A brutish education

Today’s SLJ Online has a brief piece in which three school library folk, in different parts of the US, offer glimpses at what local teens are “reading for fun.”  This should have been fun reading for me but one sentence has turned me 50 tones of livid. It seems that in Inglewood, CA (that’s CAlifornia, not CAnada), kids are reading, and may read, some relatively standard titles detailing the glories and horrors of contemporary gang life, including Luis Rodriguez in Spanish as well as English; vampires are acceptable, whether created by Meyer or Rice.  But:  “Manga is not allowed in the school district, nor do students request it.”

Since manga, as a category, encompasses a huge diversity of Japanese comics, this is about as broad as declaring that “Cookbooks are not allowed in the school district” without regard to whether they are cookbooks featuring the preparation of green leafy veg or human cadavers.  But it is meaningful:  it means that kids–who, interestingly, are permitted to read Spanish-language books in a state that prides itself on English-only as the means by which to expunge any nasty foreign traits like home languages–are barred from reading any representation of a body of literature that has specific cultural content, reflects a language and culture that has a presence on the world stage, to say nothing of popularity among these kids’ peers in countless communities outside Inglewood, and offers an aesthetic that could provide an alternative means of channeling emotional expression.

The second part of the sentence in the snippet isn’t so interesting. It simply tells us that, although the Inglewood kids are interested in lives lived on the wild side, they are smart enough not to ask for what they have been told is forbidden. Perhaps they get it from somewhere else? It’s hard to imagine their lives are so insular that they don’t know it exists, but if that’s the case, and the school district forbids them gaining knowledge of it, what kind of education is on offer?  Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t read, don’t know.

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One Response to “A brutish education”

  1. flotsam Says:

    I can see why this post would warant the creation of a whole new category….

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