Tag Archives: Amazon.com

Book choices in the public schools – personal history (2)

Entirely by accident and quite to my surprise, I found (on my computer) the reply I received from my son’s teacher when I “intervened” in the matter of a book that my son was assigned to read for school. So now I know the details I left out of my post dated March 5, 2015.

Here’s some context: Due to a medical catastrophe, my son missed several months of school at the beginning of 7th grade. He resumed classes gradually, and I was at the school daily, since he couldn’t ride the bus. I was much more aware of his classroom experience than before. My heightened level of involvement continued for several years.

The book I challenged was Night by Elie Wiesel. I had not read it. I still have not read it.

It is described on Amazon.com as “a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps.” It includes “a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald”. There is nothing to suggest that this is a book for younger readers.

So… who decided this belonged in 7th grade, being read by 12 year olds? Is the average middle school teacher of language arts equipped to teach it? What kind of support does a 12 year old need when being introduced to the Holocaust? Any group of 12 year olds has vulnerable members, some not recognized as such. And, as I mentioned in my earlier post, local families were experiencing troop deployment, the early mobilization for the Iraq War.

My son’s teacher and her supervisor kindly substituted other reading matter for the class.

Another book had apparently triggered my watchful radar – Deathwatch by Robb White. At least it was intended for the Young Adult audience. It received an American Library Association award. Amazon describes it as “An exciting novel of suspense, based on a fight to the finish between an honest and courageous young man and a cynical business tycoon.” Even assuming that “finish” means death, at least the reader is spared perversion and sadism. It was selected for the Battle of the Books, an activity about which I remember nothing. Evidently I agreed my son could read the book, or perhaps he had already done so. I don’t recall any further discussion.

So… was I right to get involved when I did? I’m not big on censorship or banning books, but a 12 year old is not an adult. What do you think?


“Living in the Environment: Principles, Connections and Solutions” by G Tyler Miller

Why waste a good rant?! I wrote this for Amazon.com when they tried to sell me this book. My first blog entry in the “textbook” category.

This book has been around FOREVER. I taught from it in the 1970s. It was published in one edition after another, so students could not re-sell their used copies.

I don’t believe in text books. Anyone can learn more by investigating, reading and questioning. In the pre-internet days, perhaps there was some argument for putting together a compendium of related materials. But now, any student can find information that is timely. What a teacher should do is help the student figure out (for him or her self) the “connections” and “solutions” Miller is offering to spoon feed to the reader.

I’m shocked by the price of this book ($205). A student would do much better to spend the money on joining a professional or advocacy organization, or attending a good conference. Or buying binoculars or boots or whatever gear helps one get out into the environment we all want to preserve.

Students, if you absolutely must buy this book, try to get it electronically and save a tree.

Introducing… my partners!

One thing I didn’t anticipate when I started blogging was how I would use reference materials. After all, I only meant to record my reactions to books, and this isn’t being graded, so why do I find myself using “reference materials”? I guess its because my standards are a little higher in a blog that can be accessed by anyone who cares to visit, than they were when I was scribbling in a notebook.

My “partners” are two websites, Amazon.com and Wikipedia. I use Amazon to confirm authors names and find out what else they have written. Often I want to know the date of publication of a book, or which came first in a sequence. I use Wikipedia for further information about authors, and for other “fact checking”, especially on historical events. (I can get American President’s out of order, so imagine how confused I feel when pondering the Wars of the Roses!)

If information had been this readily available when I was a kid (and being forced to write book reports), maybe I would have enjoyed writing more. I know, my two sources are “casual” and serious investigation should go deeper, but it’s so nice to have my quick questions answered. Thanks, partners!

One unexpected outcome of my visits to Amazon is that I’ve started to submit reviews to them. Three, so far. In one case, I was shocked to find out that I book I very much enjoyed (Cities are Good for You by Hollis, blog posts dated August 9 and 26, 2013) had only one posted review! So I combined my blog entries and posted. Amazon has such good manners! They thanked me politely and didn’t rebuke me for being lengthy.

In terms of being read, reviews on Amazon are likely seen by many more people than my blog posts, but I don’t expect to become a “regular” with them.

Now I’m headed to Amazon.com to find out about the books of Oliver Sachs. I think I’ve read three or four, and don’t know how many he wrote.