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Should Of Mice and Men be taught in high school to teenagers?Should Of Mice and Men be...

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shaheennaaz | Student, Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted December 3, 2010 at 5:56 AM via web

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Should Of Mice and Men be taught in high school to teenagers?

Should Of Mice and Men be taught in high school to teenagers?

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 3, 2010 at 7:15 AM (Answer #2)

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There are so many factors to take into account when answering this question.  First of all, it depends on the potential reaction of parents in the area.  If you live in a more reserved area, they might have a harder time with the adult themes that are presented in the novel.  Also, another factor is what grade it is being taught to--it is much more appropriate for seniors than for freshman, for example.  One last factor is one that brings the teacher into it--how will they teach the novel?  How will they handle the more disturbing elements contained within it? How will they approach the very intense moral elements?

Other things to think about are whether or not you feel that teenagers can handle some of the issues presented--the sexuality that is present in the novel (especially seen through Curley's wife), the killing of Lennie (which is very upsetting), the constant vying for position between the farm hands--these things can be disturbing, difficult to comprehend, and potentially distracting for kids that are at a younger age.

All of that being said, there are some really worthwhile themes, issues and areas of discussion presented:  friendship, loyalty, our stereotypes of mentally handicapped people, depression, loneliness, abuse, hard work, the concept of mercy, and what truly makes a life worth living.  All of these issues are presented in that story in such a way to facilitate very in-depth discussions about some important issues.

One should take all of those issues into account when deciding whether to teach it or not.  I hope that helps; good luck!

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jgaye | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 3, 2010 at 10:01 AM (Answer #3)

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Absolutely! A large part of the high school experience should be learning to talk about and consider complex ideas. Often, these kinds of ideas are uncomfortable or offensive to some. Since we live in a world of political correctness, we have moved away from our ability to have reasonable discourse around anything for fear of offending someone.

While this novel does present some challenging ideas and tough themes, this is not reason enought to remove this book from school reading lists. Granted, parents can choose to control what their child reads but a more helpful approach might be for parents to ENGAGE with their child and DISCUSS the challenging issues instead of pretending that they don't exist.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 3, 2010 at 4:15 PM (Answer #4)

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I teach it in my US History class. Its not that other books can't be used, it's that, in my opinion, this is such a good one.  It's well written, the characters are fun and engaging, and it's a novella--a good, short novella to get kids interested in the time period and the subject, as well as reading.  It's hard to find good fiction at that length outside of short stories, and this one encompasses a lot of important themes and ideas.  The potential discussion points are endless.

The sexuality is very tame compared to most media out there, and freshman have seen much worse on the internet, and heard much worse in the hallways.  What passes for sexuality in Of Mice and Men is, to me, very understated and unoffensive.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 3, 2010 at 5:07 PM (Answer #5)

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Like Brettd, I'm a history teacher.  I don't use the book because I don't think there's enough there to warrant using it in a history class.

But as far as literature, I think you'd have to be awfully hypersensitive to object to this book.  I suppose it would be kind of annoying having to talk about why Curley had his glove full of Vaseline, but beyond that, it's awfully tame compared to everything else people watch these days.

So... essentially nothing that you can really call sex.  Very little violence (1 fistfight, 2 killings without any graphic details).  I see nothing objectionable for a teen.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 4, 2010 at 2:12 AM (Answer #6)

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For literature this book is so popular and used so much both in the United States and in other countries like the UK. It is a very fine example of literature with really good examples of the kind of things literature teachers want their students to know about- imagery, foreshadowing etc. I also think it is a great book to teach because it manages to be moving and effective without massive violence or sexual content.

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lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted December 4, 2010 at 6:22 AM (Answer #7)

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I think the issue would be how and why is the book being used. As others have said it has a lot of great teaching points, I think though that if the teacher using it is not careful the book could lead to some very sticky discussions.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 4, 2010 at 6:43 AM (Answer #8)

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Why not?  Classic literature helps put things in perspective for readers...regardless of their ages. Teens need to be able to put themselves in the shoes of other people to develop empathy and a will to do the right thing.  They must also experience these issues through other characters so they would think about what to do if a similar situation ever came about in their own lives.  Literature is about the human experience...we all belong to that...and we must, through shared experiences, learn how to better get along in this world together.

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted December 4, 2010 at 9:54 PM (Answer #9)

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I have taught the novel on and off for 16 years and on both sides of the planet. I agree that the complex emotional themes need to be sensitively dealth with, and I always choose my audience carefully (I have not taught the text when we have had a Lennie type character in our midst, for example). That said, I am always moved and astounded by the responses from young people to the text and I invite parents to read it too. As others have said, there are a lot more dark stories out there that our young people have access to, and few are as well written.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 4, 2010 at 11:47 PM (Answer #10)

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I have taught a unit over this novel numerous times in sophomore English classes, always with success. When presented properly, students respond with sensitivity to Lennie's personality and mental challenges, and they absolutely respond to the friendship between George and Lennie. In my experience, they are much less focused on Curly and his wife than on George and Lennie's relationship and their dream. Also, Crooks in his isolation draws their sympathy, and the cruelty in shooting the dog always angers them. One of the most positive results of teaching this novel is that it takes students into the lives of the dispossessed and homeless and evokes compassion for and understanding of people in life situations with which they are unfamiliar.

From a literary standpoint, Steinbeck's novel and other works, such as The Grapes of Wrath, should be studied for two primary reasons. They are exceptional in literary achievement, and they bring light to segments of American society that are often overlooked. The historical value of The Grapes of Wrath is undeniable.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 6, 2010 at 7:29 AM (Answer #11)

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I've taught this novella to eighth-graders as well as seniors, and I much prefer teaching it to seniors. There is a lot of swearing, and it does grow uncomfortable when reading aloud in eighth grade; I have seniors read this on their own with little out-loud reading. I also think it's a great way to talk about archetypes, something more accessible to the older groups. (My favorite example of the "big dumb guy" vs. the smart little guy which we've identified is Foghorn Leghorn and the "Chicken Hawk.")  It's a good story with lots of good human nature as well as literary things to discuss--and it adds to their framework of classic literary figures from which and to which analogies and references are often made.

Lori Steinbach

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 30, 2010 at 10:47 PM (Answer #12)

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I believe that Of Mice and Men should be taught to older students. As mentioned earlier, it is descriptive of a time that ironically, is somewhat similar to our time. The economy was suffering and people struggled to stay afloat financially.

We also see two very different men sticking together. One (Lennie) is in need of a protector and advocate. The other (George) goes out of his way to see to his friend's well-being. What a nice message for students.

The ending is tragic, but people often face situations where they thankfully do not have to kill someone to save him, but where some kind of intervention is necessary, or a friendship dissolves because of a problem that cannot be reconciled between people. Even in this situation, George cares deeply for Lennie, hoping to save him from the mob.

There are a number of worthwhile themes in the story that young people can benefit from reading. I think the book should stay in the classroom.

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gnosisgirl | High School Teacher | Honors

Posted January 12, 2011 at 5:48 PM (Answer #13)

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I teach high school English, and I coordinate the teaching of the book to go along with the study of the 1930's in US History. Since most students (11th grade)are taking both classes, it works well.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 26, 2012 at 3:47 PM (Answer #14)

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John Steinbeck was one of the greatest American writers, and some of his works should be introduced to students for that reason alone, Of Mice and Men is characteristic of Steinbeck's writing. He was especially interested in the lives and problems of working men who were engaged in agricultural labor. His writing also shows his love for nature. Of Mice and Men is full of poetic descriptions of the cultivated and uncultivated land in his native California. Since Of Mice and Men is very short, only a novella, it makes easy reading for young students and could induce some of them to go on to read some of Steinbeck's longer works such as The Grapes of Wrath.

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robfla | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 31, 2012 at 11:49 PM (Answer #15)

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Absolutely! A large part of the high school experience should be learning to talk about and consider complex ideas. Often, these kinds of ideas are uncomfortable or offensive to some. Since we live in a world of political correctness, we have moved away from our ability to have reasonable discourse around anything for fear of offending someone.

While this novel does present some challenging ideas and tough themes, this is not reason enought to remove this book from school reading lists. Granted, parents can choose to control what their child reads but a more helpful approach might be for parents to ENGAGE with their child and DISCUSS the challenging issues instead of pretending that they don't exist.

Although I fully believe everyone has the right to voice their OPINION on issues, this type of reply and support for this type of thing is EXACTLY why we have some of the issues we deal with when it comes to children who end up out in the world continuing LEARNED & TAUGHT behaviors.  Regardless of what YOU think is acceptable, it is NOT acceptable to push this type of content onto school students.  Some of them actually don't want to be subject to it, but they don't have a choice do they?  My 15 yr old is experiencing it right now, and is unhappy with having to cope with it.  She's well aware of all of it out in the world, but prefers not to input it into her life, but again, she has no choice does she?

I'm assuming there are no other alternatives to this book right?  Rediculous. Shameful.  This college material at a minimum.   Shame on those who support it.  Small minds, tunnel vision. and it always baffles me how women, mothers, support such behavior.

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