Reason #39038753445 to Homeschool

Reason #39038753445 to Homeschool June 10, 2013

You don’t have to pay $11,000/year for a Jesuit high school education that aims to teach your kid the glories of self-abuse.  A reader writes:

I was hoping you could bring attention to a national scandal that is certainly endangering many young souls.  Shortly, Catholic high school students all across our nation will begin their summer reading assignments and in many cases the books assigned will be basically soft porn.

My son is an incoming freshman at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland.  Tuition is $11,000 a year and the school is regarded as the top Catholic school in Northeastern Ohio.  For a Jesuit school, its theology department is respected by many good Catholics.

My 13 year old son, like all other freshmen at St. Ignatius, has been assigned one book to read this summer, The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexia.   See link below:

From the book:

I spend hours in the bathroom with a magazine that has one thousand pictures of naked movie stars:

Naked woman + right hand = happy happy joy joy

Yep, that’s right, I admit that I masturbate.

I’m proud of it.

I’m good at it.

I’m ambidextrous.

If there were a Professional Masturbators League, I’d get drafted number one and make millions of dollars.

And maybe you’re thinking, “Well, you really shouldn’t be talking about masturbation in public.”

Well, tough, I’m going to talk about it because EVERYBODY does it. And EVERYBODY likes it.

And if God hadn’t wanted us to masturbate, then God wouldn’t have given us thumbs.

You can see the quote if you google search some of the key phrases above.

Nice.    The Catholic Church is primarily responsible for countless brilliant and magnificent literary works in Western Civilization and this is the only book the Jesuits could find fit for my son to read this summer?

Check out the Focus on the Family Review for more:

Why is this national scandal?  Well, if you simply google “catholic” “high school” “summer reading” and “Diary of a Part-Time Indian” you will find that there are numerous Catholic schools with this smutty book on their summer reading lists.

Soon good Catholic parents across the country will be purchasing this book for their sons (and daughters?) and instructing them to get started on their summer reading.  They will have no idea concerning the detrimental smut the book contains.  Please help get the word out about this book.  I am sure there are good priests at some of these high schools who have no idea that their students will be reading soft porn this summer at the request of their Catholic High School.

FWIW, here is a little piece I wrote a couple of years ago on possible ways to deal with this (since it appears the school is forcing the subject).

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  • Ebeth Weidner

    Wow! Don’t let me get on my soapbox on this one!! I totally agree. Only we had to read “Cold Sassy Tree” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”….you get the picture!

  • capaxdei

    Mark, have you read The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

    • capaxdei

      Or better: What books are on your home-schooling curriculum?

      • Rebecca Fuentes

        For her high school home school curriculum, my stepdaughter read “An Old Fashioned Girl” by Alcott, “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens, “The Bronze Bow” (I can’t remember the author on that one), “Julius Caesar” by Shakespeare, excerpts from “Don Quixote” by Cervantes, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Twain, among others. When he says classics, it means something, not “the newest YA book to win some awards.”

  • Tim in Cleveland

    Can’t say I’m very outraged by this. I haven’t read the book, but that excerpted text seems like the character’s own opinions. Just from that it’s tough to say whether the book is advocating that masturbation is okay. Even if it is, who knows how the teacher will use that in class. It could be a chance to explain the Church’s teaching on the subject. If there is anything to worry about from this book, it’s the bad writing (“Naked woman + right hand = happy happy joy joy”?)

    Besides, how many of these kids are actually going to read this (maybe those in Honors)? I remember when I was in high school barely anyone in my class read the books assigned, and most were not even 200 pages long.

    But then again, as an alumnus of St. Edward High School, the rival of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, I must say: shame on you St. Ignatius.

    • MarylandBill

      I think things need to be kept in context here. What makes this dangerous is both the age of the students (13 and 14 year olds) and when the students are suppose to read it (over the summer). Students of that age might still lack the discernment to determine whether the book is advocating this behavior or satirizing it (Some might, but some might not), and since they are reading this book over the summer, months might pass between when they read the book and when any classroom discussion occurs on the book (assuming it ever occurs; when I was in H.S., we had a test on summer reading, but never discussed the books in class because we were busy with new material).

      • Tim in Cleveland

        Unfortunately there is not much context to keep things in. Only a few pages are available at that link.

        I read some more of those pages and the book is written in a rambling first person narrative describing various events in his life. Based on the pages available, the narrator does not seem like a person worth emulating. He’s unlikable actually.

        If I had to guess, whoever chose this book as summer reading figured that kids these days don’t have the attention span for “Catcher in the Rye” and instead went with a dumb-downed knockoff. Catcher in the Rye had too many multiple-sentence paragraphs I guess. It’s discouraging that this book was also assigned to those in Honors English.

        So if I had a son about to enter St. Ignatius, I’d be upset, but not for the passage about masturbation but because of the book’s lack of literary merit. St. Ignatius could have at least chosen a book with a plot. Or if kids enjoy rambling narrators, maybe “Diary of a Madman” or “Notes from the Underground” or something by James Joyce, but that’s probably asking too much.

        As for tempting teenagers, I’d be more worried about what kids see on the internet than what they might read in a poorly written book about nothing (from what I can tell).

        • Clare Krishan

          ditto exactly re:
          “I’d be upset, but not (*only*)for the passage about masturbation but because of the book’s lack of literary merit”

          Old-fashioned assumption that females are the only titillating images on glossy magazine covers in grocery store aisles, a redeeming virtue? An odd anachronism certainly. Boys-only school, perhaps a mitigating factor? Maybe. Opportunity for ‘grooming’ by male educator of questionable orientation? Possibly. At least class discussion wouldn’t be a scandal to any 13-yr old girls forced to discuss the “merits” of the material — putative sisters’ coerced to share their brother’s education experience on their own time at home is “collateral damage” I suppose… don’t sweat the small stuff, like universals eh? Beauty. Goodness. Truth of the human person’s quest for transcedent meaning?

  • ivan_the_mad

    Apparently there have been some developments since my time in a Jesuit high school. My summer reading as an incoming freshmen consisted of With God in Russia by Servant of God Fr. Ciszek and The Hobbit.

    I worry that the abuse scandal’s chief abominable offspring is to distract from and retard our efforts at reform elsewhere.

  • Will

    There are millions of examples of a good education in public/Catholic/private schools.

  • Imp the Vladaler

    I am appalled. If teenage boys read this book, they might start masturbating.

  • Katie in FL

    This made me check the summer reading list for the school I went to and, fortunately, it looks like all classics.

  • Andrew

    Catholic schools = public schools with a dress code.

    Fortunately we live in an area with very good public schools with little or no nuttiness due to relatively conservative and very involved parents. Frankly, I see little value in Catholic education since most seem to try to out-do the public school system with nuttiness or are simply bastions of dissenting Catholics.

  • Nick Corrado

    Please, like I needed assigned reading to be tempted to masturbate when I was 13.

    Nah, but seriously, it doesn’t bother me that this book was assigned, but it does bother me that _only_ this book was assigned. The parent touches on the really frustrating part about the situation here: “The Catholic Church is primarily responsible for countless brilliant and magnificent literary works in Western Civilization and this is the only book the Jesuits could find fit for my son to read this summer?” I’m pretty sure I could recommend a hundred books that ought to be assigned before this one.

  • Diana

    I read the book a few years ago, and I’d forgotten the part about the bathroom. But the main thrust of the story is actually pretty worthwhile – the title character has to choose between going to the crummy school on the reservation, but being with his own people, or taking a huge risk and enrolling at a “white” school where he could get a better education. It deals with stuff like how much you should sacrifice to keep a friend, and dealing with the consequences of choices. Just a little info on the “other” side. But of course, I’m in my 40s and the, uhm, part I forgot would be a lot more compelling to a 6th grader…

    • Joey Odendahl

      Even if the story is “pretty worthwhile” I must agree with the statement made in the letter: “The Catholic Church is primarily responsible for countless brilliant and magnificent literary works in Western Civilization and this is the only book the Jesuits could find fit for my son to read this summer?”

      That’s kind of my thought too.

  • Erin Manning

    Mark, my problem with books like this being assigned for teens to read as a school project is the same problem Flannery O’Connor had with the idea of her own books, or those of her contemporaries, being assigned to school kids. In her essay “Total Effect and the Eighth Grade, O’Connor wrote:

    “I would like to put forward the proposition, repugnant to most
    English teachers, that fiction, if it is going to be taught in the high
    schools, should be taught as a subject and as a subject with a history.
    The total effect of a novel depends not only on its innate impact,
    but upon the experience, literary and otherwise, with which it is
    approached. No child needs to be assigned Hersey or Steinbeck until he
    is familiar with a certain amount of the best work of Cooper,
    Hawthorne, Melville, the early James, and Crane, and he does not need
    to be assigned these until he has been introduced to some of the better
    English novelists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

    “The fact that these works do not present him with the realities of his own
    time is all to the good. He is surrounded by the realities of his own
    time, and he has no perspective whatever from which to view them.
    Like the college student who wrote in her paper on Lincoln that he went
    to the movies and got shot, many students go to college unaware that
    the world was not made yesterday; their studies began with the present
    and dipped backward occasionally when it seemed necessary or
    unavoidable.” (Flannery O’Connor, Total Effect and the Eighth Grade)

    Do 13-year-olds need to read books with explicit and graphic discussions of self-abuse or other sexual elements? Not if these books are of dubious literary value and set in the present day or the very recent past. Let them read Shakespeare and Hawthorne first. There’s plenty of sex there, but there are also lots of consequences for sin and tons of depth and relevance that takes the adolescent mind out of the sensate present age and challenges him to think more seriously about these sorts of issues. Books that encourage teens to adopt the present age’s view of sex as a meaningless but pleasant activity in which hormones plus friction equal a good time regardless of the source, gender, animation or inanimate reality etc. of the friction-provider are not particularly good for teens–and quite a lot of them are quite hideously substandard from the perspective of any serious application of the principles of good literary criticism.

  • Michael Lindner

    Mark, you just don’t understand. These books have to be assigned because if they assign a good book there will be cliff’s notes for them. At leas that was the excuse my Catholic HS English department chair gave me when I complained about the crap they were being assigned.

    My response – at least if they read the cliff’s notes for a classic they are learning something about the classics… Oh I am so sick of schools.

  • Cojuanco

    I’ve read Alexie’s works. White I argue it does have some literary merit, particularly in the context of a unit dealing with the lot of indigenous peoples, it’s more appropiate for a slightly older audience.

  • Here’s my emails to the President and Principal.

  • Chris Benson

    If you want adolescent boys to read a book, just tell them it has a glowing description of masturbation – works every time.