Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dangerous Poetry

I saw on Bookslut yesterday that a teacher has been suspended pending investigation after a seventh grader showed her mother a poem that the teacher had given her that the article said was sexually explicit. Today Bookslut has a link to a poem and it is certainly less flowery than one might expect for middle school class.
Now I am all for recognizing that sex is part of life and good literature and poetry is sometimes going to recognize that and really people get a little bent out of shape. However, as with so many things, context is king. I hesitate to make any determinations while the situation is under investigation, but certainly I can see why this could be an issue. First of all the student showed the poem to her mother, apparently to explain that the teacher was making her feel uncomfortable. While I know that teens are very aware of their ability to cause problems for teachers by calling creepy, it doesn't mean that sometimes they don't have a valid point. (I also recognize that most students who feel uncomfortable don't say anything at all, so this is not to imply that any large percentage of students who are brave enough to come forward are without merit).
It appears that this poem was not something that the class was reading, but rather something the teacher shared in a closed door meeting with two students. And in that scenario a poem that talks frankly (if prettily) about sex would take on a different meaning. Now perhaps there is some reason that the teacher chose this poem or the book that contained it or such. Or perhaps this was a teacher who didn't think through the implications enough. We shall see.