Dear Tom (a.k.a. King Dork, Chi-Mo, Henderpig, etc.) -
Yesterday, my son turned 15. He requested books for his birthday, and I picked this one up at th...moreDear Tom (a.k.a. King Dork, Chi-Mo, Henderpig, etc.) -
Yesterday, my son turned 15. He requested books for his birthday, and I picked this one up at the University Bookstore in Seattle. I thought maybe the two of you would have something in common - you're contemporaries, both learning how to survive the modern American public high school experience. But wow - I am so glad I read your story before wrapping it up and handing it over. 'Cause it turns out you are not an influence I want in his life.
You started out with some promise. You seem like an interesting, complicated guy. I'm really curious about your dad - what kind of a guy was he? What was he like when he was your age? And how did he really die? Was it an accident, suicide, murder? When you started finding secret codes in the margins of his old paperbacks, I was intrigued. Of course that kind of trailed off, and you left me hanging there at the end, never really resolving this mystery satisfactorily. But hey, I guess life's like that sometimes; we don't always get all the answers we want. And I know how it is - you got distracted by the more immediate things around you.
And let's face it: you've got a lot to deal with. My heart goes out to you as you try to deal with that whole awful high school social scene: drama hippies, social outcasts, vicious bullies, your strange, lascivious, sadistic Vice-Principal. I'm so sorry you have to go through all that. At least you have that one friend, and the band you two have been trying to put together. Let me commend the two of you; while you're short on musical talent and you show a staggering deficit of judgment in your lyrics & choice of performance venues, you're quite creative when it comes to generating possible band names and bizarre album cover art.
But listen, Tom, you and I really need to talk. And yes, it's the talk 15-year old boys don't really want to have with their moms. And even less with somebody else's mom. But here goes: we need to talk about sex. First of all, I'm just going to come out and state my very strong bias: I believe everybody in the world would be better off saving sex for a happy, loving marriage, and I would be really pleased to see all pre-marital and extra-marital sex come to a complete halt. Seriously, I know that makes me a ridiculously old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy old fogey. But I can't seem to get hip with the times, and rejoice with you over these weekly sessions with girls that you barely know.
I know, I know, you're all filled with those crazy teen-age hormones, and it's hard for you to think past the excitement of some momentary physical pleasure. Really, I get that. We've all been there. And I know you also haven't had the strongest role models around you, what with your father gone, your mom perpetually out of it, and your well-meaning, but oddball stepdad trying, but not quite connecting with you. It's not surprising you're a little confused. But believe me; what you have found in the way of a sex-life is not, let me repeat, NOT what it's all about.
I think you know that, deep down. Remember when you were talking about your wish for a "Sex Alliance Against Society"? Actually, you were just barely starting to catch a glimpse of the right idea there. You're right - sex can be part of something bigger and better than random, clandestine, anonymous hook-ups. It can be part of a positive, mutually-supportive, mutually-beneficial, emotionally fulfilling relationship. It's clear from reading your book that you haven't figured this out yet, but I'm going to let you in on a little secret:
Girls are people, too.
I mean it. Actual human beings with feelings, thoughts, dreams, hopes, ideas, desires. So far, to you, they just seem like mysterious but appealing objects for your own gratification. But really, they're more like you than you realize. And in order to become a mature, decent human being, you're going to need to do something that is very challenging: You are going to need to learn to keep your pants zipped sometimes. Yes, even when willing females are offering you the opportunity to unzip them. Instead, I want you to think about the ethical, moral implications of what you're contemplating.
Start by asking yourself some or all of the following questions: Is this girl drunk, high, or otherwise impaired in her judgment? (If so, keep pants zipped.) Does this girl seem mentally stable? (If not, I recommend keeping pants zipped.) Is this relationship something either you or she seem ashamed of? (If so, consider keeping pants zipped.) Are either you or she simultaneously involved in other romantic or sexual relationships? (Keep pants zipped.) Is your relationship with this girl based on anything at all besides the physical aspect? (If not, I suggest keeping your pants zipped.) Is this sexual relationship completely one-sided, in which only one of you ever seems to be experiencing any physical pleasure? (For now, keep pants zipped. When you're married, come back for part two of this discussion). You've made every one of these mistakes over the course of these past few months; you're not off to a great start.
Oh, Tom, I'm not completely unsympathetic to your plight. I realize that you're largely a product of this mixed-up, hypersexualized, narcissistic, often immoral society. And your little corner of society over at Hillmont High seems more immoral than most. But I'm trying not to lose hope for the future of America after reading your depressing story. Hopefully, you (and the many teens and even adults with a similar mentality) will start to grow up and eventually get a clue or two.
We're reading this one for next month's book club. I liked that the advice was generally gender-neutral - both spouses are encouraged to avoid contemp...moreWe're reading this one for next month's book club. I liked that the advice was generally gender-neutral - both spouses are encouraged to avoid contempt & stone-walling, both are encouraged to be willing to be influenced by each other, and so on. Most of the ideas were common-sense ways of relating to your spouse with respect and kindness. Reading this made me feel even more grateful for my really good husband and marriage. My only criticism of the book is that I could have done without so many quizzes - I just skimmed through those pages.(less)
The funny title grabbed my attention at the library, so I picked this up. But it was disappointing. The writing just isn't very good. The whole thing...moreThe funny title grabbed my attention at the library, so I picked this up. But it was disappointing. The writing just isn't very good. The whole thing is very slapstick, over-the-top goofy, without being particularly funny. All the characters feel like two dimensional stereotypes. If you've been doing multivariable calculus all day, and you're looking for some very, very light reading as a way to to turn off your brain and unwind, you might enjoy this, but probably not.(less)
This book was written by a man who teaches 5th grade in a poor Los Angeles public school. His students are almost all kids who have learned English as...moreThis book was written by a man who teaches 5th grade in a poor Los Angeles public school. His students are almost all kids who have learned English as a second language. They live in a high-crime, high-poverty area.
It's clear that this is an exceptional teacher creating an exceptional experience for his students, including performing unabridged Shakespeare plays, with a rock 'n' roll soundtrack, which the kids play and sing themselves. He brings the kids on field trips to Washington D.C. and other parts of the country. He invites the kids to show up early and leave late - it sounds like he's often teaching for 12 hours a day, as well as Saturdays, and throughout lots of the school vacations. I loved reading a lot of his specific suggestions for math, science, writing, as well as his ideas about teaching kids to internalize moral principles, rather than relying on the carrot & stick method of discipline. I am in awe of this man's dedication and talent.
That said, here are my couple of complaints:
-I think that some of his movie choices are inappropriate for 5th graders. He shows a lot of rated R movies to these young kids, and discusses the important themes from the movie with them. The themes might be interesting and worth discussing, but I think there are better ways to learn about those ideas at this age.
-As some of the other reviewers mentioned, the author doesn't come across as particularly humble. He is clearly an amazing teacher, but he seems disdainful of teachers who don't teach the way he does.
-I admire and appreciate the super-human effort, and the huge amount of extra time and his own money that Mr. Esquith puts into his job. But I kind of hate to hold up this model for teachers. This man is amazing, but if this is what we expect from our public-school teachers, we need to pay them and support them much, much more than we currently do. I don't think this man's approach is a viable solution for the country as a whole. Teachers shouldn't have to be martyrs for the cause. We have a societal obligation to these kids; we should share that burden. We can't all be in the classroom every day, but we can at least fund the schools adequately.(less)
Kind of strange and rambling, and lots of profanity. But I don't know if I ever laughed so hard at a book as I did to his idle ruminations about getti...moreKind of strange and rambling, and lots of profanity. But I don't know if I ever laughed so hard at a book as I did to his idle ruminations about getting his head stuck to the wall. He was sitting down one day, leaning his head against the wall, and wondered what would happen if it just got stuck there permanently. How would he get dressed? Then suddenly, a flash of inspiration: Button-down shirts! I don't know why that tickled my funny bone so much. It's just that kind of bizarre, random free-associating thing I do inside my head, and it was so funny to read someone else's similarly strange internal conversations. (less)