Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Traumatizing Children With Literature

This article was reproduced from a stolen copy of the Secret Liberal Instruction Book For Teachers. Don't bother asking your teachers or other educational professionals about it. In order to become teachers, they swear dark and pagan oaths - oaths which require them to follow the directives contained in The Book and forbid them to reveal The Book's existence. Just read, and understand. Perhaps, if you are still in the early stages of your school career, you can use this information to protect yourself.

Chapter 7: Breaking Their Wills

William Tecumseh Sherman famously observed that war is hell, and while most students' experience of school will never rise to the level of full-on armed conflict, you (as an educator) can still expose them to a choice slice of purgatory during their time in your care.

For the most part, this is too easy to merit much discussion of methodology. Physical Education, Art, and Music all offer clear and obvious opportunities to shatter students' fragile egos, using brutal criticism, unearned praise, or both. Topics such as Algebra are so intrinsically torturous that little or no extra effort will be required on the teacher's part. And the Sciences, of course, are where we tear down students' faith in Almighty God in order to keep them vulnerable to our Evil Secular Humanist instructions.

There is, however, one area in which the best methods for following the directives of the Secret Liberal Cabal are neither obvious nor easy: English classes. Spelling tests and grammar are enough to make anyone a little crazy, but most students slog through them despite. Sentence diagrams work better, but they still don't inflict the sort of massive psychological trauma that brought you into teaching in the first place. Fortunately, English teachers have a secret weapon: literature.

To get the full effect, you'll need to use books that seem wholesome and uplifting, but cruelly break their readers' impressionable little hearts. You'll also want to arrange for a strategic escalation, to ensure that your reading choices continue to traumatize your students throughout their time in school. Too little, and they won't require therapy; too much, and they'll become too desensitized to be affected by future readings. Current studies suggest the following titles as an optimum progression:

Step One (4th or 5th grade): Where The Red Fern Grows (Wilson Rawls). Lead your students through the exciting story of Billy Coleman and his two coon-hunting dogs, then watch their heads implode when they reach the tragic ending. Guaranteed to scar their psyches until at least middle school.

Step Two (6th - 8th grade): Bridge To Terabithia (Katherine Patterson). Introduce students to Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke. Encourage young readers to really feel for these two, as their friendship grows and they invent their own magical kingdom in the woods beyond the creek. Revel in the heartbroken anguish of your students when Leslie dies in a horrible random accident. Should keep students in mourning for at least six months.

Step Three (9th or 10th grade): A Separate Peace (John Knowles). Introduce your students to another unlikely friendship, between the misfit Gene and the charismatic Phineas. As with the previous book recommendations, you can savor your students shock as a tragic accident disrupts the friendship... but this time, the initial tragedy doesn't mark the end of the book! After Phineas falls out of the tree, you can watch your students wade through Gene's angst-filled conflict between sympathy and schadenfreude, until the Second Tragic Moment when Phineas kicks the bucket. And then, while your students are still shell-shocked, the book delivers the final blow: the revelation that Gene himself was responsible for Phineas' accident. If that doesn't leave your entire class grieving, moping, and feeling vaguely guilty, then nothing will.

With any luck, this will keep them broken and biddable until they graduate.

Important Note: While we encourage you to explore other heart-rending works of literature and even substitute them for the titles given above, we must caution you to avoid Lord of the Flies (William Golding) at all costs. Not only does this book frequently fail to adequately traumatize students, there have been several unfortunate cases where it appears to have given them ideas. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) should also be avoided, and for similar reasons; the results are generally less violent, but they are no less disruptive to efforts to cultivate a cowed and submissive classroom. And if we don't keep our classrooms submissive, how will we control our workers?


  1. Of the three books in your literary progression, I've only read A Separate Peace. What does it say about me that at this point in my life, I no longer remember anything that happened in it?

    I did read Lord of the Flies. Also Heart of Darkness. I'm going to date myself here. That was the same year that Apocalypse Now was released and the entire 11th Grade went to see it in the theater.

  2. Actually, my sister-in-law brought that one up in a lunchtime conversation (which was the genesis of this post). Both of us could remember the plot, but neither of us could recall the title. So I think all that says about you is that, well, it's been a while since high school.

    I'm trying to picture a bunch of 11th graders sitting through Apocalypse Now, and I'm slightly boggled by the image.

  3. Okay, picture this: the entire class (about fifty students) plus all of their English teachers in line for the thing. The cashier gets pissy with one of the students about her age. Quite a few eleventh graders are actually old enough to see an R rated movie unsupervised, and she's one of them. Nevertheless, what shuts the cashier up is a definitively gray haired teacher announcing loudly "I am an accompanying adult." No, I wasn't the student. I was fairly close to her when it happened though. She was having trouble finding her driver's license.

    Anyway, we saw the movie because it was based, however loosely, on Heart of Darkness. I'm pretty sure we had to write a compare and contrast paper about them, but that's largely because that's obvious assignment under the circumstances. I don't actually remember.

  4. Good choices for trauma, but you failed to include the vital instructions of "choose books so boring that the kids will never, ever read a literary novel again." "Moby Dick" is the best example from my life, but also Kate Chopin's "The Awakening." She kills herself why?

    1. Ennui, I think.

      Wuthering Heights made me a little crazy, but I didn't get to that until college.

    2. I think I missed this comment the first time around. I got Wuthering Heights in high school (same year as "Heart of Darkness") and college, oh joy.

  5. I always wondered both as a student and as a teacher why the focus on death on students of such a young age? A not so subtle way of trying to impart empathy?
    Seems fruitless.


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