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Gross, Grosser, and Grossest: How Far Have We Sunk in Children's Literature?

June 5, 2003

Gross, Grosser, and Grossest:
How Far Have We Sunk in Children's Literature?
By Orlean Koehle

Whatever happened to beautiful classical literature in our public schools, where students read about the lives of real heroes, from whom they can learn and emulate great character traits? It appears now that the adjectives of choice for literature in the classroom are either gross or funny, and the grosser the funnier. Teachers or students don't seem to have any expectations that moral teachings or redeeming values will be learned just that students will be entertained.

Last week I discovered what I consider the "grossest" of all books that I have seen in a public school classroom. I was substitute teaching for a fourth grade in a school in Healdsburg. The book the teacher had been reading to the class and from which I was expected to read was entitled "The Day My Butt Went Psycho," by supposedly a best-selling Australian author, Andy Griffiths and published by Scholastic. The front cover states, "The epic tale of one brave boy and his crazy, runaway butt." It has everything one would expect in such a book, lots of usage of words like "fart," the weapon of choice for runaway butts and even a glossary of gross terms at the end.

To the dismay of some of the students, I refused to read from what they called the "Butt Book." When they asked why, I replied, "Even the author himself on the back cover says his book is rated G for gross and not meant for adults. I am an adult and I don't read gross things." I told them that I felt literature should have some redeeming value or it is a waste of time. I also told them that reading such a book would be in violation of an ed code that all teachers are supposed to adhere to: California ED Code 233.5a states that teachers are to "impress upon the minds of the pupils the principles of morality, ...dignity,...to avoid profanity,...and to instruct them in manners and morals..."

Griffith's book is teaching just the opposite of morality. Many of the words in his books would be classified as profane. I urge all teachers to please follow the ed code when you select books to have in your classroom or to read to your students books that elevate children not degrade them with embarrassing, gross, "toilet talk humor."

Orlean Koehle
4577 Creekmont Ct.
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707)539-8393

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