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Policy Paper

In: English and Literature

Submitted By cgrace99
Words 2161
Pages 9
Carmen Johnson
Dr. Marion
English 112-MJZT3
6/1/2012
The Lesson of the Flenser The book Blubber, by Judy Blume, is one of 100 books that are on the American Library’s banned books list, reviewed at number 43 on Cal Poly’s website (100 Top Banned Books). Blubber is about a group of fifth grade children and their interactions in school and in the neighborhood. Parents complain that Judy Blume’s book uses cursing and that the bullies are never formally punished (Brunner). This book leaves parents to contend with the possibility that children may view this behavior as acceptable and decide that their actions have no consequences. However experts believe that "books can be a safe way for young people to explore edgier, sensitive, or complicated topics, and they provide parents the opportunity to help their teens grow and understand these kinds of sensitive issues," says Beth Yoke, executive director of the Young Adult Library Services Association quoted in Kobler. Sensitive issues cause parents to find the book Blubber inappropriate for their children; however, this book should be assigned in fourth through sixth grade classes because of the valuable lessons it promotes, especially that peer pressure is not usually positive and developing moral character is important, but difficult. This book gives examples of the importance of how students should stand up for themselves and others when someone is being bullied, mistreated, or harassed. Students at this level are learning the traits that, according to Jill Schoenburg, are attributed to having good character, including, but not limited to the following: * Trustworthiness: be honest and reliable. * Respect: treat others with respect, be tolerant and accepting of differences and considerate of the feelings of others. Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone, deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements. * Responsibility: think before you act and consider the consequences of ones actions. * Fairness: treat all people fairly. * Caring: be kind and compassionate and help people in need (Character Trait Definitions).

Blubber gives many examples of how not to behave and also some that show the students what they should do. Jill’s best friend Tracy is in another class, and Jill wants desperately to fit in with the other students in room 206, Mrs. Minish’s classroom, although she learns that fitting in is not really as easy as the adults in her life say it is. One of the most popular girls in the class, Wendy, singles out quiet Linda Fischer to pick on, following her report on whale blubber. Jill follows along with what Wendy is doing and saying:
“Wendy passed a note to Caroline. Caroline read it, then turned around in her seat and passed it to me. I unfolded it. It said: Blubber is a good name for her! I smiled, not because I thought the note was funny, but because Wendy was watching me.” (Blume4-5).
This quote exemplifies the power of peer pressure especially on students who want to be accepted by certain member of a class or group of students. Peer pressure, defined as the social pressure by members of one's peer group to take a certain action, adopt certain values, or otherwise conform in order to be accepted, influences Jill who wants to be recognized and accepted by Wendy and Caroline (Dictionary.com). Students can often win over teachers for example, Mrs. Minch never is wise to a thing in her classroom because Wendy is a polite and well liked, a “good” student, even after she convinces Linda that she’s eaten an ant and Linda throws up. In the best of situations, the leaders of the class are looked up to, but most of the times they are mean and exclusive. Students are sometimes willing to sacrifice something of who they are in order to be accepted into certain groups because of peer pressure. The students who in fifth and sixth grade are the “popular” students are a lot of times the bullies. The other students are not trying to fit in because of who they are, but because they are scared of becoming the target of the bullies like Wendy. Sometimes the students who compose this group are not only popular with each other but usually with staff and parents. Lower and middle school classes are usually controlled by leaders who decide who is "in" and who is "out" (Gavin and Took). Students will allow themselves to be pressured by the bullies in the class, sometimes knowing that their actions hurt other people, all in order to remain liked by the group. Someone outside the “in” group may face rejection or ridicule. The “in” crowd at Jill’s school is anyone Wendy decides is “in”. Wendy is the most important student in Jill’s classroom, as far as the other students are concerned. Jill just wants to be accepted by Wendy; that way, she will not be the target of any bulling, or so she thinks. Like Wendy, Jill succumbs to peer pressure and becomes a bully, too, in order to gain acceptance. Jill taunts Linda in order to be included within the popular crowd. Jill obeys Wendy by doing rather extreme things to Linda, like pulling up Linda's skirt and showing Linda’s underpants. Throughout the book the abuse against Linda just gets worse. The children tease and chant rhymes and songs that Wendy made up to torment Linda on the bus. More students join in on the bullying instead of risking rejection from the class, Linda is locked in a closet, made to call herself names, and even kiss a boy at one point, all at the insistence of other students who are also afraid of Wendy. Wendy decides the class is going to put Linda on trial. Jill knows, because her father is a lawyer, that everyone deserves representation. Jill’s action of going against the group and the peer pressure makes Jill a new target. Even though Jill risks rejection she shows “good” character by trying to defend Linda. Jill explains to the students that everyone has the right to representation and that as the daughter of a lawyer she knows this is a law. Jill is now the girl in the bathroom and at the bus stop being bullied and teased. Jill howeve,r is a stronger character than Linda and decides to stand up to her tormentors. She uses her wit to outsmart the girls and cause tension between the group of girls from her class. Jill asks Caroline, Wendy’s confidante: “You always do what Wendy says? Don’t you have a mind of your own?” “I have a mind of my own.” “Then why don’t you use it for once! Wendy doesn’t even like you anymore so why should you follow her orders?” “Shut up Brenner!” Wendy says (Blume ).
In this scene, Caroline realizes that the class’s dynamics is shifting. Linda is now partnering up with Wendy and Caroline is left out. Linda, on the flip side, is now one of the bullies. The girls learn a lesson about being a follower and the discomfort that role can create for themselves and others in their leader’s path. A discussion at the end of Blubber should be one of how students should speak out and stand up for themselves and others they see being bullied. Students are encouraged not to participate in anything that feels wrong, whether it's a personal attack or talking about people behind their backs because individuals are just as guilty as the bullier for not taking a stand or saying something to an adult. This book was written with the quiet student in mind. Blume wants to help the bullied or the quite students feel comfortable enough to report a problem instead of keeping it to themselves. Readers should understand that one must take responsibility for one’s own actions. In a letter from the author, Blume encourages sensitivity to others and not just going along with a group. She explains why she felt the need to write such an emotional book about bullying. She wanted children to understand that they can always tell someone if they are being harassed and bullied. Blubber also brings up the discussion of how students should respect others. Jill realizes that a true friend respects others opinions, interests, and choices, no matter how different they are. Jill demonstrates this by defending her best friend Tracy when Wendy calls her a “chink” and by defending Linda over the trial. Blubber acknowledges that it can be difficult to stand out, but that ultimately kids are responsible for what they say and do. The action of the bullies exemplifies bad character and a lack of respect for their peers. The next issue many parents have a problem with is the one of swearing in a children’s book. The use of curse words in this book is minimal. Jill called her teacher Mrs. Minich a “Bitch” on page and twice Jill’s mother uses the word “Damn”(Blume69). In defense of Jill, she states that her mother allows her to curse, but only at home. This provides an example of knowing boundaries and what is appropriate language for a child at home and what is not appropriate language for a student in school or other public forums. When children’s books contain swearing, offensive language becomes a problem for parents and a basis for censorship in media and educational settings. Data shows that swearing emerges by age two and becomes adult-like by ages 11 or 12, meaning that children learn to use the word in the appropriate context and meaning by the time they are twelve years old. By the time children enter school, they have a working vocabulary of 30-40 offensive words. Scientist have yet to determine what children know about the meanings of the words they use, but they do know that younger children are likely to use less offensive words than older children and adults. Studies show that children learn swear words early in life. Data shows that it does not matter if children or adults swear, that they do have a “contextually-bound swearing etiquette, this is the: who, what, where, and when” of swearing. Data states that young adults report to have learned these words from parents and peers not from mass media (Jay and Janschewitz). Unlikely that it is, this book is not adding to the swear word vocabulary of the students in the age group of the fourth through the sixth grade. Students already have them in their vocabulary. Allowing this book to be assigned in schools will always cause controversy between parents and educators. I would never try to tell anyone what their child must read, but I would like to propose that Judy Blume’s book Blubber should be assigned in the classrooms of fourth through sixth graders. A list of assigned readings should be made available to parents and they should be given the option of another book if they think that any title is unfit. Children who are given the opportunity to read the book can, due to the fact that it is narrated by Jill who is in the fifth grade, relate to other students in the story who are around the same age. This book will help students take away an understanding of how words and actions can hurt others. Reading this book also allows students to walk in the shoes of the bullied, the peer pressured, and the bullier. Helen Keller stated that: “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” (Schoenburg.web)
Parents should understand that sometimes valuable knowledge is gained even from what is believed to be a negative situation.

Works Cited
"100 Top Banned Books".lib.calpoly.edu.CaliforniaBoardof Trustees, 2012.Web. 22May2012.
Blume,Judy.Blubber.New York:Yearling.Sept1985.1-152.Print
Brunner,Borgna.”Banned Books”.Factmonster.com.2007.Web.22May2012.
“Character Trait Definitions”.character-in-action.com.2012.Web.24May2012.
Gavin,Mary ,Kevin J Took.”Dealing with Peer Pressure”kidshealth.com.Web.30May2012.
Jay, Timothy, Kristen Janschewitz.”The Science of Swearing”.psychologicalscience.org. ObseverVol25.No.5May/June2012.Web.29May2012
Koebler,Jason.Us News and World Report.18May2012.Web.24May2012.
Schoenburg, Jill.”What is Good Character?”.journalbuddies.com.2012.Web.29May2012

Claim: Some Parents may Find Judy Blume’s book Blubber inappropriate for their children; however, this book should be assigned in fourth through sixth grade classes because of the valuable lessons of respect for others, how your actions can affect other people, and how you should stand up for yourself and your friends when someone is being a bully or mistreating you.

Outline
I. Introduction
II. Parents find the book Blubber inappropriate for their children
III. Jill wants to be accepted in her new class
IV. Peer pressure at school
V. Jill becomes a bully
VI. The tables turn on Jill
VII. Respecting one another
VIII. The use of swear words in Blubber is a concern for parents
IX. Conclusion…...

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