Monday, February 06, 2012

It's Not Walter Dean Myers' Fault If "Lysistrata" Isn't Taught At Your Middle School

Did anyone else totally miss that we have a new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and that it's Walter Dean Myers? Did anyone else totally miss the pissing match over his appointment?

I spent quite some time working on a post regarding how elitist I found Alexander Nazaryan's argument in Against Walter Dean Myers and the dumbing down of literature: 'Those kids' can read Homer. But I decided that would be pointless, because I realized that Nazaryan, himself, has missed the point regarding Myers' new position.

Essentially, Nazaryan's objection to Myers' appointment as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature is that he finds Myers' work "painfully mundane, with simple moral lessons built into predictable situations." However, Nazaryan didn't suggest an alternative children's writer whose work he found less mundane, simplistic, and predictable. Instead, he suggested students should be reading Homer, Virgil, and Sappho. These are authors who young people may read, but they are not writers who wrote specifically for young people.

The purpose of the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature is stated very simply at its website. "The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature raises national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people." I repeat, "...national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature..." If Alexander Nazaryan believes the classics should be taught in the schools, he should feel free to go ahead and promote that. But it is not the job of the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature to do so. He used Myers' appointment as the springboard for his essay, but, in reality, it's totally unrelated to what seems to be his real subject, teaching the classics.


Leslie Bulion said...

An excellent point, Gail.

MotherReader said...

Good way of looking at it. I was so annoyed, but didn't want to give the man any attention for his elitist essay that seemed written for the point of getting attention.

Gail Gauthier said...

From what I've seen, he certainly did get some attention.

I suspect there are people out there who could make a good argument for teaching classics, in some way, at the middle and high school level. Attacking another, totally unrelated, form of literature isn't the way to do it.

I think this guy's essay would make a great case study for a high school writing class. The subject matter is related to that age group, so there should be some interest in reading it, and it could be used to discuss finding your thesis statement and staying on subject.