Comic book curriculum: Giving youngsters what they want

T he gnarled drill instructor had his nose an inch from the recruit's nose as he bellowed in rage. Full Story
Tabloid writer

Bethlehem, PA

#1 Apr 3, 2009
I get upset with myself when I stoop so low to read your articles and then my husband reminds me that you need to sell papers. I just wish you would move on the one of those trashy celeb magazines. It is hard enough to get kids to read and you would criticize something that works. Did you ever think these comic books would be a stepping stone to books YOU would consider good books? Maybe you should ask your Japanese wife if she ever heard of manga and anime, after all this is were it originated. Damm those Japanese for making us in the states want to read.
Grandma

Allentown, PA

#2 Apr 3, 2009
This time you are wrong. I think better judgement could be used in the comic selection but kids who are not exposed to books and readers at home need to see reading as fun and not just a chore. Kids who are read to at home when they are little and watch their parents reading because they enjoy this activity probably do not need this incentive. Lets be honest, there are more kids in the first group then in the second. Anything that works is okay with me.
MrCole

Allentown, PA

#3 Apr 3, 2009
Mr. Carpenter,
I would like to take this opportunity to clear up a few misconceptions that you obviously have. The fact that you are not a teacher and do not have a degree in education is obvious in your opinions. As an individual qualified to discuss this (having a degree in education, 26 credits of graduate work split between work on literacy instruction, and educational leadership, and roughly 1,000 hours of professional development as an educator over the last couple of years) I would like to address some of your misconceptions;
You seem to be under the impression that comic books make up the only curriculum at Lehigh Parkway. To date their use for classroom instruction consists of two lessons. Comic books are used almost exclusively as independent reading, with only a handful of lessons where they can be used for a valid academic purpose (context clues, and making inferences). If you bothered researching before you wrote you would know that these skills are best modeled and taught embedded in short manageable text, so as not to overwhelm the students, the students then apply the skills, through a gradual release of responsibility to more challenging independent level text.
You also seem to be operating under the misconception that comic books are trash. Yes I agree there are certainly trashy, exploitative and shockingly inappropriate comic books out there. There are also pornographic magazines, erotic and trashy novels, and horribly low quality children’s literature out there as well. The same way that none of that trashy prose would end up in my classroom, the trash comic books will not end up there either.
While there is trash out there, comic books give us great stories that one could argue, compromise our modern American folklore. Spider-man taught me as a youth that “with great power comes great responsibility,” I learned from the x-men the dangers of hate and racism, but also the costs of letting the ignorance of others dictate your behavior. In more modern times the Marvel event “Civil War” teaches the dangers of an exploitative media culture, as well as how blind adherence to a certain ethos can cause destruction on a global, as well as personal level.
I find it concerning, in the interest of fairness, that you glossed over the fact that Watchmen is firmly on Time Magazine’s list of 100 greatest novels, or that Frank Miller’s Dark Knight was a NY Times bestseller, or that Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (issue 19 "A Midsummer Night's Dream" a fascinating re-imagining of the Shakespeare play, won the World Fantasy Award in 1991 for Best Short Fiction. While I am on the subject of Gaiman, a “lowly comic book author” are you aware that he won the Newberry award this year for The Graveyard Book or that Norman Mailer described his aforementioned Sandman series as "a comic book for intellectuals?"
I am glad that I had the opportunity to clear up your misconceptions, and I would like to conclude with some words from a mind much more astute than my own, and remind you that “the times they are a-changin'” and that it is our duty as educators to prepare our students for the modern world, and that equation includes promoting visual literacy, and not the world of the 1950’s.
Scott Cole
Alex

Allentown, PA

#4 Apr 3, 2009
WOW, was this really written by Paul Carpenter? Huh, finally he's getting it. The OLD ways are fading, and the OLDies need to get with it.
I must mention that we also need to educate our youngsters about manners. Is there a comic book for that?
Joe

Nazareth, PA

#5 Apr 3, 2009
Point is, What is wrong with the old way of doing certain things? The people who are running most of the country, grew up with "stable" in home values. Did we have gun problems like we do now in that era? Did most, if not all kids have respect for people on a whole back then as opposed to now? I agree with Paul. "some people, you just can't reach"
Alburtis

Macungie, PA

#6 Apr 3, 2009
I agree with Paul (OMG, did I just say that?). I had to endure the boring literature we had to read 30 years ago in elementary school. At the time, I did not see the need for it, always askinig, "what do we have to read this for?".(sound familiar) But today, as an adult and parent, I understand. And one thing, if anything I learned from doing "boring" work in school is that, "IT'S LIFE". Kids in this current generation think every minute of everyday needs to be a carnival. Well, get over it and just do the work. Someday, you will be grateful and understand. Trust me.
jim

Spring City, PA

#7 Apr 4, 2009
Finally we know where Carpenter received his education
Truth can hurt

Nazareth, PA

#8 Apr 4, 2009
As Scott Cole (and any other good teacher) will tell you, first you have to get the kids "hooked," almost by any means. Then, the skillful teacher moves the child to higher and higher levels.

Education is NOT unilateral. It's a partnership and the kids need to "buy-in" first.

I wouldn't ever expect the Paul Carpenters of the world to know this basic foundation of education. I WOULD however, expect the Paul Carpenters of the world to seize any opportunity, like this one, to continue bashing public education.
Mucelyk

Allentown, PA

#9 Apr 7, 2009
I am 31 years old and I have been reading comics since I could read. I now have a 7 year old son who loves reading comics more than watching tv. My wife is a 4th grade teacher in the Allentown school district. She uses comics that I give her that are age appropriate for her children to read. These children can barely speak English let alone read it. I see her suffer day in and out trying to find something to get these kids to want to learn and not just veg out in front of a tv or videogame. It is no secret that Allentown's students are lacking in the education department. For anyone to criticize a teacher for actually giving these neglected children a reason to enjoy reading is beyond my comprehension. Children that had no interest in reading at all before, fight over the old comics I donated to the class. I'm susprised you could go into a store that sells comics and find titles not suitable for children, but couldn't find anything inappropriate for children in the public library. Shame on you Sir! You have got no right to knock any teacher that gives a child a reason to want to read. Keep reading kids; and parents get your kids hooked on comics, you won't regret it.

Since: Mar 07

Bethlehem, PA

#10 Apr 8, 2009
Truth can hurt wrote:
As Scott Cole (and any other good teacher) will tell you, first you have to get the kids "hooked," almost by any means. Then, the skillful teacher moves the child to higher and higher levels.
Education is NOT unilateral. It's a partnership and the kids need to "buy-in" first.
I wouldn't ever expect the Paul Carpenters of the world to know this basic foundation of education. I WOULD however, expect the Paul Carpenters of the world to seize any opportunity, like this one, to continue bashing public education.
I agree with Paul's overall argument. Education in the country is in the crapper. A generation ago, no teacher was concerned about "hooking" a child to get them interested in reading. Kids went to school and they were expected to pay attention and to read. My four siblings and I are avid readers, as are most adults my age. The concept that learning should be "fun" has distracted kids from the fact that learning requires a lot of effort on their part and it can be hard work.
Pat Powers

Covington, GA

#11 Apr 8, 2009
I have a copy of Bomb Queen. You know what it says in large letters on the back cover? "Not for children or squeamish adults." That means that the publication was not meant for Mr. Carpenter. The "Not for Children" label would also pretty much guarantee that it would not show up in a classroom environment. But Mr. Carpenter somehow missed that point. I don't think it's because he's an idiot, it's because he wanted to score some cheap points by misrepresenting things so that it appeared that "Bomb Queen" might appear in a classroom. So I'm thinking he's more of a liar and a scumbag.
Shannon Gallagher

Broomfield, CO

#12 Apr 10, 2009
Mr. Carpenter I you are a complete idiot. Comic books have many times told stories that no one every put on TV or people didn’t talk about at all(drug abuse, war crimes, historical events etc. They also tell stories that are set up in contemporary times, situations, and with the morals/ or lack thereof. They tell a story within to entertain, while also in a lot of cases educate or provoke thoughtful reflection in the readers mind. An Example is Nightly News from image comics, which examines the media in the modern age of corporate control etc. many times these stories, are meant to make someone think about things that the TV, newspapers do not deem worthy of a lot of attention. So please do me a favor know what you’re talking about before you open your mouth you pompous windbag. The stories in comic books about Darfur or the wars in The Congo, the Middle East, and The Iraq war are better told and more informative on all the influences that cause the conflicts in many books, than in the rag you write for. Why don’t you go back to bellowing about how the restaurant you went to years ago took pennies out of the container that people put them in, and not out of the establishment’s cash register. if you want Donald duck by the kids books for 5 yr oldsm, that seems to be the IQ level your columns are written at.

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