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Old 05-13-2010, 04:40 PM   #1
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Ender's Game in the K-5 Library - Really?

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

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?
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Old 05-13-2010, 08:58 PM   #2
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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
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Old 05-13-2010, 11:01 PM   #3
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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.
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Old 05-13-2010, 11:55 PM   #4
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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.
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Old 05-14-2010, 12:26 AM   #5
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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.
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Old 05-14-2010, 10:14 AM   #6
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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?
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Old 05-14-2010, 12:40 PM   #7
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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/End...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

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Old 05-14-2010, 10:24 PM   #8
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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.

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Old 05-15-2010, 12:10 AM   #9
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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/m...g=content;col1
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Old 05-15-2010, 01:38 AM   #10
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Here's a longish but interesting article:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...g=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.

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Old 05-15-2010, 02:13 AM   #11
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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.
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Old 05-15-2010, 11:26 AM   #12
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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.
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Old 05-15-2010, 11:46 AM   #13
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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
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Old 05-15-2010, 11:57 AM   #14
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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.

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Old 05-15-2010, 12:11 PM   #15
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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?
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