Wednesday, January 25, 2006

GRENDEL Being Challenged In New York

A New York teacher blogs about how she's fighting a challenge to GRENDEL by John Gardner. She writes (superbly):
The parents who are challenging our decision to teach the book are deeply committed to the belief that there is already enough "evil" in the world and their children should be reading only "uplifting" materials.

I disagree. The world is made up of both good and evil and for students to decide where they stand, they must first explore the nature of good and evil, argue about it, change their minds a few times, and then come to a decision. Frankly, I think this frightens some parents because many would like their children to simply believe what they believe and value what they value—but this simply cannot be. It is human nature to question.

Despite its graphic imagery and language and the presence of evil, I believe that Grendel is an excellent book to teach on many levels. It lends itself to deep character analysis as well as literary devices such as motif, tone, and imagery.


Blogger Sara Z. said...

Interesting. My husband teaches at a fairly conservative parochial school, and uses Grendel in his AP class. No complaints. (That said, he sends a note to AP parents at the beginning of each year saying that, as AP students, their kids might be reading some more advanced, "adult" stuff.

Also, he says Grendel is one of the best examples of using old text to say something new, and that the kids usually really like it. (He usually teaches it in tandem with Beowolf)

6:04 AM  
Blogger Brian Farrey said...

I'm forced to wonder: exactly what "uplifting" materials should they be teaching? I'm thinking about stuff I read in high school: "The Chocolate War," "Julius Caesar..." I'm struggling to think of something "uplifting." OK, it's been (mumblemutterspit) years since I was in high school, but I'm not sure "The Little Engine That Could" would have ventilated my squeeze box at that age.

Anyone with a better grasp of biology, please feel free to correct me but doesn't an inoculation work on the theory that if you inject the subject with a diluted version of the disease, the body will learn how to fight it? It's not like the body says, "Hey, this flu is some pretty funky stuff. Let's make more!" The body says, "Forget This Bull Schtick It's Time To Throw Down." (That, of course, is if you believe the antibodies.
Rumor has it they made that up.)

I think every high school student needs a little diluted evil injected in their lives. But then, I'm a publicist--patient zero.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Lisa Yee said...

If those who challenge this teacher really believe only uplifting materials ought to be taught, then that means history books should also be banned.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Brent Hartinger said...

I don't think this is a serious criticism. Is there anyone who hasn't been moved by some sort of tragedy in their life? TITANIC even? I think this is part of the idea that children must "sheltered" from the "cruel world." Which is another way of saying they should be totally unprepared for reality. *sigh*

I honestly think tragedy and dark themes in literature is one way kids can work these life issues out without, say, turning to crystal meth. And even if they don't have a "practical" effect, I think such themes help us experience life more fully.

But hey, I'm preaching to the choir here.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An update on the Grendel book ban issue can be found at

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grendel should not have been banned it should have been burned

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings." Heinrich Heine

12:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmm, well i think that if you dont like the book you are a poopy

12:38 PM  
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8:18 PM  

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