a few title I'd never heard of so I picked them up and read a few pages to see what they were about. But then I spotted one in particular that bothered me.

Right there on the table and list for the Amarillo Independent School District was none other than the tale of the glittering Vampires, Twilight.

Don't get me wrong. I am not one of those twilight bashers. I have not read but a few pages of any of the series. My wife loved them and with her I watched the movie. I tip my hat to Stephanie Meyer for delivering a winner to her intended audience and for creating a buzz that encouraged millions of people to actually sit down and read.

Here's my issue. I feel it is the responsibility of schools and teachers to choose books that one, make some sort of social commentary, or two showcase the very best writing techniques and skills. Pardon me for saying so I do not believe Twilight falls in either category.

To my way of thinking Twilight is the equivalent of surrender. It is pandering to the very kids the teachers are supposed to educate and reveal new things to. Lots of the kids have already read the book, the ones that haven't probably aren't going to or they already would have done so. They'll rent to movie and write their paper on that so why pick such a popular contemporary book?

To me it smacks of laziness. I imagine some teacher or group of teachers needing one more book for the curriculum and instead of seeking one out saying with a dismissive wave of their hand, "Oh we'll read Twilight for the last one. The kids won't complain about that one."

Pandering I say, but I'm open to dissenting opinions so let me have them.

31 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Fly as Muse -- hilarious! And so is "tit for tat!" You're in fine form now that you've got your quiet writing time back!

Kristen Painter said...

Twilight is required reading? I fear for the future of our youth.

mrsb said...

I have often said that summer required reading should be books that are well written, but at the same time are books that will interest the kids and help foster a love of reading.

Twilight might hit one of two of those, but not all three, in my opinion (and Stephen King agrees with me, lol).

I think there are a ton of interesting, current books out there that could hit all three, and it's sad that a school district could not put the time in to find at least one.

On another note, as great as this summer has been, and as much as I'm dreading the grind of having 3 kids with homework and projects again, I am seriously looking forward to a couple of hours of not hearing "I'm bored" or "I'm hungry" now and then.

Janna Qualman said...

Twilight? Oh no, no, no. That's not good. Not for educational purposes, unless it's what NOT to do. IMO.

And I agree about the start of school. *does happy dance*

Rebecca said...

I totally agree with you about Twilight. I would THROW A FIT if that was required reading for my kids...

And my son felt much the same way yours did this morning. Daughter, on the other hand, has been eagerly waiting for today for a few weeks now!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

that is crazy! what's the amarillo school district thinking? Twilight does NOT fit with other literary classics!

Teresa said...

I totally agree with you, Travis, about assigning Twilight as required reading. But I do know that many children nowadays come from non-reading households. The challenge for teachers with a lot of such students is to get them to read any book. That may be the rationale behind requiring Twilight. If the parents don't read for pleasure, it's hard to have kids who read even one page more than is assigned.

Monnik said...

First of all, I didn't get the TAT reference either, but with the explanation I'm giggling like a dork.

I loved the Twilight series, even though I didn't think I would. LOVED. IT.

However... choosing it as required reading is ridiculous. I agree with you on all accounts there.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Here's to a better muse hovering in the quiet with you soon, now that school has begun! (And certainly, more of Tat's partner too.)

See ya in the Twittersphere.

savannah said...

i'm with you on this one, sugar! i'm just glad ours are long gone from required reading lists at school. think i'll mention this selection to my daughter. she's head of the english department at a charter school in los angeles and it would be interesting to get her take. xoxo

(thanks for stopping by and commenting!) (and for following!)

Being Beth said...

That fly as muse would make a funny essay.

Tit for tat -- hilarious. I nearly choked on my coffee.

Twilight as required reading? I'd be all for it if it was one of MY books. Can't say much about it as I haven't read the book. I think as for its educational value though, like all things, it really depends so much on the teacher.

Enjoy your quiet house.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'm with you on not having Twilight in a school curriculum. That's recreational reading, not the sort of reading that's the classics or educational.

But then again, having been forced to read Old Man & The Sea not once but three times during jr. high and high school, I can sympathise with kids wanting something fun occasionally.

Jenn Jilks said...

Do not feel guilty, Travis!

I knew a family (obviously not teachers!) in which the mom and dad would both take off work on the first day of their kid's school!

They would stand and wave as the kids took off for school and do who-knows-what in the the privacy of their quiet (or not so) home! I think they'd rent a movie, perhaps a naughty one?

I will not speak to reading lists and curriculum I am retired and need not debate curriculum any more! It's a lose/lose situation...
/M.Ed. in Curriculum!

Annie said...

Snicker - school "suggested" reading lists - Why don't they give these children some MEAT. They've learned to read, wonderful! Now let them cut their teeth on some real writing!

It all just pisses me off!!

Melissa Marsh said...

Have to agree with you on the whole Twilight thing. There are SO many great YA books out there now that would be a much better fit than this...

And don't feel guilty for wanting some time to yourself! I rarely get it nowadays, but when I do...ah...bliss.

Bina said...

What you said about the fly as your muse and the "stunk" of you last post? LOL LOL LOL

I'm with you on the Twilight thing. Reading material for school? Are you freaking kidding me? What the heck is that about??? Someone at that school would have to explain that one to me, because I don't get it. Surely to goodness they could find something better to assign!!!!

Kathryn Magendie said...

I'm so glad I don't have to worry about homework and "get up! it's time to get ready for school - are you up yet? did you do your homework? what do you mean you don't feel good? what? the teacher said what? You said what to the teacher?" etcetera *laugh*
wait...dang...now I'm feeling nostaligic!

angel, jr. said...

I did not like the movie (which I was dragged to, kicking and screaming). And I haven't read the books. The movie made sure that I would never go near any of the books.

Cloudia said...

dissent? why when you are so right and funny too!

aloha-
Comfort Spiral

G said...

You won't find a dissenting opinion from this person about the choice of books.

Pretty sad commentary when the school picks a 'popular' book as required reading, as opposed to those titles we were....um...forced to read in school.

alex keto said...

stop apologizing.

Twilight may be good, lightweight reading, but that's what it is, lightweight stuff. It's also derivative of Bram Stoker's classic. Better they read the original dracula.

Take the dumb down course to extreme, and issue #600 of the Archie comics will come next. Anyway, he supposed marry Veronica in that issue, I hear.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I agree, and I'll raise you one. Twilight are poorly written stories that spends hundreds of pages making girls look like they're supposed to be powerless idiots under the charge of a strong male. I know a lot of people read the stories and loved them, and I too don't resent her success (too much). Sure, maybe they're fun to read, but kids will get absolutely NOTHING from them.

And since when should the schools have to coerce kids to do required reading? Hey, I have an idea! Fail the kids who don't.

J. L. Krueger said...

Travis,
I'm with you on the Twilight thing. I've been equally unimpressed with several selections of our schools over the last few years. It seems to get worse for the kids in high school!

Jon said...

the why has to have something to do with money... it always does... just ask yourself... how can a school board make money by having so many people read a particular book... how do they strike up that deal...

i can sure as hell tell you how the university profs do it...

the walking man said...

i agree with you about the reading list so here is a tat for your tit

Both tit and tat are archaic words meaning 'a light blow'. The entire expression thus means 'a blow for a blow', like 'an eye for an eye'. Both words were used as verbs, too: a popular song of the late sixteenth century had a refrain, "Come tit me, come tat me,/Come throw a kiss at me."

These words are probably of imitative origin, with a vowel variation found in other words expressing striking such as tip and tap or pit-a-pat. The tit is not related to other tit words, such as the ones (each of independent origin) meaning 'a small bird' (e.g. "titmouse"), 'a breast', or the first element of "tit-bit" (in America usually euphemized to "tid-bit," but not related to the 'breast' word).

The phrase tit for tat is first found in the sixteenth century. It is probably a variant of tip for tap, of similar origin but found a century earlier. The tip in this earlier phrase is the same word as in the baseball expression "a foul tip."

http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19960729

Mystery Robin said...

If it were Harry Potter, I'd be all for it. I think it would be fascinating as a kid (or not a kid) to sit in a class and learn why HP works so freaking well. I just finished 7 - and I thought it was a masterpiece of pacing and characterization.

I haven't read Twilight but have heard it's not quite in the same category. Possibly for a writing class you could look at it to find out why it's such a hit - but that's still a stretch for me.

I do think reading a contemporary book is a good idea - but I'd probably pick something harder hitting.

Eric said...

I also look forward to my kids going back to school, for almost the same reason. When they have homework, I can spend time writing without taking time away from them. So that's a good thing.

I agree with and yet don't agree with your assessment on Twilight. Let me clarify. I consider most of the writing in the books to be substandard crap. And yet I am still reading through the series. Why? Despite the less than stellar writing, I actually do want to see what happens next. I cringe every time Meyer talks about the stupid vampires being cold and hard like stone (which she does over and over and over and ....), but I'm learning to ignore the problems. I also don't mind the series because it has influenced my 16 year old to read voraciously. No, it's not awesome literature, but if it gets him interested in reading books, I have to applaud it. He did not enjoy reading (for the most part) before this, and now he does. I consider that a step forward, even if the books aren't the best writing on the planet.

Hit 40 said...

You made some very valid points on the book choice. Especially... they probably already read it. I totally agree. If they have not, they are going to cheat off those that have read it. And, we should be helping the kids to expand their minds. mrsb is on the right track. It could have been a summer choice book for the kids.

...congrats on the empty house! Nice!

Anonymous said...

I wish the kids never had to go back to school. Homeschooling, though it took a lot of work and money, was soooo much better. Freer. We could, and did, travel. Reading Steinbeck? Great, let's to to Steinbeck country. Studying the Anasazi? Load up the camper, we're heading that way. Geology? Grand Canyon, here we come. There we went. I miss that very much. Now, drub, back to the grind of public school. Ugh.

Shauna Roberts said...

Hope your writing flies along now that the kids and wife are back at school.

I have mixed feelings about school reading lists. Some of the classics are such heavy going that I think they discourage kids from wanting to read. On the other hand, I think light fluff like the Twilight series doesn't offer enough of worth. If I had my 'druthers, I'd pick light or short classics and deep, well-written, and fun contemporary books for kids. I think it's most important to get kids to like reading. The classics can be extra credit projects or can wait until college.

cindystubbs said...

Stephen King has terrible things to say about Twilight. It is very light reading, extremely light. Most parents were just relieved that it contained no sex I think, so it is okay for them to read it.