Gary K. Wolfe
Re: Gardner’s point, the only time I actually had an SF book ripped out of my hands was when my dad caught me reading Sturgeon’s The Cosmic Rape, which now that I think of it wasn’t a very fortuitous title for a novel likely to be read by kids; maybe someone at Dell wasn’t thinking clearly. But when my dad then wondered why I couldn’t read “good” books like Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, I knew we were never going to be on the same page. That’s probably when my under-the-covers-with-a-flashlight period of reading began.
Guy: You’re assuming there have to be reading lists. There’s no tragedy in Vance? So I guess everything is good the way it is. Still 80% of my students aren’t interested in reading. I ask them about it every semester.
Heinlein’s juvies may seem “dated” to us, but would they seem any more dated to an audience of contemporary kids than the Jules Verne or H.G. Wells novels I scarfed down as an adolescent seemed to me then? Science fiction may not age well, but good storytelling never goes stale, and I suspect some kids who pick up the Heinlein juvies today, if they like the story being told, won’t be mind the absence of computers, or cellphones, or other paraphernalia that punctuates the landscape of contemporary SF for young readers.
Stefan, that’s dead on, in my opinion.
And I’ll add to that – I wasn’t a huge fan of Treasure Island because it was a girl-less landscape and there was no place to imagine myself. Heinlein at least acknowledged that girls existed, which was pretty important to a kid who existed on daydreams, popsicles, and a continuous stream of the written word in whatever form I could find.
These kids were all boys, so I doubt that it was the girl-less landscape that was putting them off. Treasure Island was “too hard to read” because it took place in a world that was very different from the everyday world they were used to, with different customs and expectations, and they didn’t understand the language and terminology being employed. Same could be said of a science fiction novel.About twenty years ago, I sat in on a science fiction course being taught in college, and all the kids were moaning and banging their heads on the desk because they were being forced to read Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, and it was “too hard to read” and “boring.”I wonder if anything you don’t want to read that you’re required to read isn’t too hard and boring.
Guy Gavriel Kay
When all is permitted, co-opted by the system, where do we find the subversive? And what does the system DO to our subversive literature when it takes it over and assigns essays on Heinlein’s politics? If we’re angry at the man, do we really get less angry when he panders to us? Or do we learn contempt?
I am astonished at the thought of high school students being required to read Death of a Salesman, and wouldn’t recommend it for a high school reading list. The Crucible, on the other hand, might be interesting to them. Or might not. Most of my students have, I suspect, never heard of Arthur Miller.
The problem is that “subversive” has become as much a marketing category as anything else.
Guy Gavriel Kay
But that astonishment’s going to depress me again: high school students can be seventeen or eighteen! They can vote, some of them! Have we therefore decided that the play is ‘too much’ for them? Is 25 really the new 15? It feels so, and if that’s the case, then it has huge implications for art, and more than art, and we’re seeing that play out.
As I said before, this is not about assessing the MERIT of the play (not my own favourite) but make it Shakespeare. We started with Caesar in Grade 7, then Dream in 8, then Henry V in 9, in a very ordinary public school in Winnipeg, Manitoba. That’s kids of 11-14. (Studied Of Human Bondage in Grade 9 or 10 English, too. Try to imagine it now. And then we need to think about why it is unimaginable.)
I am not, by the way, arguing at all for tracking back that way … no possible way it happens.
It’s not that the play is too much for them, it’s that the play isn’t enough for them.