School is a place of learning. Yeah, that seems pretty obvious. But in the 21st century, students are forced to do things in the classroom setting that they aren’t comfortable with, which affects their learning capability and disrupts the learning process. For some students, it’s reading things they write aloud, for others it’s dissecting that frog for Biology. Neither of these things really affect me, but in my twelfth grade English class, I was forced to deal with an experience that I believe disrupted what I was learning. This I am not okay with.
I hate to read, but like the good little student I am, I read the books required by the school like I’m supposed to. Generally, I don’t really have an opinion on the material we are forced to read, but for the first book of my senior year, my teacher chose Kurt Vonnegut's vulgar anti-war novel, Slaughterhouse Five. None of the other classes are reading it. Now, the plot sounds good and the novel was rumored to be written like Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, so I was psyched. It must be better than Shakespeare, right?
The book follows Billy Pilgrim, who is a prisoner of war at Dresden in World War II. He gets captured by Tralfamadore aliens and starts time traveling from his childhood to his death to his time mating on Tralfamadore with a porn star (and cheating on his wife) back to the war. See, great premise. And then it all goes downhill.
The major thing that made me be feel repulsed and uncomfortable happened on page 139. Paul Lazzaro, another prisoner of war, boasts about how he tortured a dog because the mutt bit him. Vonnegut writes, “I [Lazzaro] got some steak … sharp as razor blades. I stuck ‘em into the steak—way inside … I threw him the steak. He swallowed it … blood started coming out of his mouth … started crying … I laughed … the sweetest thing in life.”
Now, honestly, is this what a 17-year-old girl should be reading? What good comes out of it? I either get really disturbed and the image haunts me for the rest of the day or I become really violent and I want to do this to a dog. And trust me, some people in my English class might pick the second one. I wouldn’t want my children reading this and I would not want to read this myself. It’s horrible. Why can’t I just read A Tale of Two Cities like the other class?
Although I would prefer banning the book, the book does offer some literary merit, so I understand why it is read. So, I’ll compromise. In ninth grade, our Biology final was to dissect a fetal pig. This didn’t bother me much, but I remember that my teacher offered an alternative assignment for those uncomfortable with the dissection. Last year, the English 3 class was reading something on domestic violence (I was in AP, so I didn’t have to deal with this situation) and a girl was allowed to go to the library, because she had connections to the issue. But for me, these accommodations were not offered. I believe that is incredibly unfair, because I simply should not be forced to read about torturing dogs.
I mean, if a 17-year-old wants to read this, I don’t care, but I should not be forced to read something that produces such vulgar, disgusting images. I would have made a fuss to my teacher, but since we are now onto the next book, Hamlet, it wasn’t worth it. Besides, my English teacher hates me enough.
I know it’s a hassle for the teacher to create an alternative assignment. However, as I have said, school is a place of learning. And I feel that that month of English was totally wasted, because of this uncomfortable situation. It’s really a shame too, because I like English.