How and Why

Being involved in an intricate web of book-lovers, the best of what we encounter is always passed on to another who will appreciate it. Recently a pal sent me A Child Called It by David Pelzer as one of these note-worthy books.

On second thought, “note-worthy” does not even begin to describe this childlike description of what turned out to be one of the worst child abuse cases in California history. Thankfully, Pelzer begins the book by revealing that there was indeed a happy ending. Otherwise, the heart-wrenching experience of reading about what happened to this poor innocent human being would have been even more frightful. Pelzer describes, in horrific detail, the abuse he experienced growing up. My knowledge of child abuse is limited (though assuredly existent-have I ever mentioned I teach in a public school?!), but what really got to me was how in the world Pelzer’s mother came up with the tortures she inflicted upon her son… her son, for crying out loud!

I discovered that there are 2 additional parts that make up Dave Pelzer’s trilogy, and they have just been bumped to the top of my “To Read” list! While I was content knowing that Pelzer survived and was eventually removed from his home, there are unanswered questions burning in my mind.

-Out of 5 sons, why did his mother abuse him alone?

-Where is the mother now? Does he have a relationship with her? What about his father and all his brothers, the ones who were hateful to him as well?

-Has he ever gone back to tell Shirley (his mother’s friend that was apparently the only person to confront her about her treatment of David) what happened?

-What kind of therapy does one have to undergo to get past such experience?

-How has this affected him in his adult life, specifically in his role as father.

-This may seem off the subject, but I noticed that in the author profile at the end of the book, Pelzer names his son and even their pets, but mentions his wife only as “my wife.” Why? Is that significant at all?

I am sure that most or all of these concerns will be answered when I read the other 2 books, but for the time being I am left with absolute disgust and wonder over how in the world someone could do this to their child.



In the news recently, there has been a great deal of coverage concerning the ACLU’s desire for a ban against crosses on federal property per the “establishment of religion” clause in the Constitution of the United States. No matter which side you take on the issue, consider this implication of the ban: supporters feel that librarians who are serving in any public capacity (including school librarians, state-funded academic librarians, public librarians, etc.) should not be permitted to wear crosses or any other religious symbols as personal jewelry.

At face value, this seems to be an absurd demand. How in the world could this group of radicals even begin to think that they have the authority to dictate to me what I can and cannot wear to work?!

However, when you stop to consider that religion does not necessarily equate Christianity (Now, stick with me here.) and that the ban would prevent “advertisement” for every religion, the line between black and white suddenly turns a little gray. Let’s break this down into a situation with an actual individual. Mrs. Paige Turner is an elementary school librarian who is also very devoted worshiper of Buddha. She has a shelf in her office that she bought with her personal money, and on that shelf she has a complete shrine to her god. While students do not frequently visit Mrs. Turner’s office, there are some occasions on which they do so for the purposes of running errands, using the computer and printer, etc.

What Mrs. Paige Turner is doing is (in the eyes of the law) no different from what I am doing every day when I wear my tanzanite cross around my neck. We are both using personal property to bring symbols of our religion into a federal building. Who is right and who is wrong? Can you really say that, legally speaking, I am wrong just because you don’t agree with my beliefs? Can Christians say the same about the Buddhist?

Fortunately, this ban has not come to fruition. However, it just might happen in our lifetimes, and it would be beneficial for us to at least consider the outcome.


Teacher Man

I recently finished Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. McCourt is apparently also the author of Pulitzer Prize winner Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis. I don’t know much about those two, but I found Teacher Man to be a compelling autobiography of one random man’s struggle to make a difference in the lives of American teenagers (gasp).

A little slow at times, McCourt takes great liberty with weaving memoirs of his “miserable childhood in Ireland” with absolutely show-stopping classroom moments of brilliance. Aside from the fact that he spent 30 years of his life in public high schools of New York, I find him most admirable for crafting one of the most honest autobiographies I have ever read. Usually the absence of proper punctuation is a source of contention for me, but McCourt’s frank and unapologetic punctuation-free recollections of his experiences ease the reader away from the importance of what is “proper” to content that is meaningful.

Having said that, this book is not really a must-read for every teacher. The use of profanity and occasional graphic descriptions of sexual encounters (McCourt’s position is that teachers do it, too.) will be enough to scare away the classic ultra-conservative educator. Peer through those few oddly inappropriate excerpts and discover McCourt’s secrets of accomplishing the impossible task of catching the attention of teenagers.

As a matter of fact, regardless of your profession, I would highly recommend this to anyone. If and when you read it, chime in with your thoughts!