Giving Education a Bad Name: Bookish Boys in Contemporary American School Stories
This article discusses contemporary American school stories that appear to advocate learning and literacy as a democratic good, but actually undermine democratic possibilities by teaching young readers to think of academic inquiry as a means to selfish, petty ends. Since “learning” and “literacy” are catchwords for educators dedicated to remedying neoliberal inequities, it is understandable why authors of school fiction such as Andrew Clements and Tommy Greenwald are celebrated by educators for foregrounding the exploits of bookish characters. Yet, as is shown, the narrative arcs in works such as Frindle by Clements and Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Greenwald ultimately endorse the market consciousness, deregulation, and excessive individualism for which neoliberalism is known. Examining the ways in which these two novels intersect with ongoing debates over literacy standards, learning outcomes, and academic honesty, it is argued that the didactic-pedagogical imagination in contemporary American fiction for young people has a biased conception of student development and life preparedness, ideologically at odds with democratic curriculum provision.
KeywordsSchool stories Education in children’s literature Neoliberal fiction Literacy and learning Academic honesty
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