Michelle Malkin, one of my favorite writers, notes the summer reading list from a Worcester school district now includes the poetry of hate incitement:
Have you checked your child’s summer reading list? Beware: Some lame-brained school officials have decided to ditch the sonnets of Shakespeare for the tripe of Tupac.
That’s slain gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur — the drug-dealing, baseball bat-wielding, cop-hating, Black Panthers-worshiping, convicted sexual abuser who made a fortune extolling the “thug life” before he was gunned down in Las Vegas eight years ago. …
Frances Arena, manager of curriculum and professional development of the Worcester Public Schools, told me this week that Shakur’s book will remain on the list for the foreseeable future because it “heightens awareness of character education” and, more importantly, because it’s “popular with the kids.”
If that’s the standard, why not just drop the pretense of academic instruction and assign them comic books and romance novels?
Why bother with reading at all? My guess is that Shakur likely recorded most of this poetry on his rap recordings, which means that students only need to drop a CD into the player and close their eyes … an unusual way to promote reading, if you ask me.
No, what this list indicates is that Worcester teachers have given up the idea of summer reading and are going through the motions, pandering to their students in a desperate attempt to either ingratiate themselves to the children or to look hip, neither of which will do anything but generate contempt from the students involved. Ever tried acting “cool” with your teenager? Teens want adults to act like adults and maintain standards. They may not like the work, but they respect the boundaries. They don’t want gray-hairs invading teen turf and trying to be something they’re not, and in that kids are just like everyone else.
While Shakespeare often wrote passages that have entered our collective consciousness almost without attribution, Michelle notes that Shakur falls somewhat short of this mark:
In riveting prose that presumably rivals Frost or Longfellow, Shakur brags that he is “more than u can handle” and “hotter than the wax from a candle.” Edgar Allan Poe had Annabel Lee. Shakur had Renee (“u were the one 2 reach into my heart”), April (“I want 2 c u”), Elizabeth (“the seas of our friendship R calm”), Michelle (“u and I have perfect hearts”), Carmen (“I wanted u more than I wanted me”), Marquita (“u were pure woman 2 me”), Irene (“I knew from the First glance that u would be hard 2 4get”), and Jada.
Proclaiming his love “4 Jada,” Shakur pays gallant literary tribute to the object of his desire: “u bring me 2 climax without sex.”
Lord Byron, he wasn’t.
2 bad 4 Worcester s2dents. On her blog, Michelle updates the mention of her Town Hall column with a dissenting e-mail that explains perfectly why teachers should be sticking to their standards instead of abandoning them to the near-illiteracy of Shakur’s muse:
Dont hate the player hate the game that created these conditions which enable such artist like 2pac to reflect the times and eras of their time. Michelle here some advise next time you want to use a rapper as a scapegoat to justify your means think before making an ass out of your self.
If you haven’t added Michelle to your blogroll yet, make sure you do. She’s definitely a must-read on a daily basis. Besides, she reads Captain’s Quarters — how cool is that?
UPDATE: As Bill from the always-excellent blog INDC Journal notes in the comments, he has some personal reasons to oppose the glorification of violence in general, and the Shakur family in particular. I noted this post when Bill first wrote it, but it’s timeless. Read the whole thing. And don’t forget to drop some change in the tip jar for the family of Captain Eggers, who was killed in Iraq in the service of our nation.