I’ve been reading a fair bit this week, mostly because I’ve put my back out, but also because I like reading. Two books I’ve read have made me seriously concerned for the US Education system. Both books had heroes who were teachers in US schools. Both schools had serious problems with bullying, idiots running the school board and bigoted parents demanding blood.
In one of the books, a student was harassed and bullied and all the hero teacher did, even after witnessing incidents was help the kid pick his books up and, later, talk the kid down off the roof. There was no attempt to address the bullies or their behaviour. He just told the victim to harden up (not in those words, but that sentiment).
In the other book, the hero teacher at least addressed the problem but, at every turn, he was thwarted by the school board which was full of bigots. I quite liked this book because the teacher at least did something about the problem.
The thing that raised my concerns was the way the American schooling system was portrayed in both these books. The teachers generally worked hard and the kids were mostly good, but there was absolutely no policy against bullying and harassment, particularly where LGBT+ kids were concerned.
These aren’t the only two books I’ve read set in a US school, but the situation is always the same as far as bigotry is concerned.
I’m left with the serious concern that all those books are a reflection of the real situation. Sure, I understand it’s fiction and things are exaggerated, but if there’s a basis of truth to make the fiction believable it’s really worrying that the school system is set up to bow to power rather than right.
I don’t know the reality, of course, as I don’t live in the US. I live in Australia and I know there are numerous policies designed to protect students from every perceived threat. Staff are extensively trained and parents informed and regularly reminded of policy. There are hierarchies of behaviours and consequences. And while every case is individual, there are no surprises. Everyone knows what happens if they bully someone, for whatever reason.
I’ve read Australian books set in schools that show a situation at least forty years old, even though they are contemporary. That’s the author writing from their experience and transposing that into a contemporary setting. Those books annoy me too.
My question is: are these books writing a historical situation into a contemporary setting, or is this really the way US schools operate now?
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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