Portlandia in Portland, The Enders Game in South Carolina, and Why I Prefer Living In A Nation Over a Confederacy

There are few things on television today that are as beloved by we denizens of the Rose City as IFC’s Portlandia.

While I believe that quite a few people in other parts of the country find it amusing, I’m not entirely sure that it can truly be appreciated by those that have never lived in the Pacific Northwest. It’s very premise is the bizarre creative offspring of Fred Armesin (who comes from the mainstream mainstay SNL) and Carrie Brownstein (who co-fronted for Evergreen College’s critically acclaimed riot grrl indie band Sleater-Kinney). The result is a purposefully pretentious hipster sketch comedy show that skewers the purposefully pretentious hipster lifestyles of the Pacific Northwest. The two sketches from Portlandia’s first season that are the most talked about locally might not even make sense to someone from Biloxi, Toledo or Duluth:

The first is that is commonly known here as simply “the restaurant sketch,” where a Portland couple try to decide what to order from a ridiculously detailed menu. They consider ordering the local free-range organic chicken that has been sheep’s milk, soy and hazelnut fed – but first are compelled to visit the farm to make sure that the chickens are encouraged to live happy and free lives before being slaughtered.


The second, which is really a series of sketches, take place in the fictional feminist-lesbian bookstore Women and Women First Books. The humor in the bookstore sketches is kind of like inside baseball to us Northwesterners. (There are two classic lines that most Portlanders know by heart: The first is when one of the store’s owners scolds a female customer for pointing at the book she’d like to purchase, “Every time you point I see a penis!” The second is this monotone riddle: Q – How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A- That’s not funny.) The very concept of an overly serious feminist-lesbian bookstore feels natural enough to be a Pacific Northwest neighborhood cliche, even in neighborhoods that don’t have an overly serious feminist bookstore. More generally, the idea of an independent store asking people to buy things while being purposely rude and unhelpful for the sake of not having a “chain mentality” is actually a thing ‘round these parts. In fact, Portland’s internationally famous bookstore – Powell’s – is known amongst Portlanders both for having the greatest selection of new and used books anywhere and for having a staff that sighs and sneers whenever a customer asks where to find a book.


All of which is to say that while I love the Pacific Northwest and would not choose to live anywhere else in the country, I recognize that our overly-hipster mindset is not always a good thing. It’s actually a good thing that we have the rest of the country to keep us grounded.

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There aren’t many things that are people here at the League by and large agree on. But if there’s one common thread I’ve noticed, it’s the concept that localized power and bottom up ideas are inherently good, and nationalized power and ideas are inherently dangerous. And in many cases, I think this is certainly true. A national demand for workplace safety standards is good, but the ability for states and local communities to attempt to find the best ways to achieve them allows for greater innovation and eliminates having to choose between, say, Earthquake standards that might be too lax in California but overly expensive overkill in Wisconsin.

Yet I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of states and even regions being islands unto themselves. To me, Portlandia’s free-range chicken sketch is a hoot (cluck?) precisely because there is more than a thread of truth to it. Were the FDA to be eliminated in favor of state choice, I could actually see Oregon and Washington getting carried away with legislation surrounding how food sold here is raised – and I can see such legislation creating a system where upper and upper-middle class food costs would be reduced by increasing the volume of local-organic everything, but at the expense of food costs for lower income families increasing to the point of hardship. We are a purposefully hipster lot in this part of the country, and we have a track record of allowing the flying of our hipster colors to interfere with running an affordable and manageable state bureaucracy. But it’s not just us. Frankly, I’m not convinced that other regions aren’t sometimes better off having their immediate local preferences curbed by the rest of the country.

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Orson Scott Card’s Enders Game has a special place in my heart, but not from my own reading. The young-adult science fiction novel was assigned as in-class reading for our oldest son’s 7th grade English class. Up to that point, our son had never really had an interest in reading, despite (because of?) my and my wife’s constant pushing him to read more. The day they read the first chapter of Ender’s Game, however, my son shocked his teacher and his parents by asking if he could take the school’s copy home with him that evening. His teacher said yes, and by midnight that night he had finished it. That led to his reading The Giver, which led to all seven of the Harry Potter books, which led to The Outsiders, which led to Youth in Revolt. While he still prefers gaming to reading, he will now read whenever a book catches his fancy – but it took Enders Game for him to learn that a book could catch his fancy.

In South Carolina last week a public middle school teacher was put on administrative leave for reading part of Ender’s Game to his class. The parent that reported him to the school district complained that the book was pornographic; that same parent also asked the local police to file criminal charges against the teacher. As of today, the police have not yet decided whether or not to file charges (which is probably a good sign that they won’t). The school district, however, appears to agree with the parent, is considering firing the teacher and will be eliminating the book from the school.

Commonsense Media does say that the book has some violence and should be read by children over 12*, but the children in this class were 14. I also want to note that the book is one of the American Library Association’s 100 Best Books for Teens. I mention these things not because I think that you should allow your kids to be raised by Commonsense Media or the AMA, but to point out that a book is being removed, a teacher is being suspended (and may yet be terminated), and criminal charges are at least being considered over a book that clearly isn’t Debbie Does Dallas: The Complete Novelization or even Lady Chatterly’s Lover.

In the same way that I can’t imagine the Southeast Coast ever going overboard with hipster-based locally grown food laws, I cannot imagine any school district in the Pacific Northwest ever having this kind of reaction to a complaint about a nationally recognized quality young adult book being pornography. And just as I think it’s good for us up here in Portland to have folks in the South mockingly say, “Wait – you want us to pay X amount more dollars for chicken so they can be happy?,” I think the people of South Carolina are better off for having the rest of the country shame them into some sense of perspective when it comes to Morally Correct State-Approved Books.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a call for any particular policy change, and more than anything I’m just thinking out loud here. I’m not arguing that a Federally mandated “approved” list of books for school libraries is the way to go. (Though if I’m being honest incidents like the one in South Carolina make me wonder if such a thing would really be so bad.) But for all the talk of our country having been made into one bland homogenized culture, it seems to me that we continue to be a vast group of different subcultures, each with our own strengths and weaknesses. And while I don’t like the idea of having a Federally-Mandated Everything, I’m not yet convinced that every single community doing whatever it wants is the way to the best America possible. As in most things, finding a way to strike a balance seems the prudent way for all of as a nation, and as regions, and even as cities and local communities.

 

*By the way, in every story I have seen about the Enders Game suspension it is mentioned that Commonsense Media says inappropriate for kids under 12. However, I think that in order for there to be some sense of perspective it should be noted that Commonsense Media gives an identical age qualifier to Harry Potter & The Deathly Hollows, Huck Finn, I Am Number 4, Call of the Wild, The Old Man & the Sea, Sounder, Dickens’ works, The Hunger Games series, To Kill a Mockingbird, the Tolkien books, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Greek myths, Shakespeare, Frankenstein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Animal Farm, and The Sun Also Rises are all considered by Commonsense Media to be inappropriate for kids that until they are a few years older than the 12-year bar set for Enders Game.

(H/T to Alyssa Rosenberg, who always finds the coolest media stories, for the Enders Game thang.)

UPDATE:  There was, after my post here, some fairly wild accusations about the teacher put on leave for reading Enders Game.  There were also a number of people here and elsewhere that argued that this episode proved the school district’s system “worked.”  An update on all of that here.

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82 thoughts on “Portlandia in Portland, The Enders Game in South Carolina, and Why I Prefer Living In A Nation Over a Confederacy

  1. Great post. I think that a balance always needs to be struck between local and national power/politics/etc. I’ve said many times that the worst tyrannies are often the local ones. I think this is very apparent when discussing education and police issues given how local these things are. I fall back on some sort of Subsidiarity 2.0: good local governance relies on stable federal governance; if a local government cannot handle something it should be handled by the state, and then by the feds – and the opposite is true. The feds shouldn’t be in the business of handling things that local governments can do better, but they are very useful in providing standards and so forth.

    That story about Ender’s Game is nuts. I suppose whoever it is doesn’t realize how bloody conservative Orson Scott Card is…

    • I’d imagine they’d have been just fine if it’d been one of those terrible Ender’s Shadow, or other recent books being read aloud instead of the more ambiguous Ender’s Game. Reading Card’s deranged, speckle-filled rants have killed any enjoyment I ever got from reading his books…it’s sad, but I’m just not able to look into the mind of anyone that…hateful and so deluded about his hate.
      • Ender’s Shadow was actually pretty good, I thought, although only as a companion piece to Ender’s Game.  I didn’t like the two subsequent books (and there’s a fourth in the series that I haven’t even tried to read.)

        To be honest, the best reading order for Ender’s Game is “Ender’s Game, Ender’s Shadow, And Then You Stop”.

      • I don’t know, I think Speaker for the Dead was a fine book. Then it just went into strange directions with Xenocide and Children of the Mind…
      • I agree with both of you: Speaker was a fine book, though its connection with Ender’s Game is tenuous enough that it might as well have started a different series.  The Gloriously Bright sections of Xenocide are brilliant, thoiugh again the way it ties back into Ender/Speaker is questionable.  CotM was simply awful.  Ender’s Shadow was OK as a one-off, but the sequels got increasingly worse (I don’t recall how far I got, but didn’t finish.)

        Now.  Can either of you, or anyone at all, explain what in Ender’s Game could possibly be viewed as pornographic?

      • Were there girls at Battle School?  I read it long enough that I really don’t recall.
      • Well, obviously Petra.  I think she’s the only one in “Ender’s Game”, but Card makes a point of having a few more in “Ender’s Shadow”, although I think there’s only one who gets any lines.  (I haven’t read the “Ender’s Game Christmas Special” so I don’t know about that one.)
  2. FWIW, a friend here in NYC described the chicken sketch and had us rolling in laughter; watching it later that night was all the better.  Perhaps that is because NYC has its own hipster-chic culture PLUS a separate foodie culture so the sketch could have just as easily been set here with only a few minor tweaks.

    To the point, I think it comes down to how the different groups in question respond.  Are South Carolinians actually shamed by the national response to the book incident?  Or does it serve as affirming to their notion of the rest of the nation going to hell in a hand basket?  Likewise, do most of the hipsters laughing at “Portlandia” recognize the point being made about taking their movement too far?  Or do they view it as deliberately inside humor that other folks can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t get?

    I remember similar conversations when “Stuff White People Like” was popular.  A blog I read that deal with issues of race and pop culture talked about how SWPL ultimately perpetuated a lot of the racist and classist (often more the latter than the former) tendencies of the “stuff” because it never genuinely called people to task for it.  People laughed, “OH MAN, that is SO me and my friends.  What doors we are!” while rummaging through consignment shops, but never actually stopped to think about how their hipster-vintage-chic movement drove up prices on those products and ultimately priced out many people who relied on second hand clothing.

    I guess my point is that not everyone is as thoughtful and reflective as you are Tod and such self-reflecting inward facing situations do not lead all people to the insights you have made here.

    • while rummaging through consignment shops, but never actually stopped to think about how their hipster-vintage-chic movement drove up prices on those products and ultimately priced out many people who relied on second hand clothing.

      Is that true, though? Back home (major metropolitan area in the south with transplants from all over the country), there were two kinds of such stores: vintage and thrift (I’m using my own terminology here). I used to regular the latter and… there were not so many people there that you would ordinarily expect to find there: trailer park residents, immigrants, and so on. Nothing remotely hip about that place. But then there seemed to be a second set of places that on the one hand were second-hand, but definitely catered to a different set. They seemed to choose what they carried based on certain preferences. Many years ago I went through several when I was looking for a brown Nehru Jacket for a Neon Genesis Evangelion costume. The former had shirts turned over from former Pizza Hut delivery boys and Walmart warehouse employees, but the latter had stuff with more… kitsch, but in a fun way. A goofy flashy bowling shirt, a cheapish-looking Asian rose robe, stuff like that (including a jacket that I could flip around into a Nehru-looking one). Also, it had more substantial price tags. I remember saying “People are paying $20 for a shirt specifically so it doesn’t look like it cost half that much. I love this country.”

      There is an argument that the former pushed the latter into the poorer suburbs and such, because almost all of the real thrift stores tended to be away from downtown and the vintage places tended to be in downtown or near gentrified sorts of places. On the other hand, I suspect that the real estate meant that if you take away the vintage place, you get an art gallery or somesuch rather than a place that actually sells $3 to poor people.

      I mean, the last time I was at a thrift-thrift store I bought a $2 shirt with an AT&T logo on it. I didn’t see anything like that at any of the vintage stores I visited (either the $3 or the much-reviled corporate logo). So I think of them as two different things. Maybe this isn’t right, though.

      (I actually have my suspicions that the vintage owners basically go to the thrift stores, pick out there most delightfully kitschy stuff, then turn around and sell it at a markup.)

      • I was going to include a disclaimer that the quote offered here was the criticism levied by the blog and was not necessarily one I could stand by.  They had other examples, but for whatever reason, that is the one that stuck with me.

        So, yes, it is entirely possible that there is hipster-chic/vintage fashion has no impact on the prices at second-hand stores.  I still think the larger criticism stands that such self-deprecating situations (as in “Portlandia” or SWFL) or situations like the SC one (which was not self-deprecating, but instead brought criticism from the outside) only lead to change if those being criticized, whether from within or without, are wiling and able to be reflective and accept the criticism as constructive.

      • Colorado Springs has a little store called “The Leech Pit” that specializes in “vintage”. If you’re looking for a Pink Floyd shirt from 1977, this is the place to go. Then you can say “EIGHTY DOLLARS????”

        If you’re merely looking for a shirt from 1977? We also have the ARC, Salvation Army, and DAV. These shirts are not the fun shirts from 1977. They are the shirts from 1977 that lived in the back of grampa’s closet, to be taken to the DAV after he passed, bless his soul. This is unironic polyester.

  3. Just to be contrary, I certainly don’t take the position that localized power has any kind of virtue associated with it. The history of social progress in the United States has been one of wresting power away from local governments, which are almost uniformly tyrannical in a way the federal government is not.
    • Local governments are usually more tyrannical. They’re best used as efficient vessels of day-to-day governance. Very little power beyond the bureaucratic should be vested in local government. I say this as a big fan of Leslie Knope.
      • One of the main issues I have with local government is that it’s hard to keep track of what the law is where. It’s not always easy to tell what jurisdiction you are in, exactly, and it’s difficult to figure out what the laws are. I mean, there are fifty states. It’s not always easy to look up what the laws are in those states, but it gets a whole lot harder when you’re dealing with a whole slew of municipalities with their own laws, neighborhoods with their own codes, and so on. Critic of a strong federal government that I am, I question how much autonomy should be given to towns and cities and that maybe “local” out to be looked at as “county.”
      • Yep.  Colorado has a law requiring the Dept of Labor to do the inspections of new school construction rather than the local city/county.  While the Department has its own set of problems, the school districts in the state that spanned multiple cities pushed hard to get the law passed because they found it impossible to keep track of the differences in interpretation of the standard building codes in the different cities.  Amazing the differences that different cities’ inspectors would attach to a phrase like “… such joints shall be adequately reinforced.”
      • Also “joint” and “reinforced”.

        And are you allowed to declare the requirement met by examining the plans only?  Or do you need to examine the actual joint as fabricated?  And do you check every joint, a representative sample, or a single one, or whatever ones are easiest to get to?  And do you ask for a destructive test on a sample of the welder’s work, or do you only check the welder’s certification papers (and how far do you go to verify those?)

    • I’ve worked for “local government” (I was the administrative aide to a San Diego city council member), and even for a city of San Diego, politics is short-sighted and provincial.   It was from that vantage point that I first began to fully appreciate the degree to which the rich and powerful are able to have their own way.     And I would never trust local government with any substantial degree of power:  it is just too corrupt, too susceptible to the influence of a few, and way too affected by the personal relationships and interpersonal politics of a very few persons.
  4. “In fact, Portland’s internationally famous bookstore – Powell’s – is known amongst Portlanders both for having the greatest selection of new and used books anywhere and for having a staff that sighs and sneers whenever a customer asks where to find a book.”

    This description of customer service at Powell’s is horseshit.

    • This might well be the case.  I’ve noticed that despite the fact that everyone talks about the derision they get when going to indie coffee shops, it seems to be a thing that used to happen but no longer does – but for whatever reason, people still have an odd sense of pride that they go to indie coffee joints that look down on them.  I can easily see Powells being the kind of institution where people like thinking about it this way, even though it’s not that way anyone.  (Maybe ever?)

      I admit that even though locals do talk about it having that rep, I don’t know how true it is – Powells (all locations) are so well laid out and I frequent them so often that it has been many, many years since I’ve needed t o get any kind of service.

      • Whenever someone complains to me about the “rude” service they keep getting in restaurants, I think “man, that’s never happened to me. Maybe it’s them…”
      • sometimes it’s a language/culture issue. New York waiters were famous for a while about telling you what to order.
      • In France, the waiters are absolutely brilliant, mainly because the job is much more of a career there. They also do not bother you about how the service is, how you’re doing, etc. etc. during the meal. I find this relaxing; others, I understand, feel they’re being ignored.
      • I have not worked in the food service industry outside of delivering pizzas, but many of my friends have and they talk about the different cultures that different restaurants have.  Often times, these cultures are VERY explicit and are to be followed to a T.  One restaurant might demand that you do not offer your name until the after you have already taken orders because you are not there to be there friend, but to serve, so they need only know your name upon your departure so that they can call you back; others have the opposite tact because they want you to have a more personal, intimate relationship with the diners.  Some restaurants insist that you don’t frequent the table unless called over; others want you checking in regularly.  My hunch is that most instances of “bad service” are really the result of misplaced expectations.  Someone might venture into a spot and be frustrated at having to repeatedly ask for water or more bread, when this is precisely the environment that the restaurant is cultivating.

        Yes, there are douchey servers out there, but there are douchey people in all walks of life and, more to the point, regular people whom you will catch at less than their best moment.

      • Putting in the self-service kiosks helped a lot. Generally if a Powell’s employee seems annoyed it’s a hold over from a previous transaction. It’s a bit insidious, because the person who put you in a rotten mood generally doesn’t notice that you’re upset so subsequent customers just think you’re rude.
      • That sounds right.  The only service issue I ever had with Powell’s probably doesn’t exist anymore, and was more of a function of it’s vast size than bad service people: It used to be that if you called to ask to have a book put on hold at the main store, it might or might not have been on the shelf and you had to go in to pick it up to see if it was indeed in stock.  I’d be surprised if technology hasn’t made this a thing of the past.  Even so, I’ve never viewed Powells as a place to go to buy a particular book.  I’ve always thought of it as a place to go to just browse for 15 minutes, then find that you had spent 3 hours and bought a dozen titles.

        What I do find interesting in a more meta way is this thing Portlanders have about equating derision from service providers as a seal of quality, like an indie badge of honor.

      • “I’ve always thought of it as a place to go to just browse for 15 minutes, then find that you had spent 3 hours and bought a dozen titles.”

        This. A 1,000 times this.

      • What I do find interesting in a more meta way is this thing Portlanders have about equating derision from service providers as a seal of quality, like an indie badge of honor.

        That reminds me of the old Groucho Marx saying:    “I would not wish to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”

  5. I think the term hipster starts to lose much meaning when it becomes a pop culture phenomenon and is used for mocking/self-deprecating humour. In fact most pop culture/newsspeak terms (see soccer moms,etc) for groups are pretty weak at best. Then again people love their self-identified tribes. Alaska is full of people who are just so truly “ALASKAN”. Its easy to find them, they will tell you all about how exceptionally ALASKAN they are, usually with extra volume and righteousness.
  6. Pingback: South Carolina Teacher Suspended For Reading 'Ender's Game' To Middle School Students - Forbes

  7. I definitely understand the desire for the national government to temper the expectations of the more local and regional governments. I do believe in a balance for such things (I don’t support the Articles of Confederation, for example), though my balance is tilted more heavily towards states than most. I cringe at what happened in South Carolina, but I also prefer a degree of latitude that allows parts of the countries to act in ways that make me cringe. The more they are allowed to do their own thing, my locale is allowed to do its. The protection of civil rights is one thing, and depending on how we define is something we need to look at from a national perspective, but if Oregon wants to go crazy with its animal husbandry, or South Carolina wants to keep Ender’s Game out of its schools, then that’s up to them. I think there is usually going to be a levelling effect. Even Utah takes a look around and sees how out-of-step it is and modifies itself occasionally (or tries to), if for no other reason than employers complain that it’s hard to recruit employees to a state where alcohol is so hard to get.

    The governor of our state stopped by our tiny little town a few weeks ago. The President will never stop by here (no president will). When it comes to understanding the local culture and such, I put more faith in the former than the latter when it comes to, for instance, youth agriculture employment law.

    I also ascribe to the Laboratories of Democracy notion. Allowing experimentation allows different states to try different things and then other states to adopt them if it works out (and if it doesn’t work out, it crashes and burns with much more limited repercussions).

    • But what do you do if it crashes and burns and the state still keeps doing it?  The thing with laboratories is that scientists tend to learn from their mistakes.  Politicians?  Not necessarily, not if they’re emotionally invested in a policy, or just part of a political system subject to inertia.
  8. As one might expect, I’m more inclined to Federal power over the states and lower.  Rights of minorities are easier to trample the lower you go.  So I can see states and other localities adding to Federal standards (I see nothing wrong with California having higher CAFE standards, but I wouldn’t want a state to have lower standards.)

    BTW, I worked in Beaverton ages ago and there was a GREAT hamburger place called “Vertiburgers”.  Do you know if it’s still there, and still as good?

    • Vertiburgers is long gone, sadly.  It was one of two Beaverton restaurants my dad used to frequent for lunch before he retired.  (The other was a restaurant called Earthquake Ethel’s.  It had a nightclub with a dance floor that was build on a machine that once an hour or so every night would shake and simulate a small dance-floor earthquake.)

      I remember that Vertiburger had some scientific reasoning for why cooking burgers vertically rather than horizontally made them taste better, but I can’t remember what it was.

  9. I think one big issue is that whether you favor more or less local government power, the states are almost always the wrong venue for it.  They’re based on pretty arbitrary lines, contain wildly differing areas (think Portland vs. eastern Oregon, or Chicago vs. downstate), and often cut straight across the most important divisions (people in Northern Virginia have many more common interests with suburban Marylanders than they do with southwest-Virginians).  Some power should be devolved to metro-area governments, some should go upstairs to the feds, but the states qua states should have very little importance in actual governing.  Instead, they’re central, and it’s damn frustrating.
    • I consider states to be the nice middle ground, relatively speaking. Localism breeds enormous disparities. A national government governing such a large and varied nation such as ours is problematic. I could support a more fluid system, so that states could kind of redraw themselves because the original boundaries didn’t work out, but even in the sorts of states that you point to (Chicago vs. downstate), there is value in some balance – but balance between fewer distinct identities than our national government has to contend with.

      Except Idaho. Idaho was just one huge screw-up. Idaho should be abolished.

      • Balance usually isn’t the outcome.  Instead, it’s a series of pointless struggles about whether or not a given region should be allowed to (e.g.) tax itself at a level it deems appropriate.  I’ve lived in Chicago, DC, and San Francisco, and in none of these places has state government ever held the virtues that people claim for it (“It’s closer to the people!”).
      • {shrug} I’ve lived in five states over the past ten years (next year will probably make six). I have always felt closer to the state government than the national one and felt that the local government was more likely to be responsive to the specifics of the given area where I lived (sometimes in a major city, sometimes away from one). This is true of both right-leaning and left-leaning states.
  10. Flannery O’Connor wrote of readers of fiction who “are over-conscious of what they consider to be obscenity in modern fiction for the very simple reason that in reading a book, they have nothing else to look for.”  She said  they “are totally unconscious of the design, the tone, the intention, the meaning, or even the truth of what they have in hand.”  Whenever I hear stories such as this teacher being suspended, I think of O’Connor and sigh at how far we haven’t come.
  11. Card’s a jerk?  Whatever.  Kill the author. 

    If you’re the sort of person who has a real serious problem with conservative creators, then you shouldn’t like “Firefly” either, because of Adam Baldwin.

    • Yeah, Card’s a jerk. Authors tend towards being assholes, just like politicians.

      My problem with Card is less that he’s a jerk, and more that he lets his ideology/religion Take Over everything he writes.

      Pournelle’s a major asshole, but he’s Readable (particularly when paired with Niven — Jerry’s not the most creative type…)

  12. Incidentally, there are parts in “Ender’s Game” where children are depicted naked.  I could see how someone who doesn’t actually know anything about the book would hear a gleeful statement of this by a ten-year-old and say “OMG they’re reading books about naked people!”.

    ******

    As a tangent:  Try to find the original “Ender’s Game” short story, and read it.  It becomes immediately clear how the whole thing came about.  (“Speaker For The Dead” was written before the “Ender’s Game” novel.  Card realized that he needed a hook to introduce what was happening in Speaker, so he expanded the “Ender’s Game” short story into a full novel.  The original short story picks up right when Ender is taking charge of Dragon Army; there’s no Bonzo, and Ender’s family doesn’t appear at all.  The idea of the enemy being aliens doesn’t appear; in fact we learn nothing about them at all.)

  13. A note about the teacher, seeing as I fancy myself an expert in that field…

    If the school building has a set of policies about what materials can and cannot be included in the teaching, ~and~ the teacher did not follow those policies, then the parent’s reaction to the content is immaterial.  The teacher violated the standing policy on the introduction of materials.  The reaction (overreaction?) of the parent surely brought the violation to light.  Perhaps if the teacher in question had read from some other book that did not cause an eyebrow to be raised, he (he?) never would have been noted for having not followed proper channels for the inclusion of materials in class.

    As I understand it, most districts (ours included) have a fairly involved process of approving books for reading lists, for class lessons, for supplemental materials etc.  Being a math type I get a bit of a pass:  It’s pretty cut and dried what is in class.  Unless I do something totally bat-crap crazy and write story problems involving slavery or something they don’t need to monitor us they way they do what novels get read by what ages when.

     

    • Actually, when I first read about this it had been my intention to write about it in more of a “it may have nothing to do with the parent complaint” vibe; it would not be the first time that someone was fired/suspended from a public position that had nothing to do with what the public new, but assumptions were made because of the sensational story the media pushed.  I changed that take after the school district released the statement saying that the reason for the suspension was that the book itself was inappropriate and that the book was being removed from the school.
      • The problem is that if you (the school) say “the book was perfectly fine, but the teacher didn’t follow policy” then you may be in the right morally but the community is likely to keep up the backlash.  The easy fix is to say “yes the book was inappropriate” and pull it rather than having the school be in the news any longer than needed.

        News is good for blogs; not so much schools.  I don’t blame the school for doing whatever is necessary to get out of the public spotlight as fast as possible.  It is a shame that the book got pulled but these things tend to be short lived.  Give it a few years until a student requests it and it’ll find its way back in there, assuming it was there to begin with.

         

      • Which in turn has spawned so many annoying variations…And sadly, Austin is steadily becoming less weird…why just recently we lost Leslie.
      • It’s been a while, I think, since Austin has really been “weird” in any meaninfgul sense. When I moved here, it still had a thriving, if somewhat mediocre, live music scene, but then they enacted noise ordinances that, in combination with increased property values downtown (as a result of the highrise condos, among other things), made it almost impossible to run a live music bar on 6th st or the surrounding areas. So 6th street turned into a shot bar and quasi-dance club strip full of clubs that look like any other club anywhere else, and the live music scene all but dried up. On top of that, the South Austin hippie culture has aged to the point that it’s no longer the dominant, or even a particularly visible a culture down there. Hell, even the Drag Rats are long gone for the most part. Add to the decline of Austin’s weirdness the influx of upper middle class folks who work in the tech industry, and you’ve got a decidedly unweird city.

        I remember that said, “78704: We’re all here cuz we’re not all there.” Those days are over. Though the bumper sticker, “78741: My zipcode kicked your zipcode’s ass” is still pretty relevant.

  14. “I think the people of South Carolina are better off for having the rest of the country shame them into some sense of perspective when it comes to Morally Correct State-Approved Books”

    Hold up let’s get something clear.  Ender’s Game wasn’t on any curriculum here, this was entirely a teacher’s choice.  One can debate how much leeway a teacher may have, (my take is a lot) but if anything this is an example of an *extremely* local authority figure making a decision (the teacher) which has been since overruled by the next two levels (the principal and then the district).  Levels of authority above Aiken county have not weighed in on this at all. (and to be clear, eyeroll on the parent complaining to the school, and OFFS on the parent complaining to the cops)

    (and my brief experience living in SC is that they would indeed be big fans of locally grown food. Working class genuine rural types even with right wing political views are more like hippies than anybody (including both named groups) give them credit for – but to be sure, entirely unlike hipsters)

  15. Mike I would say THE Powells is in Portland………but that might be my Portland bias….and I have never had anyone be rude to me at Powells.
    • Andrew,

      I love the Portland Powell’s, and it’s definitely the biggest.

      But I can’t resist the chance to be a snarky Chicago chauvinist, and remind you guys in the peripheral state of Orygun that Chicago’s is the original Powell’s: http://www.powellschicago.com/

      I’ve never experienced rudeness in either store.

      I’ll admit that Chicago has nothing like the 24-Hour Coin-Operated Church of Elvis.

      Cheers,

      Mike O’D.

  16. That is a crazy list of books.  I think I read Call of the Wild in Grade 5.  I don’t remember what age I first read Lord of the Rings, but it was probably somewhere between 10 and 13.  And Animal Farm?  Frankenstein?  Shakespeare?!  (Shakespeare’s got plenty of bawdy stuff in it, but the Elizabethan language makes it pretty hard for any kid that age to pick up on.)  Sound like Commonsense Media are coddling kids.

    There are some books that it’s best to leave until a higher grade level (my class was assigned 1984 in Grade 9, and I wouldn’t suggest assigning it to kids any younger than that) but in general it’s not necessary to be so restrictive.

    • I do remember our teacher writhing in the pedagogical catch-22 of trying to keep us interested in Shakespeare by claiming that it was totally raunchy and shocking, but not get in trouble by explaining exactly what it meant to “take someone’s maidenhead”.
      • The first part of Romeo and Juliet had me in stitches. Pretty sure I was the only one in class laughing, though.Most of it was comprehensible enough if you’ve got a quick enough (dirty enough) mind.
    • I hadn’t seen this Will, so thanks.  It seems to hit the nail on the head, and kind of unintentionally mirrors Portlanders’ own “we want everyone to look at us when they’re not, but want to act put off when they do” that we do so very well.

      And actually, doing Portland on a budget is pretty easy to do.  We’re a foodie city, but most of the best spots are mid to mid low priced if you’re willing to go outside of the downtown area.  Eating in the Alberta, Hawthorne or NW districts are pretty good bets – but stay away from suburban places here.  Lot of great music venues, such as the Doug Fir or the Chrystal Ballroom.  Funky hotels as well.

      Are you coming to PDX?  If so, and you want to let me know more specifically what you might want to partake in, I’d be happy to email you some more specific stuff.  Plus, if you are coming for any amount of time, remember that nothing is cheaper than having a drink or beer bought for you, which I would be most happy to do.

      • There was a superbly awesome beer place downtown.  If it was brewed ANYWHERE, they likely had it.

        I don’t recall any details, but hope it might jog ideas.

        I would love to go to Portland again.  It was a fun city.

      • and downtown I found a good hotpot restaurant (uggh! the newyorkers! yes, I can see why you sneer!)

        Pittsburgh ain’t got the tourism problem that Portland does. Of course, our idea of fine dining is a hot dog joint…http://stationstreetpgh.com/

  17. Pingback: A Quick “OMG! Update” on Enders Game & South Carolina — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

  18. If you are coming to Portland a food cart visit is a must.  We have everything from burgers to crepes to viking soul-food!
  19. Pingback: South Carolina Teacher Suspended For Reading 'Ender's Game' To Middle School Students | BussinessTree NewsBussiness Tree

  20. Pingback: Skimming for the Dirty Parts – Book Censorship In Public Schools, The Enders Game Controversy, and The False Allure of Public Decency — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

  21. Pingback: South Carolina Teacher Suspended For Reading ‘Ender’s Game’ To Middle School Students

  22. Don’t people like this writer realize how irritating they are? The actual content would be very interesting without all the self-reflective “flair”.

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