With spring in the air, what could be better than blogging about the summer reading list? Sounds amazingly interesting, right? Actually, it is. The main thing I want to talk about is how books can influence people just as easily as violent TV shows and video games can. Should the school, perhaps, be more selective in their reading list?
Last summer, I chose to read Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult because it sounded the most relevant to high school. Now, I’m not much of a reader. In fact, I’ll take it one step further, and say that I HATE reading!!!!! But the synopsis said…
In Sterling, New Hampshire, 17-year-old high school student Peter Houghton has endured years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of classmates. His best friend, Josie Cormier, succumbed to peer pressure and now hangs out with the popular crowd that often instigates the harassment. One final incident of bullying sends Peter over the edge and leads him to commit an act of violence that forever changes the lives of Sterling’s residents.
So, I was like, if I have to read something, I guess this will have to do.
Well, Peter Houghton’s act of violence turns out to be a school shooting, probably inspired by the Columbine shootings. This book delves into Peter’s psychological issues including sexual orientation, suicide, peer pressure, self –esteem, bullying… just to name a few. In the way it was written, I think the author was trying to make the reader sympathize with Peter by making them understand what it was that drove Peter over the edge. In doing so, I believe that the author could actually excuse his behavior in the minds of some people.
The issues that Peter was dealing with are all things that we, and our peers, come across. And it’s no big surprise that teens can be going through a lot of stressful psychological issues themselves. Throw in a shipload of hormones and … what else? We don’t know. That’s the problem, and that’s why putting this on the summer reading list was a bad idea, in my opinion. Common sense tells you that there would be some kids with emotionally charged issues in the targeted reading group. After reading the synopsis above, doesn’t it make sense that these kids would pick this book because they could identify with it? And if just one kid sympathized with Peter, if just one kid was like…”Yea, they deserved it for doing that to Peter.”, if it excuses Peter’s behavior in the mind of just one kid and he did something about it… it is one kid too many.
The 1999 Columbine shootings in Colorado started a storm of studies suggesting that violent video games, violent TV shows, and violent music can cause violent behavior, so why not books? Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer were influenced by the pirate books Tom read! (I had to throw that in to make sure I tied this in to American Studies.)
Well, that was the topic I wrote about in my paper about Nineteen Minutes. Mr. Anderson wrote one of his cute little notes in red on it, and asked if we should avoid teaching about the Holocaust because it might influence a deranged person. First of all, there was no teaching involved with this book. We read it and wrote a paper about it. No one stood up there and examined the behaviors in the book. Secondly, I certainly would not give a book that excused Hitler’s atrocities to a group of White Supremacists. Nor would I give a book entitled “How to Commit the Perfect Murder” to a bunch of serial killers to read in group therapy.
It’s not that every teenager would be influenced in a bad way by this book. In fact, most wouldn’t be. What I’m saying is that there is a greater potential that it would be read by someone that would sympathize and identify with Peter. And if video games, music, and TV shows can trigger violent behavior, than just maybe this book would too. Which brings me back to my original question… ahem, slightly rephrased… Can we PLEASE get some better stuff on the summer reading list????? Also, is anyone else out there a little creeped out that this book could trigger something in someone at Fremd?...especially with more and more movies and video games that seem to be increasing in violence!