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Educator's view: Get your kids to read the classics and someday they will thank you

Drivel! Pubescent porn! Fluff! These were words that guided the newest bestsellers as they flew across the room. And if I have to stomach one more vampire "thriller," I'll offer my own neck for snacking.

Drivel! Pubescent porn! Fluff! These were words that guided the newest bestsellers as they flew across the room. And if I have to stomach one more vampire "thriller," I'll offer my own neck for snacking.

Now I'm no book snob. I read "Family Circle" every morning, for Pete's sake (just don't tell anyone). Yet as a junior high teacher, these are the types of books I see every day being read by young adolescents. Do we really need more base humor? Is there a call for more superficiality? If not, then why are we turning a blind eye to our youths' literary reading lists?

With "back to school" well upon us, it's time to get back to basics -- basic American values, that is.

A society will rise or fall according to the literature it promotes, and by their fruits you shall know them. Remember "Mein Kampf"? Ever heard of Mao's "The Little Red Book"? Just what fruits did they harvest? Gut rot, I'd say. What values are we propagating in America's young minds today?

Think back to your own schooling. What text does your mind still turn to? Do you still hear the echo of a young girl's belief that, "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart," from "The Diary of Anne Frank"? Do you nod in acknowledgement when a modern movie's balcony scene quips a version of, "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east and Juliet is the sun," from "Romeo and Juliet"? And do you still grimace when recalling Golding's insight into human nature when he wrote in "The Lord of the Flies," "There was blackness within, a blackness that spread"?

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I hate to be archaic, folks, but they don't call these texts "classics" for nothing. A classic book becomes so when it articulates universal truth and splendor in life and when it unites our human frailties while standing the test of time. And why, do you ask, have they lasted throughout the ages? Simple: Classics last due to their primal ability to convey messages. Love 'em or hate 'em, they stick with us long after the last class bell.

Now I can hear the critics crying, "But who cares what our children read as long as they're reading?" Would we hear a nutritionist say, "Who cares what our children eat as long as they're eating?" I'm as cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs as the next person, but I understand a steady diet of junk food would be detrimental to my health, not to mention my waistline. So, too, would a continuous stream of literary rubbish squander a young person's scholastic growth. Moderation in all things is key in literature as in life.

Parents, teachers, countrymen, lend me your ears: This year peruse your child's backpack to find the course-required reading list. Look to see if the titles rise to your expectations. And if they don't, have your kids read a few classics anyway. They may just thank you someday. Classic literature, like fine wine, gains depth, appreciation and value with time.

But then, what do I know? I still read the funny pages.

Dawn Quigley is an American Indian education teacher in Forest Lake, Minn., and has been an educator for more than 15 years.

Related Topics: BOOKSEDUCATION
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