I tried to ignore this article, but a rant has been boiling up in me for days and I'm afraid I've got to let out some steam. But hopefully in a kind and respectful way. The NY Post saw fit to give this man and his ideas a loud podium. I feel like it merits a response from my own quiet one. In my opinion, this article is riddled with faulty assumptions:
1. Books can only do one thing: elevate. If they entertain, then they can't elevate too. [WHY THE HECK NOT?]
2. Only books written in dead languages hundreds of years ago can truly elevate, or even "save," inner city teens. [So strange and limiting!]
3. Shakespeare, Homer, etc., didn't write to entertain. [Ha!]
4. A teacher's responsibility is to introduce students to literature they can't access on their own, not without a wise scholar to aid their journey, like Virgil led Dante through hell. [I believe the best books are widely accessible at first read and reveal layers upon study, but that's just me. Wouldn't it be great if students devoured the assigned reading at home, and then in class, with the aid of the teacher, discovered a depth and invigorating ideas they hadn't noticed before?]
5. Because Walter Dean Myers's books entertain, because the students could relate to the characters and recognize in them their own world, they are not elevating. [pbbbth...]
6. The older the book, the better for you. [I talked a bit about that idea here.]
To quote librarian Betsy Bird: "To sum up: Gee, why didn't they make Homer the new National Ambassador?"
I find it interesting how many people have a real problem with young adult literature and believe the only good books for teens are adults books, preferably written by long-dead authors. I think in order to respect young adult literature, you have to have a certain philosophy about young adults. Here is my philosophy: I believe that teenagers are not children. I believe teenagers are not adults. I believe that the teen years are essential, that a person needs those years to explore, learn, question, and play. I believe that teenagers are often capable of understanding and appreciating literature that is written for adults but that they deserve their own category of books as well. Books that both resemble their own world as well as question it, turn it on its side, and leave it light years behind. Books that present characters teens can relate to and think with. Books that celebrate that unique time of life along with encouraging growth. Books that help them mold their identity by presenting many options and ideas. Books that are breezy reads, anguishing tragedies, laugh-out-loud romps, heart-stopping adventures, heady tomes, or blood-rushing romances. Books that can be as many things as a teenager can.
Here's where i get a little rude: I suspect that people who can't respect young adult lit also don't respect young adults. I suspect that people who belittle children's literature don't think much of children. I suspect those kinds of adults only respect other adults and wish teenagers would hurry up and become adults already.
Teen years are not years of shame to be hurried over so "real life" can begin. They are to be explored and relished. With caution, hopefully, as these proto-adults are so powerful they can make choices now that forever change their lives. No adult should be judged by what they did as teenagers. And no teenagers should be prodded to shut their eyes and hurry through their teen years. It's painful and beautiful, just like life. Maybe because, it is just that.