November 8, 2009

Overdone Things

We 8th grade teachers are getting ready to teach The Diary of Anne Frank, which is the play version of The Diary of a Young Girl. It's a great unit, and the kids always enjoy it, I know I might be unpopular when I say this, but I went kind of sour on it a few years ago when I learned that my students have had some sort of Holocaust literature every year. I do not mind the Holocaust, and I definitely think that it is an important topic for students to explore, but is it necessary to do it every single year?

The Holocaust falls into this category of Overdone Things I have in my head. In fact, the Holocaust genre is probably one of the first things I put in the category, years ago when I was a book seller and I noticed that Holocaust-themed novels were suddenly a hot topic in the young adult world. I don't know what triggered it--maybe taking down the Berlin Wall?

The most recent thing to be added to the Overdone Things list is, of course, Michael Jackson. I know people have said he had a great impact on music for years, but in the last decade he was a joke. Am I wrong? Now that he's gone, it's Michael everything. The other night I saw the teen dance troupe at the local community center do a rendition of "Thriller" that I am betting I would not have seen a year ago. I'm perplexed about this whole Michael mania right now anyway. I know the phenomenon about how people become more famous after death, but the obsession is more than I expected.

Right after September 9, 2001, patriotism was also added to the Overdone Things list. In July of 2001, I spent two weeks in the Williamsburg, Virginia area, and I could not help but notice the pride of our country there. I grew up in the West, and the patriotism is not as old and defined. But then after 9/11, extreme patriotism was everywhere, from clothing to car magnets. It was kind of tacky patriotism, too. I did not doubt the sincerity, but if people were so passionate about our country, why did it take a tragedy to bring it out?

I almost hate to post this because it sounds like I'm being hateful about some sacred cows, but I'm not. I just find it distasteful how sometimes we take important things to extreme levels. Can keeping the past close to our hearts with teaching the Holocaust, having pride in our country, or memorializing a great American (and international) performer truly be extreme?

To me, it feels like it can when it has a bandwagon sense about it. In these cases, not being on the bandwagon will likely cause ostracization. "You don't want to put a flag ribbon on your car? How unAmerican! How can you say that the Holocaust is overdone? You Nazi! You're tired of hearing about Michael Jackson? As if!" So, I don't fit in. I just think that there's something about tying important things to a bandwagon that cheapens them.

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