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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Disappointment with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Worldviews clash, and it's not a surprise anymore. With the increase in special interest groups lobbying in education reform, I feel a responsibility to examine literature presented to my children.  There's always an underlying message to any story, and if we're not watchful to look for these messages, we may start to infer mistruths that can misdirect thoughts and actions. 
I'm writing this summary for the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company as well as for Gary Soto the author, to review my opinion over what they've published and expect teachers to use. It's disappointing to me, and I hope you will see what I regard as forward and disrespectful in your textbook for 7th graders.  Fortunately, most of the images you see when you search Google for 7th graders are sports teams and girls with their friends.  This is how it should be -- not like how your exemplifying in one of the first inclusions included in the McDougal Littell Literature textbook. 
From a Christian's standpoint, if you look at 1 Timothy 5:2 it asks that people look at young women as sisters. From this standpoint, a female friend (especially a 7th grader) should be someone fun to be around and talk to, but should not be looked at as future marriage material.  We need to encourage our kids to be kids -- not to be looking for love before their time.  Although the emotions surrounding new love and relationships are good, if we elevate those we do not present the full reality that the purpose of the fire of new love is to have that to hang onto and reignite those feelings in the thickets of marriage, we are doing them a huge injustice.  I want my children to know that as much as it's great to meet someone and love them, to sustain that relationship takes much perseverance and grace.  Perhaps our publishers should try to find a story that hits this point home. Just like it's much easier to make a Dora Explorer video where there's stealing from Swiper and bad behavior than a Barney video that's showing polite actions and conversations, the ease in which external features and actions like good looks and lust get into textbooks needs to be examined. 
Read the highlights from Gary Soto's story...these are my three top complaints about the ways the 7th grade readers are guided.
1.  Boys are encouraged to take note of physical attributes to the point of lust.
2.  The adult teacher in the story affirms the boys forward actions and supports presenting mistruths to impress people. He is a connection point to discuss dating relationships.
3.  Just in case you missed these inferences, the literary analysis hones in on the adult-like behaviors.  Our children should not be reading things that increase curiosity about dating relationships, as they still have high school and college to get through (and it's much easier without changing diapers, midnight feedings and making sure they're sleeping early or late so you can study). Ultimately, everyone makes their own choices and there are college students who are great parents and happy to be so, but really what does this push our children towards?  Please think about it...  I know I do!

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