View Full Version : Seriousness Ender's Game in the K-5 Library - Really?


cearbhallain
05-13-2010, 05:40 PM
There will probably be SPOILERS!

So, my fifth grader checked out Ender's Game from the school library yesterday. I allow my son free range in the public and home library but I was somewhat shocked that someone thought that EG was a book suitable for children in general. Actually, it's many someones, as it has been assigned an Accelerated Reader level of 5.5, which means that the people responsible for facilitating that particular bit of educational misconduct think that the book is age-appropriate for an 11-year old.

I only recently read Ender's Game myself, so I'm pretty fresh on the events and concepts included in the narrative. I liked it when I read it and thought to keep it around for my son to read in a couple of years. I know he's going to like it, but the non-trivial amount of moral ambiguity contained in the story, combined with some very disturbing violence gave me pause. I know I'm not alone in feeling unsettled by children reading this book, heck it's in the "not really for kids" list at tv tropes (http://http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Ptitlerax1116nu5ji?from=Main.WhatDoYouMeanItsNotFo rKids)

I'm pretty liberal in terms of the amount of violence in entertainment that I think is appropriate for children. Paul Verhooven has provided me with a sort of scale I can use to illustrate what I mean.

Starship Troopers (aka War With the Bugs) has been staple for viewing for both of my kids since they were pre-schoolers. It's very violent and extremely visceral. It's also an excellent satire and while people die horribly the story is an obvious cartoon (don't tell my dad I said that; he thinks it's a faithful adaptation of a book by his favoritist author ever).

At the other end of the scale is Robocop. Excruciatingly violent in a very real way. It's also an excellent satire, but its real-world setting and events make it too intense for a child to process. A child watching ST might absorb some of the themes of the film subliminally while enjoying a big entertaining movie. A child watching Robocop is being bludgeoned with incomprehensible and meaningless (to them) violence. I actually think Robocop is an "important" movie, but I'm not letting my kids watch it until I'm sure they can handle it - in fact I think I'd give it an NC-17 if it were up to me.

I personally feel that a story about a child who logically, and arguably correctly, puzzles out the the solution to a pack of bullies is to stomp their leader (accidentally to death) and is then trained and tricked into committing genocide might be a little much for a fifth grader to process. I could be wrong, what do you think?

kindlekitten
05-13-2010, 09:58 PM
at least they aren't advocating for book burning?

I know what you mean... my son tended to ferret out those books on his own... look where that landed him... the SEALS

banjobama
05-14-2010, 12:01 AM
I think I read Ender's Game in 5th or 6th grade, but I was in gifted classes and probably would never have heard about it otherwise. I remember the part about his brother skinning squirrels bothered me. :(

cearbhallain
05-14-2010, 12:55 AM
I'm not really worried about my kid in particular - after all, I read _The Exorcist_ the summer before fifth grade. I'm just genuinely curious about whether a book with those themes is appropriate for the average 11 year old. If he'd found it on his own in *my* library, I would not have told him not to read it, but I would wait awhile before I pointed it out to him.

ObDisclosure: my 11 year old has been formally vetted as "gifted" and I'll talk to him about the book as he reads it.

AnemicOak
05-14-2010, 01:26 AM
EG has even been published in a 'young adult' edition and the publisher rates it Grade Range: 5 and up, Age Range: 10 and up.

cearbhallain
05-14-2010, 11:14 AM
EG has even been published in a 'young adult' edition and the publisher rates it Grade Range: 5 and up, Age Range: 10 and up.

Are you saying that the young adult edition has been somewhat edited, or did the publishers just think that the material would appeal to the kids?

AnemicOak
05-14-2010, 01:40 PM
Are you saying that the young adult edition has been somewhat edited, or did the publishers just think that the material would appeal to the kids?

It's just 'packaged' more like other YA books. I've seen it for sale at Target.

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Enders-Game/Orson-Scott-Card/e/9780765342294/?itm=2&USRI=ender%27s+game

Card also received the 2008 YALSA Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Contribution to Young Adult Literature; for Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow

PKFFW
05-14-2010, 11:24 PM
It was really not that long ago that children were considered adults at puberty which isn't generally that much older than 11. Now days we like to pretend children remain children until 18 to 21.

I think most children process and understand a lot more than we give them credit for. What they sometimes lack is the ability to articulate it back to us in a way that makes it clear they do understand it.

Personally I would have no problem with an 11 year old reading EG. Particularly if their parents, like the OP, took enough of an interest to talk to them about it.

Cheers,
PKFFW

ardeegee
05-15-2010, 01:10 AM
It was really not that long ago that children were considered adults at puberty which isn't generally that much older than 11. Now days we like to pretend children remain children until 18 to 21.


Here's a longish but interesting article:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2248/is_n118_v30/ai_17150109/?tag=content;col1

PKFFW
05-15-2010, 02:38 AM
Here's a longish but interesting article:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2248/is_n118_v30/ai_17150109/?tag=content;col1
Warning - thread hijack for this one post.....sorry :)

Interesting article. What I find most interesting is that the problem was seen as a "youth on the streets running wild" problem. Emphasis on "youth".

In tribal society children became fully functioning adult members of the tribe, generally, upon reaching puberty. They were expected to do the work of an adult and were afforded all the rights and responsibilities the same as any other adult and, generally speaking, they coped without any real problem. This is because there was no disconnect between childhood and adulthood. There was no "adolescence" to speak of. That's just how life worked. To a lesser extent this is how life was right up to the industrial revolution. As survival became more a matter of farming than hunting/gathering things started to change a bit but even still, in most societies a person was treated as an adult and were doing the work of an adult by 14-15 at the oldest and often earlier.

It is only really since the industrial revolution that the idea of adolescence has really taken hold. Why is that? Predominantly because the work required for survival changed from growing/hunting food with which to feed your family and local community and to trade to working in a factory producing crap for people to buy and thereby getting money to buy food.

In this new world there weren't enough jobs for all these "children" and so they ran wild on the streets. They weren't old enough to do an "adults" job but they weren't young enough to be kept at home hanging onto mum's skirt. They were caught in between and hence this disconnect. Being caught in between they started being treated differently, neither as an adult or a child and this is when and how the idea of adolescence really took hold.

Cheers,
PKFFW

GraceKrispy
05-15-2010, 03:13 AM
I would let my 9 yo fourth grader read Ender's Game, but I wouldn't let him watch Starship Troopers. I guess my censor meter goes opposite of yours. I would rather my son read these things that, to me, have a deeper meaning than watch senseless violence onscreen.

cearbhallain
05-15-2010, 12:26 PM
I would let my 9 yo fourth grader read Ender's Game, but I wouldn't let him watch Starship Troopers. I guess my censor meter goes opposite of yours. I would rather my son read these things that, to me, have a deeper meaning than watch senseless violence onscreen.


Starship Troopers isn't senseless violence, but I understand why some people think that it is. In fact, I think that there are some pretty basic similarities between the societies in the film and the book. The basic difference is that Verhooven is lampooning fascism while Card is exploring militarized society from the perspective of someone who can't see the whole picture but must win the final battle without even knowing that it's real. On one hand, Ender is a well-crafted tool, but Ender the person has to reconcile that he was a Xenocide, albeit an unwitting one.

How Ender deals with that down the road is an interesting topic, and was explored in a somewhat meaningful way in Speaker for the Dead. Midway through the next book, Xenocide, Card lets enough of his Libertarianism slip through to spoil my enjoyment of the story - retroactively even, my opinion of the first book was colored, after the fact, by stuff in the subsequent books. After reading this discussion, and the other one over in Reading Recs, I'm thinking I may pick up Ender's Shadow and check out what's going on with Bean. Could be an interesting Compare/Contrast. I don't think I'll read any more of the series after that.

Another issue that I've been thinking about relating to this topic is that here in the US we seem to have less problem letting children consume media with violent content than we do with sexual content. So say instead of being a potentially highly skilled soldier Ender was instead a potentially highly skilled prostitute. Who would let their kids read that? Note that our society currently finds neither of those professions appropriate for a child, however we're more willing to explore the killer nature of a child than his sexual nature.

kindlekitten
05-15-2010, 12:46 PM
Starship Troopers isn't senseless violence, but I understand why some people think that it is.

actually if you let yourself go into the reality of when the book was written, watching the movie, is so much in line with the news reels and over the top reporting of the day. at first I was completely dissapointed with the way the movie was done, then it clicked

cearbhallain
05-15-2010, 12:57 PM
actually if you let yourself go into the reality of when the book was written, watching the movie, is so much in line with the news reels and over the top reporting of the day. at first I was completely dissapointed with the way the movie was done, then it clicked

For another perspective, try watching it as a double feature with Verhoeven's Soldiers of Orange. Watch Soldiers first.

kindlekitten
05-15-2010, 01:11 PM
For another perspective, try watching it as a double feature with Verhoeven's Soldiers of Orange. Watch Soldiers first.

I have never seen that on American TV. will I have to find a recording?

cearbhallain
05-15-2010, 01:32 PM
I have never seen that on American TV. will I have to find a recording?

Yes, you will. Criterion did a two disc version that has some interesting special features (and being a slut for commentaries I listened to them all) you may have to go to your local independent shop to find it. Or Netflix might have it.

GraceKrispy
05-15-2010, 04:05 PM
Starship Troopers isn't senseless violence, but I understand why some people think that it is. *SNIP*

Another issue that I've been thinking about relating to this topic is that here in the US we seem to have less problem letting children consume media with violent content than we do with sexual content. So say instead of being a potentially highly skilled soldier Ender was instead a potentially highly skilled prostitute. Who would let their kids read that? Note that our society currently finds neither of those professions appropriate for a child, however we're more willing to explore the killer nature of a child than his sexual nature.

As to the first part, I don't trust that my 9yo can necessarily understand the meaning behind the violence, but I trust more that he can understand when it's explained. He's more of a literary guy than a "finding the deep rooted messages in a visual display" kind of guy. I can understand that there is more of a meaning to the movie, but I don't know that he will understand it, kwim?

ITA with the second part-- I do think in the US we are much more apt to let our children view violence than sex. I think that's backward, perhaps owing to our roots, however?

cearbhallain
05-15-2010, 05:20 PM
As to the first part, I don't trust that my 9yo can necessarily understand the meaning behind the violence, but I trust more that he can understand when it's explained.

Since the violence takes place in an environment, and between characters and creatures that bear little resemblance to reality, I think it's more like letting then watch Tom and Jerry. There's a reason the Itchy and Scratchy cartoons on the Simpsons are so funny - Tom and Jerry is pretty horrific, and yet it's normal to let kids watch it. My kids have always had a strong sense of what's ridiculous which helps a lot.

As to violent and disturbing movies that people think are appropriate for kids; I remember attending a screening of the Mask at a second run cinema. The auditorium was crammed with people who'd brought their toddlers. Oh, and it was a double feature with True Lies.:eek: I wouldn't have let my children see either of those movies when they were small - see I do have standards :p

PKFFW
05-15-2010, 08:26 PM
actually if you let yourself go into the reality of when the book was written, watching the movie, is so much in line with the news reels and over the top reporting of the day. at first I was completely dissapointed with the way the movie was done, then it clicked
For about the first half of the movie I sat there thinking "this is so crap!" and then it finally clicked that it was supposed to be satirical and I really enjoyed it.

I can be a bit slow sometimes. :o

Lesgo
11-28-2013, 03:57 AM
Please consider that AR reading levels have absolutely NOTHING to do with maturity or age appropriateness. They are simply based upon reading skill and expected vocabulary capability for a particular grade level. Obviously, one fifth-grader can have a completely different maturity level than another. A book level is only a guide to if your child can READ the book without getting hopelessly bogged down and confused if the level is too high, or bored if the level is too low. It would be ridiculous for you to think a child at a standard fifth-grade level of 5.5 would be captivated by a book written at the first-grade level, now wouldn't it? Deciding what book content and concepts are appropriate for your child's maturity level is YOUR job. It is called "PARENTING." Just like you make the decision about your child seeing an R-rated movie, you get to decide what your child can read. I am lucky that my child attends a small local school, and the librarian gives me a call if she thinks a book has inappropriate content for my 5th grader. She reads at a 10th-grade level, so she is capable of reading books above her maturity level; I just don't allow her to.

meeera
11-28-2013, 05:00 AM
My eleven year old is reading Ender's Game right now, and handling it just fine. I was reading from the adult section starting before that age. He's read other YA books that some people consider "not for kids", such as The Hunger Games, and again been fine. We talk through the themes and the violence. And he has, these days an exceptionally good grasp on the difference between fiction and reality. (To the point that he's rather hard to scare with horror films!)

I reckon in text-based books, with the odd exception, middle grade kids tend to pick up what they can handle, and put down what they can't. We manage what video he watches and videogames he plays and comic books he reads (quite liberally now, but there are limits), but we made a decision a while back that whatever novels he wanted to read, he pretty much could.

HomeInMyShoes
11-28-2013, 11:08 AM
My parents never talked to me about my books much. I read a lot of Stephen King starting when I was around 15 or 16.

I've read some books I don't think I'd want my kid to read until they were out of university, but that's pretty rare. I don't think that's me not thinking my kid could handle it, but me not being able to rationalize it to them in any way.

Ender's Game has some moments in it, but nothing that terrible in my mind. The squirrels is disturbing, but they can find that on the news. If I can't discuss that with my son I can't discuss the evening news with him either.

desertgrandma
11-28-2013, 01:30 PM
There will probably be SPOILERS!


I personally feel that a story about a child who logically, and arguably correctly, puzzles out the the solution to a pack of bullies is to stomp their leader (accidentally to death) and is then trained and tricked into committing genocide might be a little much for a fifth grader to process. I could be wrong, what do you think?

And what solution would you have come up with that would have stopped the bullying?

Every watch "A Christmas Story"? Bullies respond to one tactic and one tactic only....it solved the problem.

All the "be nice children and don't bully" lessons currently being used in schools today will never work on those who are empowered by their ability to cause fear and enable them to have control over their victims. They just hide it better.

As I recall, Ender felt and will always feel remorse that he caused that death....he hated that it happened. Thats a great lesson there. Sometimes you do what HAS to be done, when every other option has been tried, but it doesn't feel good....

As for "genocide"....well....when you cannot communicate with an alien species who is hell bent on enslaving or wiping out your own species, what other option is there?

Ender was 'tricked' because no way in hell could a child that young be able to process the horror of what he had to accomplish. The ending of the book stunned me...I did not see that coming.

And finally, as for this book not being suitable for 5th graders, I respectfully disagree.

I work with 5th graders all day, as a volunteer. There is a wide range of maturity there....some, like my granddaughter are still in the "I love My Little Pony" stage....totally innocent but not for long i fear. We're very careful about what she watches, but cannot control what she sees and hears at school.

Many, however, have been exposed to violent games, (they play with their dads) and have unrestricted TV watching.

If Abbey were ever to want to read a book I felt was too old for her, I'd let her in a heartbeat.....but we would talk about it, in depth. Thats how you make sure they come away with the lessons you want them to learn from what they read.

Rbneader
12-07-2013, 01:34 PM
I think it's a fine book to read at 11 or so. Gifted kids in particular are usually ready for things earlier than adults think, and even regular 6th graders figure out moral ambiguity and needing to think for themselves. It's a great tool for sparking important conversations and laying groundwork before they get wrapped up in middle school.

I read it first at age 10, and a lot of the themes really resonated. I think it's one of the few books that does intelligent children with any kind of accuracy, and as a gifted kid that was very important to me. I was ready for a lot of things that other kids my age weren't and the typical kids books were very frustrating and childish to me.

Ender's Game is an intelligent kids' book, and lots of kids read it when they start figuring out that morality can be ambiguous and they need to start thinking for themselves. It's important to talk about all the books kids read, so just make sure to talk about this one when you and your kids start sharing recent books read.