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Dissecting the unintentional hilarity of The Baby-sitters Club.

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Don't Give Up, Mallory! Part 1 [Jan. 20th, 2013|07:48 pm]
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. . .on second thought, go ahead and give up, Mallory.

Shout-out to  kakeochi_umai or the request!

Is it just me, or does Mallory get a bunch of titles in non-standard form?  By which I mean, I think of standard as “Sitter’s Name and the Particular WTF,” or possibly “Sitter Name’s Stupid Thing.”  But Mal gets creepster greetings (Hellloooo, Mallory!), condescending pity (Poor Mallory!), imperatives (Get Well Soon, Mallory! and this one.)  Another sign of how Ann hates her?

The cover.  I. . .kind of like it!  



No, really.  I think maybe around Mallory’s Christmas Wish they got a new Mal model, because she’s kind of adorable.  Her hair is more coppery and soft-looking than the Bozo fright wig she generally sports, and her face isn’t as red and shiny as if she’d just run ten miles.  (I have to say, though, in more evidence of “sucks to be Mal,” I personally think her prettiest cover picture isn’t even on her own damn book--it’s on Mary Anne in the Middle.) Her clothes are inoffensive, and her cringing body-language is spot-on to the text.  Granted, Hodges seems to think Mallory is absurdly tall (seriously, look at the cover of Winter Vacation sometime; she’s a scary giantess), since if she were standing she’d tower over her classmates, but again, we can’t ask for everything.   Hey, maybe the height disproportion can be used to support a “Mallory Becomes a Supermodel” fanfic. And speaking of her classmates (or, as one might say, her peers) they look age-appropriate, which is to say they look like eleven-year-old CHILDREN.  They are BABIES.  Lastly, Mr. Cobb looks appropriately douche-y, with his cuffed khakis and over-gelled hair.  So, really, well-done, Hodges.  Maybe he was saving his weirdness for #109, when he got to show OMG! the least passionate kiss ever on the cover.


Also, this book has an amazing number of cross-references to previously-seen characters.   I’m pretty sure Jahnna and Malcolm decided to liven this one up with a drinking game that involved taking a shot every time they could awkwardly shoehorn in another blast from the past. Granted, a lot of them are totally inconsistent with the previous appearances, but you can’t have everything, including vague competence.  Also, that amount of alcohol would explain a lot about this plot.

Because the thing is, this book takes a stab at a couple of important issues, both of which happen to be close to my heart. 

Granted, it handles them with the finesse of a D-movie zombie, but on some level, I appreciate the nod to an issue besides “How to Be a Creepy Stalker” or “How to Be a Condescending Asshole” or “Beware of Those Who Smuggle Wine in Their Socks.”  More or less, these two issues are:

1. That at the onset of adolescence, a huge number of girls suffer a big drop in self-confidence and this often coincides with a drop in test scores (although this has actually narrowed since the mid-90s.)  There are many reasons for this, but one is probably the extremely narrow and often conflicting societal and cultural demands on and acceptable roles for young women: to be pure but not prudes, sexy but not sexual, bright but not bossy (or bitchy), perfectly groomed and made-up but not high maintenance, etc

2. The idea that children’s literature is worthy of attention and analysis, which in turn goes to the ideas that works for children needn't and shouldn't be shoddily made (ANN) and that these works both reflect and influence societal and cultural ideas and values

Both of these are handled with the thoughtfulness and sensitivity we've come to expect.  So to keep myself coherent, I'll be tossing in feminist and children's book related lolcats on an as needed basis.

Chapter 1:  Evil Mrs. Fredrickson has been promoted to the middle school, apparently.  She’s handing out midterm progress reports one by one, which seems like a really stupid use of class time.  Most of the kids groan, but Mal humblebrags that her grades would be “better than good,” complete with standard “I don’t want to brag, but. . .”

Mallory is the buttmonkey, so of course she drops her progress report and the whole class shits itself at the concept of straight As.  Even Rachel Robinson--I forgot she goes way back to #14, and I thought she had wondered over from the superior Judy Blume oeuvre.  In which case I would think she'd be more understanding.  (I was always way more sympathetic to Rachel than to Stephanie, even before she got her own book.).

Oddly, Mallory refers to her best friend as “Jessica” Ramsey.  Then she describes her siblings, and it’s kind of funny: Vanessa, Nicky, and Claire get actual descriptions, whereas the triplets are just triplets and Margo’s only trait is vomiting

“Word travels fast” about Mal’s grades, apparently, and really I don’t buy this.  Yes, kids can be teased for being a “brainiac” or getting straight As.  But everyone is acting as if straight As is a totally unbelievable things which has never happened before in SMS history, as opposed to, you know, not that big a deal.  I find it really hard to believe that Mallory is the only sixth-grader who got straight As.  Mary Anne, per her bio, gets straight As and isn’t losing her shit about it, and when Mary Anne is less self-conscious and more well-adjusted than you, you really need to examine your life and your choices.  (Of course, the other interpretation is that people tease Mallory for unrelated reasons and this is just convenient fodder, but we haven’t reached that arc yet.)

On her way to English (hiya continuity, it’s still Mr. Williams, and Ann and the ghosties want us to know he still has a potbelly), she runs into Justin Price, class president and the “cutest boy in the sixth grade.”  It’s kind of weird that in a book which is hugely and clumsily about gender relations and dynamics, Ben Hobart doesn’t get so much as a cameo.  Blah blah exposition about the excitement of Mal’s job as sixth-grade secretary and an upcoming fundraiser.

Mr. Williams announces it’s time for another round of Short Takes.  I’ve tried to the point of migraine to understand how Short Takes conceivably works in the SMS schedule, both on a daily basis and on a grading period basis, and I still can’t make it work.  Whatever.  For what it’s worth ($0.000001), Mal says that “everyone in the school studies the same topic intensely for a short time” even though in this VERY BOOK, the eighth graders don’t appear to be doing it.  Anyway, the topic is “children’s literature” and Mal squeals like a hyperactive pig.


If only she were this fashionable.

I’m pretty sure THAT is more mockworthy than getting straight As, but Mal deems the laughter as “good-natured” because apparently the whole class knows she wants to be an author/illustrator when she grows up.  Oh, God, did they have to listen to a presentation during the clusterfuck of #81?   Also, Mal, you draw mice in fucking high-tops.  You still wanna illustrate?

Anyway, one of the teachers is the sex-ay Damien Cobb who “just graduated” from Princeton. (more on that later)  I say “one,” but no one but Mal’s class seems to exist from this point on, so whatever.  Maria Fazio wants to hit that.  She should go have a chat with Stacey.

Mal tells Jessi she’s “ecstatic” and when she goes home she “wasn’t walking.  I was floating.”  I supposed I should be glad she didn’t say “literally floating” which I know is petty and proscriptive of me, but still bugs me when people use it as the opposite of what it means.

References: besides Mrs. F, which I think is probably laziness, and Mr. Williams,  we’ve got Benny Ott (oh, hey, he was actually in Mal’s homeroom way back in Hello, Mallory), Janet O’Neal, (14) Rachel Robinson (14), Randy Rademacher (75), Nan White (39), Maria Fazio (75).  Somewhat disturbingly to me, a girl I went to school with has apparently gotten sucked into the vortex.  Nice knowing you, Laura Nelson.  Sorry you’re never going to get those braces off.

Chapter 2

Mal is so busy fantasizing about her Short Takes class that Vanessa wanders into their room at 5:27.  “I’d spaced on the Baby-sitters Club  meeting. Which is something you never ever want to do.”  That’s not fucking healthy, hon.

Kristy must be having an off day, because Mal doesn’t get a full-fledged look and fifty lashes, just a raised eyebrow.  In recompense, Mal says Kristy may be bossy, but she’s the “glue that holds them together.”  Except when she disbanded you a few books back, because you, Mal, had the temerity to want to pursue a project that was near and dear to your heart.

Also, I really didn’t need a description of Mallory mopping up her sweat.

Blah blah blah Chapter 2 stuff.  A few highlights: “You’d think such a powerhouse person would be tall.  But [Kristy] isn’t. She’s the shortest girl in the eighth grade.”  Huh? Mary Anne has a cool short haircut and cries, Logan has a charming Southern accent.  Stacey is gorgeous, and did Mal mention gorgeous?

Claudia outfit: “. . .denim overall shorts, a short black t-shirt, red-and-white pin-striped stockings that came over the tops of her knees, red thick-soled patent leather shoes, and a black felt derby.”  HIDDY.  No outfit based around “denim overall shorts” is fabulous on anyone over the age of four.  She sounds like Waldo’s demented cousin, the one no one would WANT to find, but can’t look away from.

I still can’t get over Rachel Stevenson’s “publishing” job that puts her in Kristy’s filthy rich neighborhood, after less than five years in the business.  WAT.

Anyway, Mal answers the phone and it’s Buddy Barrett.  Egads!  What canst be afoot?  Buddy, on the verge of tears, says that he’s in trouble, and the first of the books totally nonsensical subplots groans into existence.  Buddy and Lindsey were fighting because Lindsey’s Brownie troop is marching in the Memorial Day parade, and Buddy said he was going to march, too, but “they” (the parade organizers?) said he couldn’t march unless he was part of a group.  So, obviously, he told them he was in a marching band, and they were like, “oh, okay then,” instead of saying, “well, have your director call us and we’ll give them the information.”  Mal tells him not to panic and the BSC will solve the problem.

Kristy erupts in rage at the injustice of it all.  “That makes me so mad! The Boy and Girl Scouts, including the Cub Scouts and Brownies, always march in the parade. But what about all those other kids who don’t belong to any groups?  They should be able to be in the parade, too.”

For heaven’s sake, this isn’t discrimination against non-group-joiners, Kristy.  It’s because kids need to be fucking supervised and kept track off.   I think Kristy’s damage here is that there are kids involved in groups she isn’t personally controlling, which messes up her brainwashing methods.

Anyway, Kristy declares that with God as her witness, there will be a marching band!  And when sitters raise relevant points like “who will be in the band” and “none of these children actually play instruments,” Kristy dismisses them as “minor details.”

“Kristy is amazing.  During the last ten minutes of our meeting, she managed to convince us that if we put on our thinking caps, we’d be able to organize a big band of children, teach them to play instruments, and even make their costumes--all in less than twenty-five days!”


Yeah, she’s amazing all right.  

Chapter 3

Warning: some of the things I say in this chapter are REALLY nit-picky, and possibly a little snobby.

The sex-ay Mr. Cobb waltzes into class in a “collarless shirt, jeans, and a black vest” and shiny shiny hair and teeth.  My twitching begins.  He yells “Salutations!”and asks Jimmy Bouloukos what book that’s from.  Jimmy pretends he’s thinking of the answer and another girl, Megan Armstrong, gets sick of this and is like “Charlotte’s Web.”  

Mr. Cobb’s response? Even in sixth grade (maybe especially in sixth grade), if I’d had a teacher who tapped his nose and said “Exactomundo!” I would have passed out from secondhand embarrassment.  

He goes on to say “I am a huge attention whore We won’t be reading Charlotte’s Web, but it’s good that you know the field.  Also, I’m a pretentious snot rag.

Mallory preens about her expertise in “the field” and OMG I really can’t with this any more.  Mallory.  YOU ARE A CHILD.  READING CHILDREN’S BOOKS IS WHAT YOU ALL DO IN EVERY SINGLE CLASS AT THIS GOD-FORSAKEN SCHOOL.  BECAUSE YOU ARE CHILDREN.  YOU ARE NO MORE AN EXPERT IN THE FIELD THAN YOU ARE AN EXPERT ON ORTHODONTIA BECAUSE YOU WEAR BRACES.

Mr. Cobb name-drops his Princeton degree to a bunch of sixth-graders and then mentions how he coaches the baseball team, so all the boys start randomly cheering for him.  Then he claims that he “volunteered” to teach this course because analyzing literature for all ages “may rank up there as one of my favorite things.”  And yet, I already suspect he bites at it.

Hmm.  This is possibly regional or institution-specific cultural, but people I know wouldn’t generally say they “graduated with” a master’s degree.  Also, like most top-tier research universities, Princeton does not offer a separate MA degree in its English graduate department.  You earn one incidentally on the way to the Ph.D, because, honestly, an MA in a humanities discipline is kind of useless, in practical/professional terms.  And I say this as someone with both an MA and an MFA, doing a job that barely requires my BA, if that.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved work I got to do earning those degrees, and I’m glad I got to do them, but. . .yeah.  

I’m being snippy about this, though, in part because it hits a sore spot for me, which is the idea that teaching is not a unique and demanding job requiring very specific skills, training and experience entirely separate from mastery of the academic subject.  (I have a lot of feels about Teach for America for exactly this reason).  In particular, I think it's is ree-goddamn-diculous to assume that Ivy League students, on the basis of being "smart," are going to be good teachers.  Princeton, at least now, offers a specific teacher preparation program that includes pedagogy, psychology, and student teaching, but I find myself doubting ol’ Damien deigned to take them.  So I’m kind of wondering just when and where Mr. Cobb did his student teaching, and why a tony rich whitebread town like Stoneybrook can’t at least pretend better hiring standards.


Because, okay, there are a bunch of ways you could do a picture book analysis class for sixth graders.  You could do a loose survey and look at trends over time, and talk about reasons for those trends, even throwing in some photocopies from early, moralist children’s literature for context.  You could pick a bunch of issues, in various levels of seriousness (from, say, sibling rivalry to coping with death) and look at texts than handle them and compare and contrast them.  You could look at a whole bunch of variations on one fairy tale or folk story.  You could spend a couple of weeks on "non-fiction" picture books and evaluate how well they convey the information on their topics.  And this is stuff I made up in about ten minutes while eating dry Cookie Crisp cereal while my cat was feeling me up.

What you SHOULDN’T do is have a shapeless class of randomly selected texts with no direction of objectives.  That’s a privilege reserved for tenured professors, who can get away with building a class on “Things I’m Writing a Book About,” or “Random Texts I Can’t Fit into a Syllabus,” and is generally offered to grad students on the assumption that by the time they’ve gotten there, they have the analytical skills to work out the shape of the course for themselves.  Eleven-year-olds sometimes still need to be reminded to brush their teeth.  (Okay, so do some grad students, so maybe not the best example.)

Sigh.  Back to the book.



Then Mr. Cobb marches around the room to yell all dramatically at Mallory to put her notebook and pens away.  She says she thought they would be writing papers, feeding directly into his stupid No, I’m The Cool Teacher fantasy.  

“Wrong!” he spun dramatically. “We will be doing a lot of thinking. This course is a meeting of the minds.”


Oh, Lord, we’ve got another newbie who watched Dead Poet’s Society too many times.

He goes on to say that he’ll be grading them almost exclusively on class participation and how well they express their ideas in class discussions, and this is a bad idea for so many reasons.  And really, it just makes me think he’s lazy as fuck and doesn’t want to grade papers.  It takes a really good teacher to manage a class discussion that includes everyone and doesn’t let a few people dominate while leaving others out.  I’ve had professors who can’t do it.  Also, these are SIXTH-GRADERS.  I can almost guarantee they need the writing practice.  Seriously, have them keep reading journals or write a one-paragraph “response” to each book, or write short reports on other books not covered in class.  You don’t even have to grade them individually, just check/plus/minus.  (I even had a graduate professor who more or less did this, and I appreciated it--it made me marginally less panicked, especially the first few weeks.)  

Most of the kids are all excited not to have to write papers, though.  WHICH DOESN’T MEAN THEY SHOULDN’T BE WRITING THEM.  They will have to write one paper about an “end-of-the-class project to further children’s literature” and that is a bullshit paper topic if I ever heard one.  And note how it doesn’t actually ask them to analyze a fucking text, Mr. Princeton.  Anyway, their first book will be Where the Wild Things Are.


Sandra Hart, the sixth-grade VP who will be playing the ditzy girl in this book squeals about how cute Mr. Cobb is, and wonders how old he is.  Maybe she should have a chat with Stacey.  Mallory doesn’t care because she is worried about this whole class participation thing, and Sandra says Mallory only wants to write papers because she ‘s a brain.  “I heard about your straight As” she says, like it’s a big scandal.

Mallory gets all defensive in her head about how grades matter less than doing her best work, although she’ll spend the rest of the book obsessing about losing her straight A average, which she hates so much because it makes kids tease her.  (Hey, I used to get obsessive about my grades, too, but it wasn’t because I had any illusions of expressing my deep commitment to geometry.)

So she goes home and takes a huge number of notes on every Maurice Sendak book in the house, when Jessi calls to announce that K. Ron has decreed they should all be making band instruments with their charges.  We’ll get to that ridiculousness in a bit.

The next day, Mallory immediately raises her hand, someone calls her Miss Know-it-all, so she lowers it and then raises her hand again. 

Mr. Cobb “looks at her vaguely” and calls on Randy, and I don’t really know what that’s about, unless he’s supposed to be one of the baseball players.  That's not accidental, Mr. Cobb.  Randy and some other boys theorize that the wild things are “on the other side of the world” which. . .yeah, is not really convincing, but Mr. Cobb is so into this Mallory begins to doubt her (standard) analysis that they are in Max’s imagination.  So Mr. Cobb listens to this one not-great answer and moves on to a new question, which is why he’s not ready to teach this kind of discussion class.

After awhile, with Mal’s hand sadly waving in the air and not being called on, he gives the class a five minute break, and my head hurts
from trying to figure out if they’re on block scheduling or he can’t manage a fifty-minute class period.  Then they switch to “on the spot” analysis, and Mal freaks out about how she’ll manage without the notes that have served her so well so far.  Mr. Cobb calls on her, but gets her name wrong.  I bet she wishes she was the glamourous Valerie Spike, though.  He gives her a copy of Green Eggs and Ham to read out loud and she’s so rattled she does it horribly, despite Claire and Margo telling her the night before she’s the best reader ever.  First she’s too quiet, than she’s too fast, than she skips a line, then she slows to a crawl.  Benny Ott rudely pretends to snore and Mr. Cobb doesn’t chew him out, because Cool Teachers let bullies run wild, lest they stifle their creativity.  Also, it takes her so long to read--and Dr. Seuss books aren’t actually that short to read, anyway--that the bell rings before they do any analyzing.  Great job, Mr. Cobb.


At least Fluffy is engaged with the text.

Mallory rushes to the bathroom, wondering how many things could go wrong in a single class, and thinks of herself as “Valerie, the totally mixed-up Pike.”  The thing is, I actually feel for her a lot, but the level of anxiety attacks she’s having sound like they belong in a Mary Anne book.  You girls aren’t allowed to BOTH have a character trait, you know.  Even Stacey and Claudia split “fashionable” into "junior 80s chic" and "postmodern LSD trip."

References: in addition to previously-seen Benny Ott and Randy Rademacher, we also have cameos by Elise Coates (55), Robbie Mara (59), Chris Brooks (59), Chris Avazian (75), Jimmy Bouloukos (75), Glen Johnson (59), Liz Cohen (75).  Sandra Hart also apparently appeared in #75.


Chapter 4

Stacey: What do you get when you take seven annoying kids and a bunch of crap from recycling bin?
Claudia: . . .(drool). . .(actually, more like “drul”)
Stacey: Well, you sure don’t get a marching band.  But you get a wild night! Yuk, yuk.


This subplot is so, so stupid, you guys.  My cat just got stuck in a grocery bag and even she thinks this plot is stupid.


So Claudia and Stacey drag a bunch of cardboard boxes and empty detergent bottles and toilet paper tubes and discarded bongs over to the Barrett/DeWitt household, somehow under the impression that they will be making musical “instruments.”  (If anything in these books deserved unnecessary quotations, these sure as hell do.) The kids are loud and obnoxious and chaotic, blah blah blah, and Mrs. DeWitt is like “the hell is all this crap?”  Madeleine is like “omg omg squeak squeak PARADE” and Mrs. DeWitt is all “buh?”  Awesome organizing, Kristy, to plan to forcibly recruit all these children without asking their parents.  What happens later on will almost serve you right.

Claudia repeats the stupid line about how it’s not faaaaaiiiiir that kids have to be in a group to march in the parade, and blah blah blah marching band.  For some reason, Franklin looks at this pile of crap and asks if they’re building instruments with saws and drills, and Claudia laughs and says no, just tape and blunt scissors.  I’m pretty sure cutting cardboard with blunt scissors is one of the circles of Hell.  Before they leave, Mrs. DeWitt quietly asks that they not totally destroy the house, because they finally got it cleaned up.  

So of course as soon as the parents leave, the kids begin fighting and arguing over who gets which piece of cardboard and destroying the room, so Stacey and Claudia pretend they hear the parents coming back and trick them into cleaning up, and peace reigns until Suzi practically starts to cry over how sad her “instrument” is.  Stacey claims it’s a “google-blaster” and “plays” it by humming into the toilet-paper tubes.  Marnie, amazingly, seems to have matured slightly, since she says “Stacey! What mine?” wanting Stacey to name her “instrument,” which is both cute and more or less verbally age-appropriate.  Her milk jug with stickers is a “snorkaphone” and Taylor’s oatmeal box with paper-towel tubes is a “hum-drum.”  In the midst of all this “fun,” the phone rings and Claudia and Stacey think that somehow their cardboard and plastic can make a ringing noise.  Have they been sniffing that glue?  Don’t hate, ventilate!

Anyway, it’s Mary Anne on the phone practically in tears because she’s been trying to make an instrument with Jenny and they’ve basically glued tubes to a Kleenex box.  Stacey is like “OMG, us too,” and they discuss how they’ve “given up” on making artsy trumpets and shit, like SERIOUSLY they thought that would happen?  Mary Anne asks if the instruments actually play music and Stacey is like “gee willickers, let’s find out!” so she lines them up and tells them to play “Jingle Bells.”  The fuck?  And of course, it sounds as shitty as you would expect from a bunch of kids banging on oatmeal boxes and blowing on plastic jugs. 

This cat sounds better.

Well, except apparently one of their instruments says “Moo!”  Again, the fuck?  Did Peter Legrangis sneak in while Jahnna and Malcolm were passed out in a drunken stupor?  Seriously, make a toilet paper tube moo, and you will have a sensation on YouTube.  In his honor, I attached the waaaank! tag.

Stacey asks Mary Anne if she heard that and Mary Anne is like, “yeah, that was awful, what was it?” like, did Mary Anne dip into Sharon’s stash earlier?  Context clues, honey.

So they clean up and as they leave, Stacey whispers dramatically to Claudia that she hates to break the news, but she thinks this might be. . .A DISASTER.

Okay, for real, thirteen-year-olds--thirteen-year-olds who vacation alone and are entrusted to care for children--thought they were going to make actual musical instruments out of random garbage?  SERIOUSLY?  When I was SIX I wouldn’t have believed that.  Like, seriously, I remember being at Vacation Bible School and having to make “harps” out of Kleenex boxes and rubber bands while we learned about David and King Saul or something, and thinking “This is ridiculous.”


Chapter 5

The sixth-grade officers are having a Very Important Meeting about yet another subplot in the memory garden.  Mallory reports on the sixth-grade fundraiser, to raise money for their class gift.  Isn’t that usually something the outgoing class does?  Anyway, they’re going to have a different event/booth/thing every day of the week, and I already have a headache.  I hate fundraising shit like this in real life; how is it fun to read?  Also, Mallory has named this a “Fun-raiser!” which blows the tiny minds of everyone present, but makes me headdesk because that’s exactly the kind of faux-creative corporate speak I have to deal with--and God held me, sometimes write--in my day job.  

Mallory details the plans and Justin gives her a condescending compliment, which makes her blush.  Then they discuss what to spend their fun(d)s on, which is “very important” and their class’s legacy.  You know, I liked my undergrad a hell of a lot more than my middle school, and I don’t even remember what my class gift there was.  I think it was a fancy outdoor clock or something.

Anyway.  Justin suggests sports equipment, which Mal grudgingly writes down even though she hates gym.  Justin says the tumbling mats are worn out, and if that’s true, shouldn’t the school be replacing them?  Wouldn’t worn out tumbling mats be, y’know, kind of unsafe?  God, SMS is terrible.  For some reason, I’m amused that Mallory says “Not everyone’s a sports fan” while thinking “Let next year’s class buy sports equipment.”  Sucks to be you, uncoordinated fifth graders.  (But the only ten year olds in Stoneybrook are the triplets, I guess.)  

They brainstorm more (Lisa suggests painting the lockers, because her locker is “peeling and has graffiti all over it” and Justin rejects this because they’d have to be repainted again in a few years.  Seriously, what does SMS spend its money on, besides ridiculous Short Takes classes?)  Meanwhile, Sandra, still playing the role of That Ditzy Girl, is brushing her hair and applying lip gloss and waving to boys and simpering that Justin’s ideas sound just great.  Mallory rolls her eyes, but decides she is too intimidated to offer her own ideas--library books and mirrors in the bathroom.  Not everyone’s a fan of telling their reflection they need a nose job, Mal. 

Hilariously, she says she wouldn’t have been “embarrassed” to share her ideas at a BSC meeting.  Yeah, because the good ideas would be commandeered by K. Ron, taking all the credit.


Justin suggests Mal should look up the minutes from previous sixth-grade class meetings, and I laugh and laugh at the idea that SMS archives this crap.  Are they suspecting a FOIA request?  Maybe about the actual age of Sabrina Bouvier?


Later Mallory and Sandra run off to Mr. Cobb’s class, and Sandra giggles creepily about wanting to see what Mr. Cobb is wearing, although it’s not as creepy as Mal’s detailed description of his “crisp tan chinos, leather boat shoes, and an ice-blue linen shirt that matched the color of his eyes.  He defined cute.”


Today they’re talking about Chris Van Allsburg (because, hey, it’s just picture books, why bother having any kind of logical organization of texts on the syllabus?) and Mal, always a free spirit, declares him one of her “top three favorite author-illustrators.”  Mr. Cobb says that The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is his favorite, and Mal blurts out “me, too!” and then literally covers her mouth.  Mr. Cobb is all “Valerie?  Valerie?  Do you have something to say?”  She mutters that her name is Mallory and he can’t hear her, and dude, are you too lazy to even take attendance or look at your class list?  Megan Armstrong, sick of this bullshit, corrects him.  I kind of like this Megan Armstrong girl, and I’m vaguely impressed she’s allowed to be Korean without an overtly Asian or faux-Asian name.  Well-played, Malcolm and Jahnna.  

So Mr. Cobb calls on Mallory, but she’s too frozen with terror, so Bobby Gustavson (75) raises his hand and announces his family reads The Polar Express every Christmas and Mal is all mad because she was going to say that.  Seriously, it’s not all that innovative a tradition, Mal.  She raises her hand later, for basically the whole class, and Mr. Cobb is oblivious while a bunch of boys, and occasionally Lisa (the class treasurer) have “heated discussions.”  I’m trying to imagine a heated discussion between eleven-year-olds about a Van Allsburg book.

(These chapters seem really long!)

Mal goes home and sulks rather than read Make Way for Ducklings, then begins to peruse the previous sixth grade minutes.  I laugh and laugh that one class donated chalk.  I’d like to think that was kind of a fuck you to the whole thing

Then she finds a report from five years ago that the class had pledged $1,000 to the library fund to buy furniture and magazine subscriptions for a student lounge.  But zut alors!  SMS has no student lounge!  It’s a. . .MYSTERY! Mallory notes that those students must now be in high school, and wonders if the students know their precious lounge never came about.  The brilliant detective doesn’t consider that

    1. Since they did the fundraising in sixth grade, they knew there wasn’t one for at least the next two years and nothing happened.
    2. It’s not that hard to find a high school student to ask.  Five years ago would be Janine Kishi’s or Sam Thomas’s class, right?

For all the mysteries they “solve,” they are crap at it.

The Other Cat and I are out!  More bad teaching, clumsy attempts at feminist consciousness-raising, and "music" to come.


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[User Picture]From: thtsgoodsquishy
2013-01-21 02:59 am (UTC)

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There's a lot of good stuff here--between some of your lines and the kitty macros, you've left me smiling. However, I just can't get past the fact that they're in sixth grade and studying picture books. WTH, SMS. What, did they not have Junie B. Jones in the school library? No Magic Tree House? I was seriously sitting here going, Where the Wild Things Are? What, are they going to study Green Eggs and Ham next? AND THEY DID. Just...no. Do they not have books of short stories in Stoneybrook? I can understand not reading and examining a full-on novel at this age, but seriously.

For the insipid subplot, hello, just hand the kids kazoos. It's not that hard. Or just march as the BSC and their charges without any instruments whatsoever. They really make everything more difficult than it has to be, don't they?
[User Picture]From: alula_auburn
2013-01-21 03:30 am (UTC)

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spoiler alert: kazoos will be involved.

Like, I think you can legitimately practice some analysis skills on at least some picture books, and I'd like to think they're doing something else in their actual English classes, so this is at least theoretically better than the "Child Labor Rocks!" short take from Mystery in the Mall. But they're basically doing nothing, so. . .ugh. And CHILDREN cannot really become experts in CHILDREN'S LITERATURE. It just. . .doesn't work that way.
[User Picture]From: lippian
2013-01-21 04:15 pm (UTC)

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I would love an lit/art class analyzing the children's picture books that are actually art... definitely Sendak ( an excuse to watch Really Rosie which I'm always in the mood for) and Grahame Base and some McLoskey, Maybe DeBrounoff because it's just so weird and I LOVE reading "Babar and Zephir" to my daughter, it's completely trippy... Tikki Tikki Tembo; A Story, A Story; oh, we could throw in some Stephen Kellogg, especially Island of the Skog which is one of my favorite picture books of all time... do a snooty compare and contrast with Blake or something, to show the history of books with big honking pictures as art, show how they diverged from graphic novels, the inevitable examination of Fruedian symbolism in Suess and Jungian archetypes just about everywhere... I would love that class. I want to organize that class right now, hold it in my living room and invite all my friends-- you guys can come too. We'll have gluten-free scones. Love me some well-crafted children's books.

But, you know, I'm a grad student. In philosophy, with a special interest in aesthetics as applied to fine art. Not a sixth-grader.


Oh, and as a homeschool mom and someone who's tutored and taught without a teaching degree, I'd have to disagree a bit with your comment about needing to be taught to teach in order to teach... I think many people are naturally apt with kids and knowing a subject and loving it in front of kids can be a great teaching technique in itself, something someone with a teaching degree might overlook. But of course it's stupid to think that all good college students will become good teachers. You have to look at each case based on what the person's individual skills are.

Edited at 2013-01-21 04:19 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]From: alula_auburn
2013-01-21 07:06 pm (UTC)

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I would love to come over for gluten-free scones and picture book analysis. I wrote my MA thesis on The Light Princess and Christina Rosetti's Speaking Likenesses, illustrations included, and the latter of which involves a boy with porcupine quills poking little girls. I love the Victorians.

I do think there are people who are naturally gifted teachers, and education programs themselves vary so much in quality. (I've tutored and coached writing, taught small, short-term classes, and flirted with the idea of teaching in community colleges before I hit another massive anxiety flare-up.) But I also think a lot of times people think of teaching K-12 as "easy" because the subjects seem easy, which is one of the way teachers are devalued (which in turns steers bright people out of the profession anyway.) But there's a lot of teaching skills--like time management of a lesson plan, successfully moderating a discussion, accommodating a range of skills, interests and abilities--that people discount when they think of teaching reading or long division. And unlike a lot of other professions, teachers end up flying solo at lot sooner, so their on-the-job learning is at students' expense.

tl;dr we probably don't disagree all that much
[User Picture]From: lippian
2013-01-21 07:43 pm (UTC)

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Oh yes, I agree with all of that pretty much. I could have used some training in how to lesson plan before the summer I taught at the snooty enriched daycare, for sure. Just generally I think you should look at how much previous work they've done with kids, how their communication skills are, and then actually look in on the class now and then to see how things are going, rather than "does this person have a certain degree?"
[User Picture]From: a_b_cohen
2013-01-30 12:32 pm (UTC)

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Teaching one's own children and daycare children is drastically different than teaching an entire classroom full of kids.
[User Picture]From: lippian
2013-01-30 03:42 pm (UTC)

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This was an enriched daycare; I had to teach actual classes for most of the day.
[User Picture]From: a_b_cohen
2013-01-30 09:53 pm (UTC)

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If I was paying the money for my child to go to school and be taught by a teacher, I'd be livid if I found out the teacher wasn't credentialed. Creds don't guarantee a good teacher and no creds doesn't mean someone who doesn't know up from down, but the chances are much better than a credentialed teacher would have the skills necessary than someone who didn't go to school for it. I would not let an uncredentialed teacher be in charge of my child's education unless under the direct guidance of a credentialed teacher as part of a teaching program. Public schools don't allow it, so I wouldn't shell out the cost of a daycare for it either.
[User Picture]From: lippian
2013-01-30 11:00 pm (UTC)

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Well, at this school very few of the teachers were credentialed. It was a private enriched summer daycare, open 8-6 from late May to late August, and as far as I know the parents were quite satisfied. I taught my second and third graders Gregorian chant, a small amount of Latin, art appreciation, poetry appreciation, creative writing, figure drawing without a model, beginners' embryology, ecology, ethics, Catechism and some theatrical improvisation. I taught them how to have a group discussion, complete with polite and impolite ways to interrupt or disagree. I also read aloud from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, also a selection from Thurber among other things. They always complained that the other teachers they saw didn't give them enough of a challenge. When I supervised their snacktime, I made them sit still, pass the snacks around instead of snatching, have a polite conversation and put napkins on their laps. All that was new to them.

Personally I believe that the current state of American schools is so appalling, anyone who hasn't been brainwashed by the system has a better chance of getting it right. The children didn't even know how to sit still or have a conversation at the beginning of the summer... I can't say who's to blame for that but apparently credentialed teachers are not doing their jobs if school children act like animals.
[User Picture]From: a_b_cohen
2013-01-30 11:14 pm (UTC)

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It's quite clear you think yourself superior to all the credentialed teachers out there. Have you paid attention to the news? So many parents sue schools over failing kids who don't do their homework and for acting out. Many parents expect schools to find ways to make school super-spechul-fun-timez for each kid, and if a kid is every struggling, rather than encouraging them to learn how to handle challenges, so many parents take that to mean their kids have disabilities and need exceptions made to accommodate them.

The modern notion that a child ever being upset or struggling with anything is damaging to their long-term self esteem isn't helping this. It's contributing to the idea that teachers must "let kids be kids" complete with misbehavior that is now considered to be nothing more than kids "asserting their independence" and any attempt to stifle is as a form of emotional abuse. Some schools have gone as far as to disallow ALL forms of punishment. No more detention, nothing, as any of this might single out a student and make that student feel bad. When I was a kid, this was motivation to behave!

My in-laws are almost all teachers and all have to deal with this. If you get a kid who's acting out in class and you put the kid in time-out, you risk an irate parent insisting that Little Johnny can't help it (just like the "he doesn't know better" reaction, to which I saw they need to be taught, and making excuses is missing the opportunity to teach) and how dare the teacher make him feel bad by singling him out for his own behavior and making him sit in a time-out seat. My mother-in-law's school spent $150,000 on attorneys to defend against an allegation by a couple stupid parents that their son was adversely affected by being expelled after he repeatedly groped a female student. The school was forced to readmit him and that victimized girl dropped out. When that sort of crap is what happens, of course schools are lenient on punishment.

Education and behavior should never be 100% on the teachers. Are the parents letting their kids run wild at home and expecting the teachers to teach the kids to sit still? Education is a parent-teacher partnership, but all too often the parent side is left out these days, and every kid is expected to be treated like a special snowflake and the teachers blamed for everything. Parents have far more hours with their children than teachers, so why the hell is it 100% the teacher's responsibility to teach kids how to listen and sit still and do their homework? It's a lazy PARENTAL fail if kids haven't learned anything by the time kindergarten starts.
[User Picture]From: lippian
2013-01-30 11:21 pm (UTC)

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Um, I never said I was superior to anyone and I'm not sure why you're so angry about a discussion in a snark. You're acting quite superior yourself by telling me how angry you'd be if you found I was a teacher. I just said what I did and what I observed. And I did discipline the children, so I don't know why you're dragging that into it at all. I had a ticket system of rewards and punishments, and also a sticker chart. I believed in challenging them rather than letting them feel good all the time. That's what I just stated I did.

Of course education and behavior shouldn't be 100% on teachers, which is why I plan to homeschool my daughter in the first place. But if no one is helping the children to grow up, somebody has to, and while I worked in the daycare I did. Public schools in the area I taught in have been in a state of disaster for decades.

If you were one of my second and third graders right now I'd give you a green warning ticket and remind you of some of the proper rules for having a discussion: no personal attacks, listen respectfully before you talk.

Edited at 2013-01-31 01:15 am (UTC)
[User Picture]From: julietvalcouer
2013-01-21 07:46 pm (UTC)

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What, did they not have Junie B. Jones in the school library? No Magic Tree House?

Depending on at what point this one was written? No, actually. They WOULD, however, have a stack of YA/kids' books going back to the 1960s and earlier, all the "classics" ie old enough no one is likely to object (you aren't going to want to mention SVH or the Saddle Club, no, but Nancy Drew is practically public domain, "Misty of Chincoteague", "Charlotte's Web", "Sounder", "The Egypt Game", "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler", "The Westing Game", "Johnny Tremain", all Ruth Chew's stuff, John Bellairs (though he was alive and writing when some of these were written so possibly another one they'd want to avoid), Beverly Clearly, Laura Ingalls Wilder....I'm probably about Mallory's "age", if we go by date of first publication, or close to it, and there are plenty of relatively short "novels" aimed at young readers. (Okay, probably I am not the right example as at 11 I averaged one book that length PER DAY, but still they wouldn't take long to read.)

If he were ORGANIZED, yes, I could see starting with Sendak, Seuss, etc. and moving on. But I can't see spending three classes on picture books written for children five or six years younger when your'e supposed to be teaching sixth graders.
[User Picture]From: thtsgoodsquishy
2013-01-23 12:56 am (UTC)

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I got curious and had to check--both of those series started in 1992; this book came out in '97. I'll admit I wasn't seriously thinking of books available at that time, but late in '97 I started working in a bookstore and I seem to recall MTH and Junie were always around.

Granted...
1) Yeah, if it was like my grade school library, they'd be lucky to have anything newer than the '80s, and
2) This is a book with Ann's name on it, even if it was ghost-written, so we'd be lucky if she knew of any books popular past the '60s. Though she does name-drop an awful lot of authors/books (I'm thinking of the Missing Since Monday snark, I believe, which was pretty egregious); you'd think she'd name-drop something contemporary or at least age-appropriate. But no.

Beverly Cleary. She would have been an awesome choice! Oh, Ramona, the Mallory of your time.

So glad I'd stopped reading this series long before this book. This would have been one I'd thrown across the room.
[User Picture]From: kakeochi_umai
2013-01-21 04:01 am (UTC)

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Eeeee, I've been looking forward to this!

(I was always way more sympathetic to Rachel than to Stephanie, even before she got her own book.)
I've always remembered Rachel's line, "I detest the word normal. I detest the way Stephanie throws it around." That made me very much Team Rachel and very much not Team Stephanie.

Re Mal getting teased for being a "brainiac": I was watching Akeelah and the Bee yesterday and that gives a much more realistic portrayal. Then again, Ann's protagonists can barely take a dump without the whole world caring about every last detail, so this is nothing new, I guess.

I think Kristy’s damage here is that there are kids involved in groups she isn’t personally controlling, which messes up her brainwashing methods.
This. I love that there's all this hate for kids doing organised activities away from their parents (the latter part gets criticised in other books) when that's pretty much what happens every time they get babysat for by the Cult.

In particular, I think it's is ree-goddamn-diculous to assume that Ivy League students, on the basis of being "smart," are going to be good teachers.
THIS, and if these books were better-written I'd wonder if his suckiness as a teacher were a commentary on that, but I ain't giving these writers that much credit.

Then Mr. Cobb marches around the room to yell all dramatically at Mallory to put her notebook and pens away.
This shaming makes me so ragey, and makes me wonder if he's taking out issues he had with classmates who were more studious than him or something.

Oh, Lord, we’ve got another newbie who watched Dead Poet’s Society too many times.
I actually had the pleasure of attending a conference with one of these when I was working as an English teaching assistant, complete with the words "THROW THE TEXTBOOKS AWAY!!!eleventy!"

Sadly my lunchbreak is now over so I'll have to wait until this evening to read the rest. There'll probably be more comments, though. :D

Edited at 2013-01-21 08:14 am (UTC)
[User Picture]From: carey_pontmercy
2013-01-21 08:44 am (UTC)

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Oh, Lord, we’ve got another newbie who watched Dead Poet’s Society too many times.

When it comes to movies about all-boys' prep schools, I prefer to model my teaching methods after School Ties instead. All I really have to do is give the student council way too much power in dealing with honor code violations and occasionally drive somebody to suicide through French oral exams.
[User Picture]From: kakeochi_umai
2013-01-21 09:13 am (UTC)

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Stacey: ... But you get a wild night!
*snerk*

Stacey claims it’s a “google-blaster”
If that doesn't mean rigging Google so that Kristy Thomas's profile comes up when you type in "evil dictator", I'm not interested.

Justin says the tumbling mats are worn out, and if that’s true, shouldn’t the school be replacing them? Wouldn’t worn out tumbling mats be, y’know, kind of unsafe?
...
Lisa suggests painting the lockers, because her locker is “peeling and has graffiti all over it” and Justin rejects this because they’d have to be repainted again in a few years. Seriously, what does SMS spend its money on, besides ridiculous Short Takes classes?
...
Mallory rolls her eyes, but decides she is too intimidated to offer her own ideas--library books and mirrors in the bathroom

OK, I wasn't going to insert a reference to the scene in Akeelah and the Bee where she says "Why would anybody want to represent a school where they can't even put doors on the toilet stalls?" but YOU HAVE MADE ME DO IT, SMS.

I laugh and laugh that one class donated chalk. I’d like to think that was kind of a fuck you to the whole thing
Ha, YES. (Although from what we've seen so far it's entirely possible that SMS's chalk budget went on Short Takes crap too...)
[User Picture]From: kakeochi_umai
2013-01-21 10:55 am (UTC)

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Also, regarding Mallory's distress over the lack of mirrors in the bathrooms: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOjKONVANvg&t=2m10s
[User Picture]From: alula_auburn
2013-01-21 03:25 pm (UTC)

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I almost wrote "What kind of shitty school, in an upper middle class town, needs its students to fund raise for chalk?" Because, sure, there ARE schools that lack basic supplies--but not in towns with a neighborhood of mansions, a university, and a museum, among other things.

Then I thought maybe because there are so many damn private schools that Stoneybrook is really stingy in its property taxes, and I realized that when I"m speculating about tax policies and school bond issues in a BSC book, I probably need to get a grip.
[User Picture]From: kahran042
2013-01-21 03:13 pm (UTC)

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I'm pretty sure that "Mallory and the Dream Horse" implies that Buddy is a Cub Scout, making at least part of the marching-band subplot fall apart.
[User Picture]From: alula_auburn
2013-01-21 03:29 pm (UTC)

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You are awesome! I totally forgot that but I just ran to check (I AM that dorky) and yup, he wears a Cub Scout uniform for his "animal trainer" act. I love that this inane plot is so completely contradicted. I just assumed he wasn't because most "nice" BSC charges have no truck with such subversive activities. (You know the BSC doesn't really consider that interloper Lindsay DeWitt one of their own.)
[User Picture]From: kahran042
2013-01-21 04:00 pm (UTC)

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Thanks. I just tend to be good at remembering little details like that. It may be a useless skill, but I'm quite proud of it.
[User Picture]From: julietvalcouer
2013-01-21 07:38 pm (UTC)

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I would guess it's a regionalism, as I'm not getting a problem saying you graduated with a Master's degree in something....?

I have no real problem not requiring a teaching degree to teach, as honestly it doesn't seem to help most of the teachers I've ever encountered and is mostly about conditioning them to accept random and inconsistent state standards and Edu-speak. But you'd think they would at least have to student-teach and learn how to produce a coherent lesson plan aimed at that particular developmental level of kids. Mr. Cobb really does sound a LOT like a college professor who thinks he's hip (or at least someone teaching prep-school seniors) and who favors athletes over academics (ask my mom, University of Michigan ca. 1965, how that works in undergrad). He's probably based on the ghosts' actual professors and I suspect they haven't set foot in a middle school for years.

Kristy, if you're going to crib ideas from "The Music Man", it would probably behoove you to remember Harold Hill 1. ordered real instruments and 2. was a con artist.

So, let me get this straight--SMS is in a pretty affluent-sounding suburb of Stamford and they can't afford mirrors in the bathroom, replacing unsafe gym mats, painting the lockers and preventing graffiti on them, or CHALK without making their students do a ridiculous amount of fund-raising?
[User Picture]From: kahran042
2013-01-21 09:10 pm (UTC)

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My theory is that they can, but they're just cheap. That, or embezzling the money for their own nefarious purposes.
[User Picture]From: sidndnancy
2013-01-21 08:15 pm (UTC)

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This book came out after I stopped reading but the snark alone is giving me second hand embarrassment for Mallory. And to think I always identified so strongly with you, Valerie!
From: (Anonymous)
2013-01-21 09:21 pm (UTC)

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Then she finds a report from five years ago that the class had pledged $1,000 to the library fund to buy furniture and magazine subscriptions for a student lounge. But zut alors! SMS has no student lounge!

I am totally hoping for a twist where Mallory finds out someone stole the money from the fund. Today $1,000 is, while not a life-changing sum, quite a bit of money; this book came out in 1997, so that means the money was collected in 1992, making it a fairly substantial amount.
[User Picture]From: wavvedout
2013-01-21 09:40 pm (UTC)

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UGH, this teacher reminds so strongly of high school classes taught by one of the coaches- now don't get me wrong, some of them were awesome and taught well (hell, one of my good friends is a coach who teaches classes too), but every year, there had to be at least one coach in my school who taught one of the elective classes, so a bunch of jocks would make sure to enroll in them, and the coach would immediately know them and let them run free like freaking horses, while the rest of us got called by the wrong names and desperately tried to absorb even an ounce of knowledge on a subject. "Yes, Coach, I AM nerdy enought to want to learn insert interesting subject here! And no, my name isn't Tera. No, Tiffany is wrong, too." Maybe I'm being unfair and he will surprise me??

You girls aren’t allowed to BOTH have a character trait, you know. Even Stacey and Claudia split “fashionable” into "junior 80s chic" and "postmodern LSD trip."
Now thats funny.

and Dr. Seuss books aren’t actually that short to read, anyway
Uh, no even a little bit. Have you ever tried to read Dr Seuss' Sleep Book to a child before bed? By the time you finish, Carson Daly is on and you've lost precious hours of your own sleep.

[User Picture]From: frankdbunny
2013-01-21 11:04 pm (UTC)

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I actually took Children's Lit with the guy Dead Poets Society was based on.

The marching band subplot irritates me for so many reasons.

1) Nothing is prohibiting Buddy from joining Cub Scouts. (Yes, there are registration and uniform costs and transportation is a possible issue, but I see no reason why the DeWitts would let Lindsay join if they couldn't let Buddy.)
2) Marching in the parade isn't some God given right. It's perfectly understandable that Buddy is upset, but Kristy's acting like it's some sort of civil rights violation.
3) Just like in Keep Out Claudia, why do these girls think that organizing a bunch of kids, very few of whom have any musical training, into some sort of band is an easy task? Especially since none of them have any musical training themselves? It's been a while since I read this one, at any point do they consult Shannon or Anna?
[User Picture]From: lippian
2013-01-21 11:11 pm (UTC)

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Not having read this one, I had previously assumed that all this comm's references to "organizing the kids into a marching band" were hyperbole. Now I don't know whether to cry or jump off a cliff.

Edited at 2013-01-21 11:12 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]From: xenaeilonwy
2013-01-21 11:26 pm (UTC)

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Cry while jumping off a cliff!
[User Picture]From: xenaeilonwy
2013-01-21 11:39 pm (UTC)

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Took a break from BSC and the snarking thereof for about a month. This made me want to go back to both. Yei!

The cat pics were all priceless and "deconstructin Barbie doll head" is going to make me lulz nonstop for about a year.

LOVE THE CLAUDIA OUTFIT <3

I thought Mr. Cobb was gonna be a cool teacher until he started acting like a dick. D: Up until then, he seemed like the kind of teacher I spent middle and high school wishing I could have. And I love Mallory's confidence in THA FIELD. xD I'm always one of the first hand-raisers and I don't give shits of any color who calls me a know-it-all for it. ^_^

I feel like I am going to feel very very bad for Mal along the course of this snark.
[User Picture]From: choclytgremlins
2013-01-22 12:46 am (UTC)

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I don't think "Princeton" means what Ann thinks it means.

Although, rather depressingly, Mr. Cobb sounds like a couple of student teachers I had in middle and high school. The ones who came in thinking they were going to Change Our Lives with their Radical Education Ideals, and then discovered that 1) we were a bunch of miserable little shits without the slightest interest in them or their education ideals, and 2) even without the miserable-little-shits factor, most of their education ideals sucked. They always left in states of existential crisis.

AND OH MY GOD I AGREE WITH YOU SO MUCH ABOUT TEACH FOR AMERICA. TFA was one of the trendy things to do for graduates of the university where I did undergrad, and my friends who participated came out completely scarred because of the total lack of preparation and training that TFA provided them. I teach kids at an Ivy League school and I felt woefully underprepared for that even with the three months of intensive training I got; going into a classroom with more, younger, less prepared kids, way fewer resources, and way less training would be, as TVTropes calls it, high-octane nightmare fuel.
[User Picture]From: sukraj
2013-01-22 01:51 am (UTC)

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From: (Anonymous)
2013-01-22 02:18 am (UTC)

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I kind of like this Megan Armstrong girl, and I’m vaguely impressed she’s allowed to be Korean without an overtly Asian or faux-Asian name. Well-played, Malcolm and Jahnna.


I actually picture a Korean girl when I hear the name Megan, because one of my really good friends in school was a Megan who was adopted from Korea, funnily enough. Her parents' phone number was the first one I ever learned, and I still know it despite learning in kindergarten. I graduated high school almost ten years ago...

I so agree with you about Kristy's campaign. Like another commenter said, she acts like it's a civil rights violation. I was a Girl Scout from Daisies all the way to my Gold Award (GS version of Eagle Scout), and this book gave me the impression that joining groups like that are a bad thing. Also, Abby was a Girl Scout (it's mentioned in her portrait book) and it seemed to me like she should have stuck up for the organization.

Looking forward to the rest of the snark!

-bscag.blogspot.com
[User Picture]From: egadthearchaeo
2013-01-22 04:19 am (UTC)

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I can't believe these kids care enough to 1) look at Mallory's grade sheet when it fell to the floor and 2) spread it around the school like the latest hot gossip. Maybe I got lucky with the middle school I was in, but really what 6th grader gives that much of a crap about someone getting straight As?

Edited at 2013-01-22 04:19 am (UTC)
[User Picture]From: masterdivinity
2013-01-22 01:07 pm (UTC)

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I find it oddly hard to believe Mallory has straight As given her inability to do gym... and even less so that they would actually care she has straight As and be all "I heard about your As"... I dont know about SMS but in my elementary school (we were JK-8) everyone in 7th & 8th grade knew who the top students were, it wasn't a surprise and they tended to care more about the girl who developed early than the grades of everyone...

And really, BSC is bad for education- mocking Janine for being a dedicated student, mocking Mallory for getting straight As, revering Claudia for not knowing how to spell Claudia and it, having dances and other things every week, having Kristy jump over a baby-sitter for doing homework instead of taking a baby-sitting job......... I wonder how many girls tried to dumb themselves down to because they thought getting good grades was bad.
From: (Anonymous)
2013-01-22 04:38 pm (UTC)

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This is a good and sobering point, especially when you consider the series was published by Scholastic!
[User Picture]From: egadthearchaeo
2013-01-24 03:28 am (UTC)

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To be fair, when I was a kid reading the BSC, a lot of its mockery of intelligence went right over my head and didn't stop me from loving to learn. Maybe that's what happened with most of the kids reading the BSC (I hope)?
[User Picture]From: alula_auburn
2013-01-25 05:20 pm (UTC)

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That's a really good point, and it also reminds me of something I mentioned in part 2, when the BSC are actually being very nice and praising Mal, and then there's an immediate line about the phone ringing before she "got a swelled head." Because it's sort of implied that Mary Anne, Stacey and (sometimes) Kristy get As or almost all As, but there's definitely a vibe that it not cool to talk about that. Claudia can go on and on about art, or Kristy about sports, or Jessi about ballet, but it's not okay for someone like Janine to talk passionately about her interests. Which I honestly think is a bigger problem in American culture than just the BSC--we have a really weird relationship to education and elitism and intellectualism/anti-intellectualism--but there is something very nasty about reinforcing that in books like these.

It also makes me glad, honestly, that we didn't get more of Shannon, because I'm sure Ann would have fucked that up. I don't think Ann really has much. . .intellectual curiosity, maybe? She likes a very narrow range of things and can't really grasp that people genuinely like some of the things she dislikes/is bored by/doesn't understand. (Based on this book, I'm pretty sure music is another thing she doesn't understand, because you have to be REALLY non-musical to think toilet paper tubes and kazoos make a band.)
[User Picture]From: bcrowessteffi
2013-01-22 10:43 pm (UTC)

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I thought it was established early in the series that Kristy was a straight A student. Why, then, is it such a fuss that Mallory is one?
[User Picture]From: egadthearchaeo
2013-01-24 03:29 am (UTC)

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Because it's Mallory and Mallory must not be allowed to ever have anything good happen to her by decree of AMM.

Edited at 2013-01-24 03:29 am (UTC)
[User Picture]From: harpsi_fizz
2013-01-31 01:01 am (UTC)

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I’m being snippy about this, though, in part because it hits a sore spot for me, which is the idea that teaching is not a unique and demanding job requiring very specific skills, training and experience entirely separate from mastery of the academic subject.

I understand your irritation completely, and I've never, ever wanted to be a teacher. In 10th grade I was out on medical leave and my mother hired a teacher for me in Chemistry and people asked "wait, doesn't your mom have a doctorate in Chem?" and I was like "Yeah, but..." and couldn't really explain why she couldn't teach it to me.

I'm really glad that you put this point up, actually. I just went through a year long program and we didn't have teachers- we had people who were in the field dictate notes to us (literally; power point presentation ones were the worst, though) and assign us reading. So I'm feeling a little cheated (do you think that's... justifiable?) but at the same time, I also don't feel as bad for doing not-so-well in the final 1/3rd. In our first 1/3rd (January), our teacher was actually a woman who graduated from the very same program in December. I don't know, you bring up some very new information for me to think about...
[User Picture]From: fairest1
2013-03-21 02:36 am (UTC)

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*wanders in late* Your rant reminds me of an issue I have with the new Archie series that has loads of drama with the characters as adults. See, Archie never pursued higher education beyond a bachelor's in history, but somehow ended up as Riverdale High's music teacher. I actually had the chance to ask the writer about this at a con once, and the explanation seems to be that no one else applied for the job. A good teacher can be a godsend, but it seems like there are those in the world who take "Those who can't do, teach" as career advice.