While reading Barbara Feinberg's article, "Reflections on the 'Problem Novel'," I became panic-stricken. My daughter will be 10 in 3 months. Forgive me for wanting to shelter her for just a few more years, but there are some things that I just can't accept as appropriate reading material for a middle school student. During my undergraduate years, I worked in social services with children placed in foster care homes due to extremely abusive situations. Knowing what I saw, I can hardly believe that anyone teaching 10-12 year olds would ask them to search out articles that describe the grisly abusive situations I saw. Bloody miscarriages, hysterectomies, parental desertion, suicide - these may be topics I would introduce to my daughter as she asks about them or as they become pertinent to her life. But do we REALLY need to present these topics in traumatizing, high-stimulus, grisly stories?
Feinberg's point is well taken; as adults, we too quickly become numb to the atrocities and suffering around us through constant exposure to graphic media reporting. Why do I have to blunt her compassion, her refusal to accept this world's evils as normal, by exposing her to these tragic circumstances before they forcibly present themselves to her?
That being said, I understand the concept behind "Guns." Many urban children have been exposed to violence and death, and this kind of material -if it is written constructively - may help them make sense of it. But it might also make inner city violence seem more normal and even acceptable.
All in all, I think teachers need to carefully consider how the texts they choose truly BENEFIT their students. If the only benefit is, "It gets them reading," I would question their rationale.