My memories from the fifth grade are pretty watered down. There isn’t too much that I remember vividly. I remember my teacher’s name was Miss Darby and she had a penchant for bread. She kept a loaf of fresh bakery bread in her desk drawer and between revealing the secrets of long division and reprimanding Steven W., the class clown (who learned the hard way that sniffing Fun Dip up your nose, while gets you a laugh, causes inferno-like burning in your nasal cavity for hours afterwards), she would rip off pieces and pop them in her mouth.
I can’t recall much of what I learned during school hours during those ten months of grade five but I do remember studying the ancient Mayans.
Our class would huddle in the library where the lights were dim and the Board of Education approved mini-series The Second Voyage of the Mimi played on a rinky T.V. positioned above our heads on a wheeled cart. The volume was weak and the picture quality poor. It was 1990 and the technology seems archaic in comparison to today’s SmartBoards.
It was there, in the darkness, when we should have been watching the scuba team discover ancient Mayan artifacts, that several girls and I found a copy of “The Book”.
The cover of “The Book” was creased and soft. The pages were overly worn from curious fingers flipping through the pages, anxious to find “The Page”.
It was with my closest friends that I read about Spike, a fourteen-year-old girl who had gotten pregnant and decided to keep the baby. We read page 10 and 11 over and over. The words “breasts” and “thrust” practically glaring off the page. In comparison to what is readily seen on T.V. today, the passage seems somewhat tame.
We were righteous in our judgment of Spike. We called her the most horrific names our pre-teen brains could conjure up even though we did not fully understand the meaning of the many insults. Talk about Spike and sex were the basis of many recess talks behind the portable. We were not even kissing boys so there was a definite undercurrent of curiosity. What had transpired between Spike and her boyfriend? Do they have to get married now? Does Spike still go to school?
A few weeks later our class was back in the library to watch the conclusion of the The Second Voyage of the Mimi. We searched in vain for the copy of “The Book” but it was no longer residing on the shelf. Instead, it had been plucked from the stacks and stashed in the librarian’s office.
Later we learned that a parent had lambasted the librarian for allowing a book about sex and teen pregnancy to be made available to the students at the school. In all fairness, the book was not meant for the prying eyes (and fingers) of tweens but for the more “mature” audience of the junior high classes.
What resonates with me years later is that by banning the book from our library the conversation was cut-off. Instead of using “The Book” as a teachable moment or to invite a discussion, my friends and I were left with many unanswered questions. More so, banning the book proved to further intrigue us and we went to great lengths to search out additional copies.
Banning books is like putting a muzzle on a conversation that needs to be had. Pull the tape off, and talk to your kids about the issues the books bring to the forefront.
Photo credit: http://www.popserious.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/a-spike.jpg
This post has a special place in my heart since I may or may not have a not-so-minor obsession with the original Degrassi 🙂
And I completely agree with you- the best thing we can do with our kids is be open and honest, no matter how uncomfortable the topic. All the outrage about the new sex-ed curriculum in Ontario seems kind of silly to me, no?
Gotta love Degrassi! Glad to know that I wasn’t alone on this one.