Facts emerge in fired teacher/EIGHTBALL case

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 Facts emerge in fired teacher/EIGHTBALL case

The New Haven Register weighs in with actual news story about the story of Connecticut teacher Nathan Fisher who resigned after parents complained about him giving a 13-year-old a mature reader comic to read. The story confirms that it was, indeed EIGHTBALL #22 which is the book in question. The book shows a topless women and a man putting his hand up a woman’s skirt. Of course, there is much more to the story — it seems the student has been hazed in person and on Facebook*** because the teacher was very popular with other students.

The parents of a freshman student whose teacher resigned after he gave her a sexually explicit illustrated book said Wednesday their daughter has been the target of harassment from fellow students, and they want the school district to do more to clarify the issue with other parents.

The girl’s father, who asked that his family remain anonymous because it has already been the target of criticism, described the graphic novel that English teacher Nate Fisher gave the student as “borderline pornography.”

The book, one of a series of comic book novels by Daniel Clowes, is called “Eightball #22.” It includes references to rape, various sex acts and murder, as well as images of a naked woman, and a peeping tom watching a woman in the shower.

“It’s not even like a gray area,” the father said. “It’s clearly over the line.”


CBLDF head Chalres Brownstein is quoted throughout the story. Reading between thelines, all we can say is that we’re glad that dad wasn’t our dad. That said, it is up to parents to choose what their kids read. While we may think that the Clowesian brand of “rape and…murder” is fine, it may not be fine for all kids.

As for whether the teacher in question can be prosecuted…well, Clowes’ new comic strip running in the NY Times and general reputation as a respected literary figure would certainly make any legal action very interesting. In fact, EIGHTBALL #22 was eventually collected by Random House as the grahpic novel ICE HAVEN, making prosecution seem crazy mad. But sadly, worse things have happened in these United States. If nothing else, this small town tale of a very protective father, a well liked teacher, and a girl harassed by her schoolmates could be something out of…A DANIEL CLOWES COMIC!

If you watch the various news reports up on the internet, it’s clear that the media is making a meal out of this, with the sensational aspects played up. We’ve predicted this before, but we’ll predict it again: once someone who wants ratings actually reads a yaoi manga, we’re in for it.

***Facebook is the devil’s work by the way.

Comments

  1. It would seem, that this is over all, a sad thing for everybody. No one comes out of it unhurt, and why? Because one poor (and yet not horrible) choice can snowball into an avalanche of rash hatred, poor conclusions, and pretended outrage. It’s like asking who killed Lora Palmer. Everyone is guilty in one aspect of this, or another, except the girl herself.

  2. Well, legally speaking, neither Clowes nor Fisher can be successfully prosecuted or sued for peddling pornography, because the story in question is not, by legal definitions, pornographic.

    Beyond that there is simply the question of judgment. That is, what led Fisher to think that this book was an appropriate selection for reader’s advisory? What circumstances in the girl’s life were relevant to the book? It wasn’t random. He was responding to some information need the girl had. Whether his diagnosis and prescription were well-matched is another matter. But what was his diagnosis based on?

    These are the questions that will run through my YA librarian brain as I follow this thing.

  3. If I have to stop and think for a moment if I’d give EB #22 to my 13 year-old, then I am little stunned that a teacher 0 in this day and age – wouldn’t stop and think:

    1) Is this proper for this kid (given my perception of the suitability of his age and maturity)?

    2) Most importantly, what will the perception of the parent/school/media be if this ever comes to a head?

    I’m watching my son’s mother very closely for overdoing it with the “boy in a bubble” syndrome. Don’t quite know how we develop maturing children when we’re stuck with a social moré that protects children at ALL costs from ANYTHING they might encounter that would turn their “fragile” minds into paste.

    Wasn’t that 1950s and the CCA? You’d think we’d have grown after half-a-century of experience, but apparently us humans don’t handle change all that well.

  4. matterconsumer says:

    Blake, parents decide what they teach their children (as long as laws do not intervene). But one has to temper that with the consequences of the child being unable to differentiate between what is acceptable at home and elsewhere.

    I posted a comment earlier but I don’t see it. Sniff.

  5. I don’t remember anything in this book that would prevent it from being given a PG-13 rating if this were a film.

  6. Kevin: That is, what led Fisher to think that this book was an appropriate selection for reader’s advisory?

    That’s the question I keep asking, and no one has supplied an answer for that yet.

    I am withholding all judgment until I get that piece of information.

  7. Torsten Adair says:

    Any book, can be considered pornographic, just as any person can be arrested for some infraction. As the CBLDF will tell you, a lot of time and money will be spent before the judge, and maybe a jury, will decide if a book violates community standards.
    Of course, we have to wait to see what criminal charges will be filed. Until then, I hope the girl doesn’t kill herself, or her classmates.

  8. “Kevin: That is, what led Fisher to think that this book was an appropriate selection for reader’s advisory?”

    Perhaps as some sort of bizarre “opening act” in a plan to “get to know her better”. We see it all the time in the news…pervo adults weedling their way into kids’ lives, then springing this kind of garbage on them.

    As for this:

    “…all we can say is that we’re glad that dad wasn’t our dad. “

    Yeah, you’d hate to have your dad protecting you from nebulous, vaguely predatory gestures like a teacher randomly giving you a sexually explicity comic book. Why can’t he be like all the cool dads and be narcissistically oblivious to his kid’s welfare or hip enough to buy her the Comlete Clowes Library?

    WTF?

  9. michael says:

    Mr. Moonlight, the answer is clear cut, Laura Palmer was killed by her father who was possessed by the evil spirit Bob. ;)

    It was not everyone’s fault, but in this case I really am sorry for the young girl and what she’s going through. She doesn’t deserve any grief for this. STOP being so mean, you kids!

  10. “***Facebook is the devil’s work by the way.”

    I’d heard it was developed by the CIA. So yeah, you’re probably right.

  11. Alan Coil says:

    The book without a question is improper for a 13-year-old student. Not because of the age of the student, but because she is a student. If her parents bought the book for her to read, it would be entirely different. Teachers need to be extremely careful of what they say and do.

    Unlike Mark Engblom, I can’t make the leap in thought that the teacher was trying to worm his way into her life. I know a young teacher, and he has much enthusiasm for his job and the prospects for teaching young minds. Perhaps this teacher is the same, saw an unusually thoughtful student, and made an error in judgment.

  12. Eric Reynolds says:

    “Yeah, you’d hate to have your dad protecting you from nebulous, vaguely predatory gestures like a teacher randomly giving you a sexually explicity comic book.”

    To Mark Engbloom: what exactly is sexually explicit about Eightball #22, again?

    I’d like to remind everyone that no one knows anything yet about the circumstances of this matter. There is absolutely no reason to believe that this is anything other than a massive misunderstanding at this point, and I would urge everyone to tone down the rhetoric and wait for more information to come out; it’s bad enough that someone has already lost his job before an investigation has been completed and any criminal charges have been filed.

    And to Alan Coil: for what it’s worth, School Library Journal gave this comic a “Grade 10-up” recommendation. That hardly implies subject matter that is “without question” improper for any student.

  13. I read THE GODFATHER in when I was that age. I checked it out of the Jr. High library.

    There is absolutely nothing in ICE HAVEN that even remotely approaches the levels of sex, depravity, and violence that are in that book. NOTHING. (note: it is shockingly more graphic than the movie.)

    Yet where are all the parents protesting Mario Puzo? Why no big protests about prose? Why is it that if a book is a graphic novel, as opposed to a prose novel, does its age-appropriateness change?

    I am sick of the double-standard.

  14. Joe Lawler says:

    Every year plenty of prose books get challenged in schools for much less shocking stuff than this Eightball issue. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and others constantly are being brought up. What will upset parents even more about this is that it’s a visual representation.

    “My kid doesn’t even have to use her imagination to see the boobies!”

  15. “Unlike Mark Engblom, I can’t make the leap in thought that the teacher was trying to worm his way into her life.”

    I’m not saying he was or he wasn’t. I’m merely suggesting that it was a possibility (based on the increased reporting of this sort of thing). Speaking as the father of a teenaged girl, that would definitely be the thing I first thought of if a teacher was passing this kind of stuff off to her.

    “To Mark Engbloom: what exactly is sexually explicit about Eightball #22, again?”

    Well, here’s what the article said:

    “It includes references to rape, various sex acts and murder, as well as images of a naked woman, and a peeping tom watching a woman in the shower.”

    If “rape, various sex acts” and “naked women and peeping tom” don’t qualify as sexually explicit, then I guess nothing is.

  16. matterconsumer says:

    Parents would be protesting if 13 year olds were being assigned THE GODFATHER and were aware.

  17. Kevin Schomburg says:

    Nate Fisher!

    Man, I knew he was a bad influence when he puffed the magic dragon in that HBO show.

    Now this – unbelievable!

  18. The Beat says:

    Mark:

    A naked woman is automatically sexually explicit? Perhaps in the mind of boys everywhere, but is this always the case? As for the “dad” comment I made, most of the quotes from the dad have been pretty inflexible and judgmental. Perhaps the media is portraying him this way. As is so many times the case when we parse everything down however, we don’t know any of the facts regarding this case. I pity this poor teenager, who will have to live with the shame and guilt or being persucuted by her classmates far longer than the sight of a naked woman’s sexually explicit breast would ever have done.

  19. Molly says:

    I came here to post the same thing as Eric Reynolds: School Library Journal rated this book (Ice Haven, which is essentially a reprint of Eightball 22) as “Grade 10 and up.” The girl is a freshman. So, if she had been one year older, the book would have been fine; but in Grade 9, it’s cause for pushing him to resign?

    That’s ridiculous.

  20. “I’m not saying he was or he wasn’t. I’m merely suggesting that it was a possibility.”

    Sure it’s a possibility, but why suggest this one in particular when you have no evidence for suspecting this over any other? And when you have no real evidence, a 1000 scenarios are possible.

    Why is that the one motive that you want to attribute to him?

    “Speaking as the father of a teenaged girl, that would definitely be the thing I first thought of if a teacher was passing this kind of stuff of to her.”

    Again, why is this your first thought?

    It doesn’t sound to me like you have read it or even skimmed it – so how do you know what ‘this kind of stuff’ is . . .

  21. “I pity this poor teenager, who will have to live with the shame and guilt or being persucuted by her classmates far longer than the sight of a naked woman’s sexually explicit breast would ever have done. ”

    So perhaps the villains are the parents, who created a situation in which their daughter suffers a very real harm, instead of the possible harm of reading the word “pussy,” seeing a breast etc . . . Wouldn’t good parents think it through, rather than rush to judgment? Sometimes the immediate desire to punish someone has unintended consequences.

  22. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Molly hits it right on the head.

    I had lunch with my mom today, and talking about it I remember we saw the 1968 Romeo & Juliet film in English class when we were freshman, including the nudity and, although people don’t seem to count this, all the violence. No one thought anything of it.

    I appreciate any parent wanting to protect the children under their care, but I don’t think they’d be any less protected if a solution with more possibilities than immediate resignation had been pursued.

    We don’t know enough about anything to even make a sentence with proper nouns that seriously suggests any motivation, and that’s true if things turn out to be absolutely benign OR if the teacher that resigned is a cannibal that hoped to eat the student in question.

  23. Jim Caldwell says:

    Mark,

    Have you actually read Eightball #22 (aka “Ice Harvest”)?

    Judging from your response, “here’s what the article said…” you haven’t.

    If “rape, various sex acts” and “naked women and peeping tom” don’t qualify as sexually explicit, then I guess nothing is.

    If you read the story in question, you might question how explicit the citations are. The naked woman can be viewed in today’s Journalista.

  24. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I mention Romeo & Juliet because I grew up in a small city in Indiana during the Reagan Years, a place where people would stop and sing along with Lee Greenwood on the TV, which suggests to me that something’s changed in the way we process this kind of circumstance.

  25. “A naked woman is automatically sexually explicit?”

    You’re conveniently leaving out that minor little “rape” and “various sex acts” reference from the article. THAT’S what I’m referring to…not the boobies.

  26. “f you read the story in question, you might question how explicit the citations are. The naked woman can be viewed in today’s Journalista.”

    So rape in the proper context is a beautiful thing for a 13 year old to read about?

    Ah. Got it. Thanks for clearing that up, Jim.

  27. Jim Caldwell says:

    You avoided my question, Mark.

    Have you read it?

    If not, you’re arguing from utter ignorance.

  28. There’s a difference betweeen a reference to rape [ "what if he rapes me" is what the character says] and a depiction of rape.

    Here’s what explicit mean for those of use who don’t seem to know:

    1. fully and clearly expressed or demonstrated; leaving nothing merely implied; unequivocal: explicit instructions; an explicit act of violence; explicit language.
    2. clearly developed or formulated: explicit knowledge; explicit belief.
    3. definite and unreserved in expression; outspoken: He was quite explicit as to what he expected us to do for him.
    4. described or shown in realistic detail: explicit sexual scenes.
    5. having sexual acts or nudity clearly depicted: explicit movies; explicit books.

  29. Kristen says:

    As seen on Amazon, Ice Haven – the graphic novel Eightball#22 was re-printed as (with a few small additions), is reviewed by The School Library Journal as appropriate for Grade 10 and up. Now, perhaps Nate Fisher was a little precipitious in giving it to a 9th grader, but advanced material gets given to advanced students all the time to challenge them, and the difference of one grade is reasonable.

    The material is not pornographic. He wasn’t asking her to read a stack of old Playboys. The assignment was to read material of a challenging nature. (Let’s also note that the girl is 14, and not 13 as seen in this article.) If the parents object to material, I’m sure they had recourse that included asking him to change the material before trying to have him fired. There are many great works of literature that reference sex, nudity, and rape without being porn, and while it is certainly the parents right to object to it, it’s not appropriate to decide that the teacher not be allowed to teach because YOU object to it. I’ve interviewed many teachers on various parental objections for some of the local journalism I’ve done, and the one thing that the teachers always tell me is that the parents get mad at material or the amount of homework, or what their kid is expected to do in gym class, and they go from 0 to “that teacher needs to be kicked out of teaching.” There is always a compromise that can be worked out if the parents are reasonable about it.

  30. James Lucas Jones says:

    “So rape in the proper context is a beautiful thing for a 13 year old to read about?”

    First of all, references and depiction are two entirely different things. I think a 13 year old *should* be aware of the concept of rape and murder and genocide, even if I don’t think they should be given graphic portrayals of such and a *reference* is what we’re talking about. And who says we should only be giving “beautiful things” for 13 year olds to read about. Better strike all those references to WWII and the Holocaust from your World History (Post-1900) text books!

  31. Tom Spurgeon says:

    We’ve the obvious open schoolboy rape,
    With little mandolins and perhaps a cape.
    The rape by coach; it’s little in request.
    The rape by day, but the rape by night is best.

    Just try to see it.
    And you will soon agree, señors,
    Why
    Invite regret,
    When you can get the sort of rape
    You’ll never ever forget.

    You can get the rape emphatic.
    You can get the rape polite.
    You can get the rape with Indians:
    A very charming sight.
    You can get the rape on horseback;
    They’ll all say it’s new and gay.
    So you see the sort of rape
    Depends on what you pay.
    It depends on what you
    Pay.

    The kids will love it.
    It depends on what you pay!
    So why be stingy?
    It depends on what you —

    The spectacular rape,
    With costumes ordered from the East.
    Requires rehearsal
    And takes a dozen men at least.
    A couple of singers,
    And a string quartet.
    A major production.
    Requires a set.

    Sounds expensive!

    Just try to see it.
    And you will soon si,si señors,
    Why
    Invite regret,
    When you can get the sort of rape
    You’ll never ever forget.

    You can get the rape emphatic.
    You can get the rape polite.
    You can get the rape with Indians:
    A very charming sight.
    You can get the rape on horseback;
    They’ll all say it’s new and gay.
    So you see the sort of rape
    Depends on what you pay.
    It depends on what you
    Pay.

    So why be stingy?
    It depends on what you pay!
    The kids will love it.
    It depends on what you —

    The comic rape.
    Perhaps it’s just a trifle too unique.
    Romantic rape:
    Done while canoeing on a moonlit creek.
    The gothic rape!
    I play “Valkyrie” on a bass bassoon!
    The drunken rape.
    It’s done completely in a cheap saloon.

    The rape Venetian
    Needs a blue lagoon.
    The rape with moonlight
    Or without a moon.
    Moonlight is expensive but it’s in demand.
    The military rape:
    It’s done with drummer and a band.

    You understand?
    I understand.
    It’s very grand.
    It’s very grand.
    It’s done with drums and a great big brass band!
    Yeah!

    Just try to see it.
    I see it!
    I see it!
    And you will soon si,si señors,
    Why
    Invite regret,
    When you can get the sort of rape
    You’ll never ever forget.

    You can get the rape emphatic.
    You can get the rape polite.
    You can get the rape with Indians:
    A very charming sight.
    You can get the rape on horseback;
    They’ll all say it’s new and gay.
    So you see the sort of rape
    Depends on what you pay.
    So you see the sort of rape
    Depends on what you pay.
    So you see the sort of rape
    Depends on what you pay.
    So you see the sort of rape
    Depends on what you pay.
    Depends on what you pay.
    Depends on what you pay.
    Depends on what you pay.
    Depends on what you pay.

    So why be stingy?
    It depends on what you pay!
    The kids will love it.
    It depends on what you

    Ra-aa-aa-pe!
    Ole!

  32. Gregory Zura says:

    Fantastick!

  33. matterconsumer says:

    Why can’t we get the facts straight?

    Was the graphic novel or the actual comic given to the girl?

  34. Tom Spurgeon says:

    What is the school’s mascot?

    What does the teacher think of sharing a name with the lead character from Six Feet Under?

  35. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Damn it, “matterconsumer” deserves the truth!

  36. Tom, I have to love you now.

    In other news, I had to read The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter my freshman year. I haven’t even read that much Clowes, but I can unequivocally state, and will do so under oath, that I’d rather have been assigned him than Carson McCullers.

  37. By this age you are ready to read anything, in a school setting. And this book is pretty tame. It’s not a dirty book.

  38. matterconsumer says:

    Tom, don’t you want the truth too?

  39. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Hell, no. That truth’s in such bad shape that even his advocate uses a fake name.

  40. usrngrx says:

    Appropriate or not?

    Eightball #22 by Daniel Clowes

    p26

    Blue Bunny

    Blue Bunny: I’m back in town, kids, fresh-sprung from prison!

    Blue Bunny: I paid my dues! It’s all about me this time!

    (bunny passes people on streat)

    Blue Bunny: Wha’ choo lookin’ at, doosh?

    (blue bunny passes female on street)

    Blue Bunny: Hey red, how’sabouta suck-job? I been living on state pussy for eighteen months!

    Blue Bunny: That’s alright for you then, bitch!

    (bunny passes sign “now hiring”)

    Employer: Sorry, but the position has already been filled.

    Blue Bunny: Who needs your shitty job? I won’t starve!

    (bunny passes old lady with purse in on the street)

    Blue Bunny: Hand it over, grammaw!

    Blue Bunny: GIVE IT!

    Policeman: Hold it right there!

    Blue Bunny: Yowsa!

    Blue Bunny: You won’t take me down!

    Blue Bunny: I’m on my third strike!

    (bunny shoots flamethrower into crowd of police)

    Blue Bunny: I’ll roast you all!

    (bunny throws dynamite into crowd of police)

    Blue Bunny: My excuse is I had a lousy upbringing!

    (explosions all around)

    Blue Bunny: Top o’ the world, ma!

    Blue Bunny: That’s more like it! Eat shit losers!

    This isn’t the worst of what is in Eightball 22

    – Two young kids have sex than kill another kid because he was gay and retarded, bury him in a hole, then piss on the grave.

    – A man masturbates on a toilet

    – A cave man killing another caveman and then rapes his mate.

    The School Library Journal has rated this book for 10th grade or above, but who is the School Library Journal and what authority do they have to rate reading material for schools.

    The real problem with this is the fact that a teacher gave this student this type of reading material after class as an additional reading assignment. This 13 yo girl was the was the ONLY one that received this material. The school had no knowledge of this as stated by the superintendent.

    The teacher resigned in order to avoid a lengthy wrongful termination hearing in which he would have had to prove that his actions were condoned by the school board, which it has already been reported that it wasn’t.

    Charles Brownstein spoke all through the article and even wrote on blogs about this article that it is a grave injustice that a teacher resigned over assigning a Daniel Clowes comic. The CBLDF clearly feels that this course of events is completely innocent. Clearly, the CBLDF and Charles Brownstein have no problem exposing you children to this type of material and don’t feel there is any need to approve reading material before handing it out to students.

    What’s next, shall teachers hold kids after class and give them additional assignments in the proper way to give oral sex, and than ask for a demonstration?

    Where do we draw the line?

    There is a reason why reading material is first approved by the administration before hand. This is not a censorship issue, no one is calling for censorship. A line has to be drawn on what material is used as reading, and once defined, that line should never be crossed, because we trust the school administration to follow through with the policy they create.

    -A concerned parent

  41. Tom Spurgeon says:

    James typed his response naked from the back of a unicorn.

  42. Tom Spurgeon says:

    “What’s next, shall teachers hold kids after class and give them additional assignments in the proper way to give oral sex, and than ask for a demonstration?”

    So much for my exclusive interview with Charles Brownstein running tomorrow where he advocates for Nationwide Blowjob Clubs.

  43. Akcoll99 says:

    Oh please, won’t someone think of the children…

  44. matterconsumer says:

    I think it’s better to try and stick with the facts than to overstate and jump to unwarranted conclusions.

    Tom, I don’t know what was actually given to the student. It doesn’t seem to have been age appropriate but that’s based on information which may or may not be true. Still don’t know what was really given to the student.

    Tom, do you think that this was age appropriate material?

  45. Matt D. says:

    If the girl took out the book at a local public library on her own, perhaps it’s not that big of a deal. The teacher giving the 14-year-old girl the book–and only to her, from what I infer, so it wasn’t a class assignment–and his comments is what is disturbing.

  46. Eric Reynolds says:

    The Guilford High School summer reading list is online at:

    http://www.guilford.k12.ct.us/summer%20school/Summer%20Author%20List%202007.pdf

    It’s got Bukowski and Ginsberg and Augustyn Burroughs and Sylvia Plath
    and Janet Evanovich on it. You know, kid stuff.

  47. usrngrx says:

    I don’t see Daniel Clowes on that list…….

  48. Eric Reynolds says:

    It’s possible that this young girl was assigned a comic because she wasn’t able to participate in the summer reading assignment and had to read something in a short period of time.

    No one should lose their career or reputation over this

  49. Eric Reynolds says:

    “I don’t see Daniel Clowes on that list.”

    Which may be grounds for some kind of action if that’s against the rules, but claiming Eightball #22 is inappropriate when her summer reading list includes Bukowski, Ginsburg, Lawrence, Kerouac, Plath, etc? I don’t think so.

  50. Sam Hall says:

    “The teacher resigned in order to avoid a lengthy wrongful termination hearing in which he would have had to prove that his actions were condoned by the school board, which it has already been reported that it wasn’t.”

    Where was this reported? None of the news articles said as much. Is this just speculation?

  51. hyzmarca says:

    The ad’s being a douche, that’s all there is too it.
    The controversy has driven me to actually download a really crappy scan of this horrible pornographic book, and I honestly don’t see what the heck the problem is. I’ve seen Justice League books more explicit than that. It certainly isn’t appropriate for very young children, but there is certainly nothing wrong with it for teens. The one little bit of nudity was highly medical and completely nonsexual. The little bit of sexually suggestive text is completely disarmed by the non-sexual context provided by the images.

    If he gave out Mai-Chan’s daily life as a reading assignment, it would be clearly over the line, wherever the line actually is (no one can pinpoint it for sure). And the Dad is making it out like Eightball #22 is Mai-Chan’s Daily life. But it isn’t. It isn’t anywhere close to what he makes it out to be.
    He’s a douche.

    It is, as stated, appropriate for a highschool audience. If he disagreed with it, it is his right as a parent to request a change, obviously. But, teachers cannot be expected to seek parental approval for every minute piece of their curricula beforehand. Schools could not function if that were the case. There is such a thing as discretion, and he was well within his discretionary rights to give a non-standard reading asignment simply to give a student a break, because that is what it was, a break. He throw a softball at her so that it would be easier for her to make up the work that she missed for whatever reason. There is nothing untoward about that. It is commendable.

    And the funny thing is that she’s probably seen extremely explicit violent pornography before, because there is such a thing as the internet and any kid with half a brain can locate explicit pictures of Draco Malfoy raping Harry Potter, and vica-versa, which happen to drawn by 13-year-old girls.

    And in the off chance that the teacher is a pervert, wouldn’t it be easier just to tell her to bite his penis off should he ever pull it out? It’s a common sense solution that works against all perverted authority figures.

  52. Rafael Kayanan says:

    And John Kerry said nothing?

  53. It’s been twelve years and I’m still trying to get my high school English teacher fired for making me read Ethan Frome.

  54. Matt D. says:

    My wife is a high school English teach at a large suburban high school (and I’ve been involved in the education field for 17 years). I told her about this last night. She asked if the teacher talked about giving the book with a curriculum coordinator or at least his department head. It would have taken a few minutes and he would have at least covered his back by doing this.

  55. snoid says:

    If I give Eightball #22 to my 13 year, that is one thing. If my sons teacher gives it him it is something completely different.
    Only someone without a lick of common sense would give that comic to a 13 year old that wasn’t their own child. And I write this thinking Eightball #22 was one of the best comic ever produced.

  56. Sean D. says:

    Sounds like Tom and I were shown the 1968 Romeo and Juliet about the same time.

    In my case it would’ve been late Fresh/early Soph year. At our small Southern Illinois high school, the teacher opted to fast forward during the one scene after an earlier class had a few “hoots and hollers” at the sight of Olivia Hussey’s nipple.

    For point of reference, the other major reading assignments we had from that teacher that I recall were Hound of the Baskervilles and The Good Earth.

  57. Tom Spurgeon says:

    “Tom, do you think that this was age appropriate material?”

    I have no opinion on this whatsoever. You could make the case this student’s father doesn’t seem mature enough to read the comic. My 11-year-old goddaughter would have no problem with it.

    I know from working with youth in church that you’re never going to find agreement on what’s appropriate or inappropriate for minors. I think that makes it vital that we have a way to process these disagreements in a way that doesn’t involve the suggestion that Blowjob Parties are on their way or result in news articles where employees of the school system suggest the teacher might have been due an ass-whuppin’, or whatever the equivalent from the other side might be.

  58. I find the Parents in this case, and many of them on this board much scarier than the teacher.

  59. Tom Spurgeon says:

    BTW, I didn’t mean my take on age appropriate material as flippant. It’s just that it’s a term that likely has great meaning for an educator and almost no meaning for me in that context. I don’t know all the factors that you’d have to parse in order to make an educator’s policy out of the notion of age appropriate material. How does violence work in there? Are the YA novels that deal with rape weighted differently than adult novels that deal with that horrifying thing or is that just a verboten subject? I seriously have no idea. I read a lot of Stephen King in middle school study hall — was the school enabling my access to age-inappropriate material?

    I can say Eightball #22 isn’t something I would assign as reading in a Sunday School aimed at 14-year-olds, or that I would give out on Halloween.

  60. rabbitbasket says:

    I am also the mother of a daughter at Guilford High School. I appreciate the teacher’s effort to encourage teens to get interested in reading by using material that would appeal to them. We don’t know the circumestances or conversations that lead to Mr. Fisher choosing this specific item to give the girl to read. We have heard that she did nto complete her summer readign assignment, so he gave her this comic book to do so. It sounds to me like she does not enjoy reading and through some conversation, Fisher may have found out she liked the movie based on another of the author’s books, so he thought this was a good tool to inspire a love of reading in her. Maybe he shold have asked her parents if it would be ok first, as it was borderline objectionable in content, but I think his motives were what great teachers are made of. I can’t believe he would lose his career over this. It’s obvious that people are afraid of the dad – he is intimidating people into submission.

  61. Wow.

    My high school graphics teacher recommended both [i]Naked Lunch[/i] and [i]Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas[/i]. And, as I recall, he had quite the stash of Avant Garde and Utne Reader mags lying around for us kids to peruse.

    What’s the statute of limitations again…?*

    (*that was a joke, son)

  62. As we grow older the same people who shield thier children also tend to miss the bygone age of ‘purity’. In any case, I think the teacher gave the student the book because its a brilliant [read the reviews foo's!] and its a book coming from a very important writer [Daniel Clowes, sillies!]. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I read Catcher in the Rye when I was 12 for school. Just as graphic and violent. When you lie to kids and shield them from realities THAT is when they grow up weird. Note, not show them porn, but honesty. Ice Haven falls into the latter, and someone is overreacting.

  63. Also, any argument that ends with ‘think of the children!’ or ‘it is possible this makes you a pedophile’, even when no pedophilia is involved, are arguments that get people mumbling to themselves awkwardly instead of defending, irregardless of right and wrong.

  64. “Note, not show them porn, but honesty. Ice Haven falls into the latter, and someone is overreacting.”

    How is this “honesty”?…

    “Blue Bunny: Hey red, how’sabouta suck-job? I been living on state pussy for eighteen months!

    Blue Bunny: That’s alright for you then, bitch!

    (bunny passes sign “now hiring”)

    Employer: Sorry, but the position has already been filled.

    Blue Bunny: Who needs your shitty job? I won’t starve!”

    Question: How is a parent supposed to react to material like this being given to their 13 year old child? With a smile and a slap on the back for the teacher? “Hey, thanks for giving my kid all that honesty!”

    Do any of you don’t see anything wrong with the teacher’s actions actually have children…particularly teenaged children? No, I’m not talking neices, nephews, godchildren, next door neighbors, friends of kids, etc. I mean actually raising kids with your own values, and having to deal with nosebleeds like this teacher undermining that value system without any knowledge or consent from you.

    Would you feel the same way if the teacher slipped the kid a Christian tract, a Ronald Reagan biography, or (gasp) a Bible?

  65. So, thanks to rabbitbasket, as far as we can tell the girl liked either Ghost World or Art School Confidential, so her teacher gave her Eightball.

    Hm, Ghost World was rated R. It contained swearing and sex and brief nudity, references to S&M and “tight cracks and enlarged holes” (best line ever). I haven’t seen ASC, but I feel I can assume much of the same.

    Eightball contained swearing and sex and brief nudity, and references to rape and murder (neither of which, if you read it, ACTUALLY happened in the book).

    As far as I can tell, all Fisher wanted to do was get this girl off on the right foot. She didn’t do her summer reading assignment, so instead of starting off with a mark against her the first day, he decided to give her a second chance. Should he have consulted her parents first? On reflection, yes. Should he be fired for it? Absolutely not.

    And frankly, my parents would have been more pissed that I didn’t do my summer reading assignment.

  66. Matt D. says:

    Seems like most folks who have kids have said that the teacher should have used better judgment/discretion. Folks without kids seem to be saying, “Let kids read what they want. Can’t shield them forever!” Reminds me of the line from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” where Mike TV asks his dad if he can get a real Colt .45. His dad replies: “Not til your 12, son!”

  67. Do any of you don’t see anything wrong with the teacher’s actions actually have children…particularly teenaged children?

    No, but I was a teenager until about six months ago.

    Would you feel the same way if the teacher slipped the kid a Christian tract, a Ronald Reagan biography, or (gasp) a Bible?

    The Bible was assigned reading in my sophomore English class (The Bible as/in literature, mind you, but the Bible nonetheless) And I went to a liberal secular humanist prep school in Massachusetts. Not to mention, for a public school teacher to distribute religious tracts (of any religion) is considered a violation of the First Amendment. A Ronald Reagan biography, I’m sure, qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment. But seriously, this all has to do with the teacher’s intentions. As far as I can tell, is intentions were pure, and therefre he should not be losing his job over it.

  68. The honesty in that scene comes from the idea that our childhood heroes and entertainers, i.e., Bugs Bunny, can have feet of clay. It represents the child’s childhood meshing with the biography of Loeb and Leopold, who in real life murdered a child. When the Bugs Bunny gangster asks for a ‘suck job’, it is suppoused to be ironic. Never does Blue Bunny get a suck job.

    Pornography is nudity with no deep meaning, meant to tittilate. There is plenty of deep meaning in Ice Haven.

    I dunno about the folks who *have* kids, but I actually remember being a kid. Wasn’t that long ago for me, and most normal children can handle more than most adults think. It seems like the father is the only one reacting. Not, the daughter.

  69. And if she DID enjoy Ghost World… well, Ice Haven is rather tame in comparison. Really, this all reeks of overreaction.

  70. Ya all are missing the point…not if EIGHTBALL is appropriate material for a 13 year old, (for some it would be for others no), but that a teacher took it upon himself to judge if it was appropriate material for a 13 year old student of his.

  71. OH MY GOD! WHY DID HER PARENTS LET HER WATCH THE GHOST WORLD MOVIE? IT WAS RATED R! WHAT ARE THEY TRYING TO DRILL INTO HER HEAD, THAT (whoops, caps lock) it’s okay to sleep with Steve Buscemi? I guess they were trying to do that in the same way some think the teacher was planning to use a stack of books from his perverted graphic novel collection to climb into her bedroom at night. Pure speculation, of course…

  72. Tom Spurgeon says:

    “Would you feel the same way if the teacher slipped the kid a Christian tract, a Ronald Reagan biography, or (gasp) a Bible?”

    This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read on Heidi’s site, especially as it follow the cheapest of cheap ploys of “you people have no children, and therefore you cannot truly understand.” The reason why that’s a cheap ploy is that nobody in that position is claiming full understanding of the situation, and the vast majority of people have expressed sympathy for parents put into this situation and facing these kinds of issues generally.

    And I love the smarmy use of “slipped”. Sheesh.

    Outside of the Land of Conservative Christian Victimhood, a tract is in no way logically comparable to a work of art, even if they’re works of art you don’t like. I can’t imagine two parents being grown from the DNA of hair found in a brush Jane Fonda used in Hanoi giving two shits if a respectable biography of Ronald Reagan were on a kid’s supplementary reading list, and the bible would be a comparable example if she were given the Koran.

    Further all of this betrays a disgusting assumption of motivation that even if it turns out to be absolutely true should not yet enter the discussion.

  73. “…the vast majority of people have expressed sympathy for parents put into this situation and facing these kinds of issues generally.”

    Where? I could probably count ‘em on one hand. Most are either slamming on the dad, , rationalizing the offensive stuff, or can’t for the life of them figure out why someone wouldn’t think Eight Ball is profound literature.

    “And I love the smarmy use of “slipped”. Sheesh.”

    That’s all your inference, Tom. Must be reading too many of those deep, profound comix.

    “Outside of the Land of Conservative Christian Victimhood, a tract is in no way logically comparable to a work of art, even if they’re works of art you don’t like. “

    Never said it was. I was trying to conjure up something that someone of a more liberal persuation would find upsetting that a teacher gave to their minor child, something that went against the particular morality they were trying to teach and model at home. Whatever that may be….a Christian tract was a bad example since it’s against the law….but maybe, say, a comic book debunking global warming in a humorous way, or a pro military comic book. Whatever…you can fill in the blank with whatever material you, as a hypothetical parent would feel undermines what you’re trying to teach at home, and don’t appreciate a teacher giving it to the child without your knowledge or approval. Surely the teacher was smart enough to know not every parent would appreciate this kind of thing being given to their kid, yet he did it anyway. At the very least, the guy’s judgement is so bad, you really DO have to question his competency as a teacher…at worst, who knows. As a father, my “radar” for creepy sexual advances would definitely be set off by something like this.

    Oh, but I know….anyone who doesn’t suscribe to your enlightened libertine world view is automatically invalidated as a legitimate voice in the debate. As long as adult material is being given to children with no restraint or consideration for their parents’ wishes…what the hell, right? After all, who am I to deny a 13 year old the “honesty” of cartoon characters discussing anal sex? With that kind of progress marching forward, I might as well just shut up and get out the way, huh?

  74. Tom Spurgeon says:

    “Ya all are missing the point…not if EIGHTBALL is appropriate material for a 13 year old, (for some it would be for others no), but that a teacher took it upon himself to judge if it was appropriate material for a 13 year old student of his.”

    Right, and if that was wrong, let’s have it be known he was put on leave for that, and quit over that, and let’s be clear on the nature of the work in question, the fact that many feel it has merit and that there are all sorts of ways in which the severity of the material is on par with other assignments. It shouldn’t be a factor either way.

  75. “a all are missing the point…not if EIGHTBALL is appropriate material for a 13 year old, (for some it would be for others no), but that a teacher took it upon himself to judge if it was appropriate material for a 13 year old student of his.”

    Thanks, Snoid. You said it more succinctly that I ever could.

  76. But here’s a question to the fellow who feels that a nekkid leddy in any circumstance equals pure pure pornography: Have you read Ice Haven?

  77. I mean, I could give a kid ‘The Scarlet Letter’, or should I check with thier parents? After all, that has many a mention of sex! In the end, Ice Haven is not Penthouse, or even Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

    Dan Clowes draws very creepy pictures. Amazing pictures, but very unsettling. Scarlet Letter and Catcher in the Rye you draw in your brain. Coupled with too many people’s aversions to comics, you get a clearer picture of the situation at hand.

  78. “Right, and if that was wrong, let’s have it be known he was put on leave for that, and quit over that, and let’s be clear on the nature of the work in question, the fact that many feel it has merit and that there are all sorts of ways in which the severity of the material is on par with other assignments. It shouldn’t be a factor either way.”

    Tom, I’d have no problem with that. Also I feel Eightball #22 has merit myself. It truly is one of the best comics ever produced IMO, that however doesn’t change my mind about what was wrong with a teacher giving to a 13 year old student of his.

    Mark :)

  79. “I mean, I could give a kid ‘The Scarlet Letter’, or should I check with thier parents? After all, that has many a mention of sex! In the end, Ice Haven is not Penthouse, or even Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”

    You should NEVER be giving a kid that isn’t your own kid something to read without their parents knowledge, period. You have no right to decide what is right or wrong for someone else child to read, that is the parents job.

  80. “You should NEVER be giving a kid that isn’t your own kid something to read without their parents knowledge, period. You have no right to decide what is right or wrong for someone else child to read, that is the parents job.”

    It’s depressing that this concept eludes so many people.

  81. Tom Spurgeon says:

    1. The example you’re looking for is Passion of the Christ, Mark. Usually when I can make the arguments for a person better than they can it’s a sign I should back off, but let me run through some leftovers.

    2. Frankly, I don’t believe you that your use of the word “slipped” was unintentional. My reading of your use of it has nothing to do with reading great comics, and everything to do with debating people who like to press cultural buttons when the severity of their arguments prove untenable.

    3. Your response in terms of characterization of how people are arguing, that people are “rationalizing” and “slamming” is just too cretinous to get into. There are few enough people commenting on this thread that being able to count the ones expressing sympathy and restraint on one hand, given your loaded readings, is actually a high compliment and proves my point. Thank you!

    4. All that libertine bullshit is hilarious given my conservative propers. Again, I reject the notion that your being a parent gives you special pride of place in the overall argument, any more than my pastoral work with kids and families discussing such issues invalidates your point of view. And of course, no one is suggesting you don’t have a legitimate, unique and compelling point of view being a parent who worries about these issues; they’re just not willing to cede all arguments in your favor.

    5. The notion that I (or really, anyone) in any way am arguing from a position that is advocating for adult material being given to children with no restraint or consideration for their parents wishes is personally insulting, asinine and intellectually bankrupt. That’s in no way the point I’ve ever made, nor is it inherent in any position I’d advocate, and deep down, you know it.

    But hey, keep demonizing and exaggerating the arguments of those with whom you disagree, Mark! Keep providing that model!

  82. Matt D. says:

    [especially as it follow the cheapest of cheap ploys of “you people have no children, and therefore you cannot truly understand.”]

    It’s not a cheap ploy at all. Twenty-five years ago I might have said, “Hey, I’m kid! I know what’s acceptable for me to read!” Now that I have kids, I don’t necessarily think that way. I’m more careful to think about the effect of things. What’s cheap are the comments about how a parents’ judgment not to expose their children to questionable content is shielding their kids from reality. Puh-lez. There’s an incredible amount of violence on TV (ever watch FOX during football season? Loaded with horror movie clips that I don’t think are appropriate for my kids). Kids see violence in the news, they go through shit at school with cliques, etc. Sure, they’re not dumb. But doesn’t mean I have to open the flood gates and let come what may.

  83. I can say that I was exposed to all sorts of material at school that was at odds with my family’s belief’s (up to and including being led in prayer in class at my (secular public) elementary school in the mid-’70s, and you know how we dealt with such issues in my family? We TALKED ABOUT STUFF. My parents were always willing to discuss any issue with me, and explain why they held their beliefs, and encouraged me to think for myself. That worked out pretty well for us. And to the best of my recollection, none of the four teachers (well…three teachers, one young student teacher)I can recall who interacted inappropriately with students while I was there ever deviated from their lesson plans.

  84. Teachers have taken up a responsibility to educate others children, and teachers have been giving intelligent mature books to thier students for ages, including The Scarlet Letter, Catcher in the Rye, and The Bible, probably one of the most violent popular books around.

    Plus she’s 14 and a high school student, not 13. One shouldn’t overlook that news error.

    Another issue is that people are already hating Ice Haven without reading it, or THINKING about it. Daniel Clowes is the Salinger of our time, writing honestly about youth without pandering or talking down. The teacher did not give porn, and if one considers it porn, one is clearly not reading hard enough.

    Its not as if kids don’t know about this stuff. If anything, when they get intelligent mature books, they adress the issues the kids are dealing with better than most of the usual mush put on reading lists. But to the argument of wether or not the teacher should’ve given it…

    — We can all be opposed to anything teachers give? Republican propaganda? Yaoi to a 14 year old? Sure, i’d be upset or outraged, but to make a national issue and fire a teacher over a very personal preference and moral code… Well, that is shameful.

    To the snarky comment-
    I think the true depressing thing is the people who wish to harken back to puritan terrirory of a shielded enviorment. Only in America. French children grow up with sexually explicit entertainment, and well… there is a country much healthier in that regard. Yes, its your parents job, but there is trust put into the teacher. This isn’t given out by a creepy fellow on the street, this isn’t shelved amongst the hustlers and the smokey old copies of even Kurtzman’s ‘Annie Fanny’. Nah, its given by a teacher and sold on the shelves of Barnes and Nobles, where any child can find it.

  85. By the way ‘We can all be opposed to anything a teacher gives’ should end with a period. Otherwise its sounds super snarky. And snarkers fail!

  86. I assume that the majority of people posting here are comic book fans. As I read the comments today, it seemed to me like we have all been caught up in the argument over whether or not the book itself was appropriate, and disregarding a question that affects comic fans more specifically. That is, how was this situation treated differently because the work in question was a comic book rather than prose? Of course, the father in question probably wouldn’t have been able to blow through A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or The Chocolate War (both books I read in 8th grade, one as an assignment and one on my own, but recommended by my teacher) fast enough to work up his outrage.

    Or would he just not have been interested in giving a prose work this much scrutiny? Is it possible that, when he sees his daughter bring home a comic book, he automatically assumes it needed to be held to a higher standard of review? As a fan of the medium, this troubles me.

  87. Hi, I’m James Bucky Carter. I edited and wrote essays for _Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels_, a book that offers suggestions for how to use comics in the classroom. The book is actually listed in the New Hampshire Department of Education’s recent document on 21st century literacy skills.

    On my own blog, I’ve written a reaction to the situation and offered some advice for teachers who might want to use comics in the classroom but are afraid to do so.

    Here’s my blog, if anyone is a teacher or knows someone who might be interested:

    http://www.ensaneworld.blogspot.com

  88. Tom Spurgeon says:

    “You should NEVER be giving a kid that isn’t your own kid something to read without their parents knowledge, period. You have no right to decide what is right or wrong for someone else child to read, that is the parents job.”

    I don’t give kids reading material, but my Sunday school teachers gave me books. My teachers did. My camp counselors did. My comic shop owner did. My debate coach did. My parents monitored that reading. What a depressing world you live in!

    I applaud the parents in taking an interest in what their kids are reading. That’s the way it should work. In fact, I have no problems with the parents objecting. That’s their right to object. However, I’m baffled if nothing else comes out that this had to get to the level it did instead of “Okay, well, let’s try to find her something she can use to do the make-up work.”

    I personally don’t think this guy should have been forced into a resignation based on what we know right now, and I strongly believe painting Eightball #22 as debased porno to press that argument is a great disservice to the truth and to art. But I don’t see a school make-up assignment as a secret passing on of material.

  89. matterconsumer says:

    Here’s a thought that will perhaps make this even clearer.

    The reading that was given to the student was not on the reading list. The question is raised then would a teacher be disciplined for making a recommendation that is not on the reading list. If the answer is “yes” then it would not matter whether it was objectionable or not. The teacher would still be subject to disciplinary action.

  90. CBrown says:

    Alex is right. It’s the pictures. I haven’t read this particular issue, but I’ve read a bunch of Clowe’s other work and none of it could be considered obscene or pornographic. Is his work adult? Yes. Too adult for a 13-year old? Maybe. Do her parents have the right to object to their daughter being given this material without their approval? Absolutely. But it’s “Dad’s” hyperbolic statements that it’s pornography and that this teacher’s ill-advised assignment should prevent him from ever teaching again that is provoking this reaction against him.

    But how does “Dad” come to see this comic as pornography? Now, I don’t know “Dad,” but I can only imagine he came across the book and saw those “naughty pictures.” As has been mentioned so many times, there’s plenty of prose available in the high schools that has much stronger content than Eightball, but there’s no accompanying visual content. That visual content is the only thing that could make you think of the material as pornographic. The same as in the Gordon Lee case; how could anyone see “The Salon” as obscene, save for the drawings of Picasso’s flaccid penis?

  91. Tom Spurgeon says:

    “It’s not a cheap ploy at all. Twenty-five years ago I might have said, ‘Hey, I’m kid! I know what’s acceptable for me to read! Now that I have kids, I don’t necessarily think that way. I’m more careful to think about the effect of things.”

    That’s not what I’m getting at. I know that the change in roles brings with it a different and perhaps wiser point of view. As I’ve stated multiple times now, I respect that point of view. Its logic should be self-evident.

    It’s a cheap ploy in how it’s presented as an automatic, dismissive invalidation of other points of view, and how it presents itself as an hysterical defense against an assault on a parents right to be concerned and set boundaries that no one is making.

  92. Tom Spurgeon says:

    “The reading that was given to the student was not on the reading list. The question is raised then would a teacher be disciplined for making a recommendation that is not on the reading list. If the answer is ‘yes’ then it would not matter whether it was objectionable or not. The teacher would still be subject to disciplinary action.”

    YES! I agree with this. Which is why it’s unnecessary and even damaging to have it presented in the press and by the parents as meritless porno, or in any way have perceptions of the content fuel the outcome.

  93. If the teacher wanted to seduce a student, and was using Daniel Clowes to do so, he has a lot to learn…

    And yeah, I agree with Spurgeon. No reason not having children should stop us from thinking common sense. If anything else , being a parent COULD make one over protective…

    [Ahhh! Ahh! See what I did there?]

  94. I feel sympathy for everyone involved – including the parents. I don’t think the teacher had any ulterior motives by giving this girl the book, but I can understand the objection the parents had over this book. My own parents would have reacted exactly like these parents if a teacher had given me a copy of this comic. I was raised in a very religious home. There was a lot of stuff out there that I wasn’t allowed to read, watch, or see.

    For instance, I wasn’t allowed to see Star Wars when it first came out.

    My parents are good people. They only did this type of stuff because they truly loved us and they believed they were doing the right thing. They’ve mellowed out in their old age and I doubt they would be as strict today as they were when I was a kid.

    I can only assume the same is true with this girl’s parents. If they didn’t give two shits about her, they wouldn’t care what she brought home to read. I think the girl’s parents reacted the way they did because they love her and care deeply about the person she will grow up to be. I for one have the utmost respect for that. I don’t agree with them, but I respect them. Too many parents today don’t care enough about their kids or what type of people they will eventually grow up to be.

  95. I think anyone can disagree with whatever they want. Its when someone loses thier means of putting food on the table that the trouble begins. The might care about her, but things are not going as well for the human being who lost his job due to this personal opinion.

  96. Matt D. says:

    Alex, it’s not a matter of personal opinion; it’s a policy issue. The teacher didn’t follow protocol regarding a questionble book. That’s what got him in trouble. Bad judgment. Like some folks have noted, whether it’s porn or not is moot. I love comics and see nothing wrong in showing nudity as it applies to a story, or just an appreciation of the human form. (Like someone mentioned, Europeans don’t have hang ups about nudity.) But the teacher should have consulted with the parent/s or someone else at the school. That, I think, is the bottom line.

    It seems like he’s a young guy–the article says he’s been teaching for about a year. He’ll find his way to being a teacher again. The fact that he resigned instead of being fired goes a long way in education circles. He may have to move out of Connecticut, but there’s gonna be a school out there that would probably appreciate his efforts to encourage a student to read through a graphic medium. (In 1983, my mom, a Polish immigrant, read an article in the Hardford Courant that comics can making reading enjoyable for kids, who would presumably eventually “graduate” to novels and such. Well, it worked for me–and I still read comics, too!)

  97. snoid says:

    “I don’t give kids reading material, but my Sunday school teachers gave me books. My teachers did. My camp counselors did. My comic shop owner did. My debate coach did. My parents monitored that reading. What a depressing world you live in!”

    Tom, I live in the real world, and today that means you can’t give a child a comic with a boobie in it without expecting something like this to happen.
    My parents did the same for me as I do for my own son, but things ain’t what they use to be.
    For the record I don’t think the guy should have lost his job over this, but again it is reality of how things are today.

  98. Michael DeForge says:

    “Here’s a thought that will perhaps make this even clearer.

    The reading that was given to the student was not on the reading list. The question is raised then would a teacher be disciplined for making a recommendation that is not on the reading list. If the answer is “yes” then it would not matter whether it was objectionable or not. The teacher would still be subject to disciplinary action. ”

    I don’t know enough details to make any sort of judgment call on this case. But I think the idea that a teacher shouldn’t be able to recommend any book that isn’t on a course’s reading list is a bit wrong-headed.

    Reading lists can be pretty narrow, so I was happy to have teachers who encouraged me to seek out books, movies or articles that I might enjoy, and that complimented the work we studied in class. It helped foster my love of reading outside of the classroom.

  99. Tom Spurgeon says:

    snoid, I understand, and I feel the same way about the way this is different now. I was just alarmed you made it a prescriptive!

  100. [NOTE: Crossposted from this thread (http://pwbeat.publishersweekly.com/blog/2007/09/19/porn-comic-revealedeigthball/)
    to address a comment made by usrngrx on both that one and this one]

    Matterconsumer says:

    “Because what’s more likely to stick in the minds of the average person who read the newspaper article is that the CBLDF supports teachers giving sexually explicit material to 13 year olds. And then when the average person reflects on why the teacher gave the 13 year old sexually explicit material it’s not going to lead to either a favorable disposition toward the teacher or CBLDF.”

    That’s a leap of logic that has nothing to do with what I actually said. If you check the article, I described the book, I explained Daniel Clowes in context, and I described how the graphic novel medium functions. And for the record, Eightball #22 does not contain any sexually explicit material.

    My statement: “Frankly, I find the fact that somebody has left their job over this particular work deeply troubling.” Means exactly what it means. It means that it is troubling that this book, which has won several major awards and is recognized for its literary merits, should be the cause of someone losing their job. It casts no judgment upon the parents in this matter, who were well within their rights to bring this to the school’s attention. Similarly, it does not show a sympathy towards the teacher.

    usrngrx says:

    “Charles Brownstein spoke all through the article and even wrote on blogs about this article that it is a grave injustice that a teacher resigned over assigning a Daniel Clowes comic. The CBLDF clearly feels that this course of events is completely innocent. Clearly, the CBLDF and Charles Brownstein have no problem exposing you children to this type of material and don’t feel there is any need to approve reading material before handing it out to students.”

    This is another baseless and damaging assertion that bears no relationship to anything that I actually said. I never stated that this was a grave injustice. I don’t have enough information to say one way or another whether this course of events is completely innocent. No one relying upon the news coverage of this event does.

    What I do have, per the news coverage, is the knowledge that this matter is being investigated by Guilford police. That places this incident outside the realm of an internal school matter and into the realm of being a possible criminal matter.

    In all matters related to the justice system, a person is considered innocent until proven guilty, which is why I called for people to stop accusing the teacher of harmful motives. We simply don’t know enough to call this person’s character or motives into question, much less pass judgment on them. Doing so with the information we have is harmful and does go against the legal presumption of innocence. This isn’t a matter for Internet court, it’s a matter for the justice system.

    I think everyone can agree that this is an unfortunate event. I think that vilifying either the teacher or the parents at this point is wrong.

    Likewise, I think vilifying the book as pornographic or obscene is also wrong. Whether it is appropriate to this particular teenager is nobody’s business but the parents of that teenager. Whether it is appropriate for teen readers is a topic for open debate, although authoritive sources, notably School Library Journal, seem to think that it is.

    I understand that this is a topic that arouses passion, but in matters of law, passion must be submissive to fact. Once this left the principal’s desk and hit the police’s desk, this became a matter of law. As such, we should let the law run its course and stop assigning motives when we just don’t know enough to do so. Right or wrong, a life is at stake. We should be respectful of that fact and leave the discovery of motive to the professionals.

  101. Alexa says:

    I’m just going to throw this out here: Some parents will always freak out when they find anything with nude content in their child’s possession. Period.

    Case in point: My mother’ curiosity finally got the better of her one day about three years after I started reading comics, and she went into my room and started flipping through my comics. When I arrived home that day, I was subjected to a screeching that I had never endured before. The comic in question? Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Black Orchid. It’s crime? Naked ladies.

    My age at the time? 18.

  102. “I’m just going to throw this out here: Some parents will always freak out when they find anything with nude content in their child’s possession. Period.”

    I think the complaints go far beyond the nudity. Others have documented some of the pretty dark areas the book gets into. The guy didn’t exactly hand the kid a copy of the National Geographic.

  103. Jim Engel says:

    If a teacher assigned my thirteen year old to read ANYTHING with the title “Needledick The Bugfucker”, I’D lead the charge for his dismissal.

    I wouldn’t want my kids to read anything by Daniel Clowes. His popularity with the press, the public, and Comic Fandom, and what they finds acceptable doesn’t sway my view in the least.

    I read loads of Clowes’ work early on. I no longer do or would. I find his world view negative and debased, and while it’s perfect for the cynical hero-eschewing hip cognescenti who love Peter Bagge, Joe Matt, etc.,etc., I’d be concerned about ANY adult who would give it to ANY kid.

    And by the way (to parents & non-parents posting here) some people don’t automatically allow their kids to see PG-13 movies, even if they ARE 13.

  104. Tom Spurgeon says:

    What does Needledick the Bugfucker have to do with anything?

  105. Bert Teague says:

    Mark,

    I honestly think you have zero knowledge of any of the books/magazines you are talking about.

    For one thing, national geographic sometimes publishes photos of NAKED or PARTIALLY NUDE PEOPLE.

    And they report on “dark stuff,” like death, disaters, plane crashes:

    http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/seconds/episodes.html

  106. But have you yourself read it Mark?

    The next paragraph has some spoilers…

    I’m wondering if the father read it either, or did he just open it and see a bewb, because really, I just reread the book, and its sadder more than anything else. Its about being lonely as a child, and the peeping tom is a sexually curious 10 year old boy. 8 1/2 had the same kind of kid, and it is hardly porn. Yes it is all about opinion, because you can’t call this porn–> http://www.tcj.com/journalista/ [do word find, pornographic comic book to see the image.].

    And if dark areas are enough to keep a book out of a child’s hands, lets burn Anna Karenina, Les Miserables, anything from Charles Dickens, Lolita, and even Maus. Those books would give any theoretical kid the willies.

  107. And yes, our beloved Needledick wasn’t assigned. Ice Haven was. Needle Dick isn’t what got Daniel Clowes a job and the New York Times, its his more serious stuff.

  108. Bert Teague says:

    “I’d be concerned about ANY adult who would give it to ANY kid.”

    I am concerned about ANY adult who thinks giving, say, Ghost World to a seventeen year kid is a sign of a mental problem.

  109. Michael DeForge says:

    “What does Needledick the Bugfucker have to do with anything?”

    I think everyone just likes typing the words “Needledick Bugfucker”

    needledick bugfucker
    needledick bugfucker
    needledick bugfucker

  110. snoid says:

    “I read loads of Clowes’ work early on. I no longer do or would. I find his world view negative and debased, and while it’s perfect for the cynical hero-eschewing hip cognescenti who love Peter Bagge, Joe Matt, etc.,etc., ”

    This made me laugh, thanks Jim!

  111. “And yes, our beloved Needledick wasn’t assigned. Ice Haven was. Needle Dick isn’t what got Daniel Clowes a job and the New York Times, its his more serious stuff.”

    Yeah but as we know those New Times types are all part of cynical hero-eschewing hip cognescenti mob. If only Jim Lee would get one of those NYT stripes then we’d see some uplifting art.

    needledick bugfucker
    needledick bugfucker
    needledick bugfucker

  112. “I read loads of Clowes’ work early on. I no longer do or would. I find his world view negative and debased, and while it’s perfect for the cynical hero-eschewing hip cognescenti who love Peter Bagge, Joe Matt, etc.,etc., I’d be concerned about ANY adult who would give it to ANY kid.’

    Three cheers for Jim. You nailed it, my friend. NAILED it.

  113. Mark…and? what does his thoughts on Clowes have to do with anything?

  114. Jim Engel says:

    My mistake, Tom—I misread the text at Comic Reporter, and thought that WAS in #22. Please replace my comment’s reference to “Needledick The Bugfucker” with the actual issue #22 content as described posts above. Now re-read my comment. There.

  115. Jim Engel says:

    And “snoid’, since you CALL yourself “snoid”, I’m sure my comments WOULD make you laugh.

  116. The Beat says:

    The guy didn’t exactly hand the kid a copy of the National Geographic.
    Mark, I hope you are being ironic here, because NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC is how most of us kids of a certain age learned what real naked people (brown division) looked like. And it wasn’t just woo-woos…it was PEE PEES. In fact, I still remember my 10 year old shock at a pictorial on some New Guinea tribe that somehow tied their franks and beans up with bamboo shoots, leaving their private area looking something like a birthday streamer!

    By your criteria here, my ‘rents should have been reported to child services for letting me see this horrific material.

    FWIW, I think the teacher made an error in judgment. I don’t think anyone reasonable is disputing that. He showed poor form and should have been reprimanded. or suspended or punished in a way to reflect his offense…but losing his job seems harsh. and getting the POLICE involved? That is punitive and (in my humble opinion) over-reacting in a wildly inappropriate way.

  117. “And “snoid’, since you CALL yourself “snoid”, I’m sure my comments WOULD make you laugh.”

    Look Jim, your thoughts on Clowes are meaningless concerning the issue at hand. My thoughts about Clowes are as meaningless also. I just found it funny you took shots at all them art comic lovers.

  118. Terribile says:

    He resigned because they had him cornered..he was guilty and should be fired

  119. “you should NEVER be giving a kid that isn’t your own kid something to read without their parents knowledge, period. You have no right to decide what is right or wrong for someone else child to read, that is the parents job.”

    Basically, what you’re saying here is, “you should never send your child to school”. Because the school does not check with parents first before every single reading assignment.

    Really, most of the books that teenagers are assigned to read in school are in fact adult books. Teenagers are ready for adult literature, period. Not only that, the school is the great setting to read adult literature because there are knowledgable adults there who can explain the content and explain it’s meaning in context.

    The father is a fool if he doesn’t understand that.

  120. Eric Reynolds says:

    The place makes tcj.com look like a support group.

  121. “Basically, what you’re saying here is, “you should never send your child to school”. Because the school does not check with parents first before every single reading assignment.”

    Yeah James that’s what I’m saying….we are not talking about SCHOOL BOARD APPROVED reading assignments, were talking about something no school board would ever approve for 13 or 14 year olds.

  122. “Teenagers are ready for adult literature, period.”

    That’s a pretty blanket statment, face it not all teenagers are, but even so, don’t you think parents should decide that?

  123. Danielle says:

    Hello Everyone – Interesting to read all of your thoughts and assumptions in this situation.

    I am the mother of this student. I can tell you the facts on our side of this, and you can make your judgment from there, but at least your facts will be right.

    My daughter arrived in her English class on the second day of school, (the first day was used for books and roll taking ect)

    Since she was not in the school system the year before she was not assigned a summer reading assignment before arriving in her new high school.

    Her brand new English teacher asked her to stay after class so he could give her an assignment to read over the labor day long weekend and give him an oral report on the next school day. He gave her a choice of 5 books, 4 of the books were about civil war, the lone ranger and Tonto and military fighting. One book was about shooting pool, or so she thought – This would be Eightball (issue #22). The teacher pointed out eightball and told her this is the one he thought she would like the most. He also told her it might have a little bit of mature content in it.

    She said okay and put the comic in her bag and off she went. – The comic stayed in her bag until Saturday when we were all driving in the car heading to a family picnic – My younger children and a friends child are in the backseat with my daughter and I hear a strange giggling coming from the back. Any parent knows the kind of giggling I’m talking about (the kind where you should immediately ask what’s going on). So I said to the group of children – “what’s so funny you guys!” So the kids reply – We are laughing at the reading assignment from her teacher – “The two kids are doing it” – So I said – Give me that!

    I took the comic from the kids, and I started reading it.

    Now let me tell you, I am not shocked by much, but the first page I turned to was the fluffy blue bunny page – and I was shocked. Why would this teacher think my 13 year old would want to read this! I could not imagine what this teacher had in mind with my daughter by giving her this comic. I was fearful that I knew what might be on his mind!

    Also let me tell you that when I went to the police and the school, we were not on a witch-hunt – we weren’t out to get anyone fired and we were really hoping this was all a big mistake. We thought possibly that maybe some kid stuck this in his classroom as a joke and that happened to be the one she picked up thinking it was about playing pool.

    I showed the school and the resource officer what was given to my daughter and they were very surprised, this is not part of the allowed reading material for teachers to give. They said thank you and we will be in touch later and let you know what we find out.

    So the afternoon goes by and my Daughter gets off the bus, I ask her what happened in his class that day and she tells me that – He pulled her aside after class and asked her how reading that comic made her feel.

    She told him that she really thought it was disgusting and inappropriate and he said yes, I told you it might be a little bit mature.

    Well when I heard this, I was really disgusted. What can I assume in this day and age was this teachers motives?? I put her back in the car and I went back down to the school. I asked to see the principal again and I told him what was said to her after class.

    Now I want to say – this next piece of information was just what I was told by the school – I didn’t hear the teacher say this personally.

    I was told that the teacher gave it to my daughter because he thought she would like the material. But – He said he had it as a college graphic Adult reading assignment in a college class several years before.

    That was a college class he signed up for and he knew the course material. Not something handed to him by a teacher in high school and told to read.

    `Again, I would like to STRONGLY attest to the fact that I am not against mature reading material being discussed in a classroom setting. I have no problems with nudity, violence, or any other topic discussed in a setting that promotes learning. Had this piece of material been given to the class as a whole as an assignment on modern day graphic novels and the literary benefits of them, there would be no problem.

    There would be no problem because it would be part of a curriculum, clearly meant for learning.

    Had the teacher suggested this graphic novel to my daughter, advising her that it is of mature content, and asking her to obtain it on her own with her parents consent, then I would have no problem with it.

    This is where I have a problem. This teacher gave my daughter, and ONLY my daughter, a graphic novel of mature nature, without the knowledge of the administration, as an extra curricular assignment. This was done after class to my 13-year-old daughter. Yes she was 13 at the time of the incident. She has since turned 14. That may help to alleviate any confusion about her age. In dealing with these situations, parents these days can’t take chances. I will never know this teachers true intent, but I do know that he is at least guilty of extremely bad judgment.

    I do not have the blind faith to assume that everything is OK. My duty is to protect my children. I will not compromise that.

  124. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Whoa.

  125. The Beat says:

    Danielle:

    Thank you for posting your side of this. I have taken the liberty of deleting your double posting.

    I think now that everyone knows the actual facts of the case, at least from one side, we need to tone down the rhetoric just a bit. From here on I’ll be looking very carefully at the comments posted and deleting any that make wild asusmptions.

  126. Jim Engel says:

    Bravo, Danielle. It would be great if your entire post made it to ALL the discussion boards heatedly debating this topic.

  127. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I’m not seeing either posting now, Heidi.

    Danielle, thank you for taking the time to share that information, particularly how you’re making distinctions according to how this book was assigned, which is an angle I hadn’t fully considered.

  128. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Wait, now I am.

  129. “He pulled her aside after class and asked her how reading that comic made her feel.”

    I assume that he did this because the book is emotionally harrowing. After reading it, it would be VERY important for a young person to talk about how it made them feel.

    It’s also very important to note that the Ice Haven story from that issue of Eightball happens to be one of the most important literary works of the past decade. Any debate on the subject that leaves that fact out would be terribly skewed.

  130. “I do not have the blind faith to assume that everything is OK. My duty is to protect my children. I will not compromise that.”

    Sounds a little bit what I was getting at in my posts (being suspicious of the teacher’s motives)…which looks to be completely vindicated.

    Thanks for posting, Danielle. There’s a bunch of us parents out here that have sympathy toward your situation.

  131. The teacher is of course, sort of an idiot to assign a book like that without really preparing the student for what they were about to read.

  132. It’s probably also important to remember that the mother’s story of what happened, how the teacher presented the book and what he said, is not her own first-hand knowledge. This may not be the way it really happened at all.

  133. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I think the general idiocy of the teacher’s decision is something on which we can all agree.

  134. “I think the general idiocy of the teacher’s decision is something on which we can all agree.”

    Well, Kristen, for one, gave the impression she didn’t think so:

    “Now, perhaps Nate Fisher was a little precipitious in giving it to a 9th grader, but advanced material gets given to advanced students all the time to challenge them, and the difference of one grade is reasonable.

    The material is not pornographic. He wasn’t asking her to read a stack of old Playboys. The assignment was to read material of a challenging nature. (Let’s also note that the girl is 14, and not 13 as seen in this article.) If the parents object to material, I’m sure they had recourse that included asking him to change the material before trying to have him fired. There are many great works of literature that reference sex, nudity, and rape without being porn, and while it is certainly the parents right to object to it, it’s not appropriate to decide that the teacher not be allowed to teach because YOU object to it.”

    I don’t see a whole lot of condemnation of the teacher’s decision there.

  135. Hounds Rye says:

    There is an implied complicity in what is ‘OK’ in the world when you hand reading/visual material to a young person, and comment that they would be interested in it.

    A male authority figure handing a 13 year old girl material with implied rape and ‘peeping tom’ harassing behavior towards a naked woman, depicted in ironic, humorous terms… that can be quite the mixed message to a young girl.

    It can imply abusive, sexually motivated behavior is acceptable, intellectual and friendly. Really the wrong message.

    I am a fan of Clowes and of comix. Getting the real, detailed information from the girl’s mother puts much of this case in clear perspective.

    There’s scotch in the cabinet – doesn’t mean the kids should be drinking it from your cup.

  136. Jim Engel says:

    “He pulled her aside after class and asked her how reading that comic made her feel.”

    I assume that he did this because the book is emotionally harrowing. After reading it, it would be VERY important for a young person to talk about how it made them feel.

    It’s also very important to note that the Ice Haven story from that issue of Eightball happens to be one of the most important literary works of the past decade. Any debate on the subject that leaves that fact out would be terribly skewed.
    ——————————

    You read the mom’s account, and THAT’s what you think the teacher was getting at?

  137. I Need Sushi Right Now says:

    All I can say is that the behavior displayed by the teacher in question is at least 50 percent LESS sexually predatory than that displayed by most of the young male teachers I had at my tony private school a decade ago, and they were never even given slaps on the wrist.

    Maybe that’s why this seems so extreme to me–I guess I assume that male teachers always prey upon their female students (commenting on the length of their skirts, asking them explicit questions about activities with their boyfriends, looking them up and down while smirking), and it’s always ignored by the students and administration, the latter of which regards it as a funny joke. If a teacher had asked me how I felt about a book I’d read, I would’ve regarded him as the most innocent, caring, and clean-minded of all my teachers.

  138. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Mark, I hate to break it to you, but thinking something was not smart and condemnation to a measure that satisfies you are kind of different things.

  139. matterconsumer says:

    Danielle, thanks for sharing. I understand your reaction to the situation. Hopefully, the investigation will be forthcoming and effective. Hopefully it will make it clear as to whether the teacher was exercising poor judgement or if it was something worse.

    I wish your daughter well and hope that her peers and the community will treat her and your family with respect and understanding.

  140. Eric Reynolds says:

    Dear usrngrx,

    “What’s next, shall teachers hold kids after class and give them additional assignments in the proper way to give oral sex, and than ask for a demonstration?”

    Good lord. Yes, that’s exactly what is being suggested by those of us who feel sick that someone is losing their career over what well could be a huge misunderstanding. Let’s go in a different direction:

    “There is a reason why reading material is first approved by the administration before hand. This is not a censorship issue, no one is calling for censorship. A line has to be drawn on what material is used as reading, and once defined, that line should never be crossed, because we trust the school administration to follow through with the policy they create.”

    I don’t disagree with this at all, but ask you, concerned parent:

    1) if you think this comic was assigned in good faith by the teacher (i.e., he is not a sexual predator), was this breach deserving of the teacher losing his job or could it have been addressed by some lesser form of punishment/probation?

    2) If your answer is “yes,” does the existence of the *approved* summer reading list, which includes Charles Bukowski –a man who has written many more vulgar things about women than what you quoted the Blue Bunny as saying– change that opinion?

    3) If this young girl and her younger brother had been snickering over a copy of Bukwoski’s “Women,” would you have turned a blind eye because the text had been approved by the admin?

    4) Is having this teacher removed worth it if the young girl whose parents got him fired must suffer social ostracism and or insults from her peers as a result?

    I just find it hard to believe that these are worthwhile prices to pay, even though I think we all agree there was an error in judgement made here. I’m just not sure the punishment fits the crime.

  141. hyzmarca says:

    “a all are missing the point…not if EIGHTBALL is appropriate material for a 13 year old, (for some it would be for others no), but that a teacher took it upon himself to judge if it was appropriate material for a 13 year old student of his.”
    But, you see, if this kind of attitude were taken to its logical conclusion then teaching would be literally impossible. More time would be spend calling the parents of 30+ students and getting their permission for the assignment than would be spent actually teaching the assignment. And its logical conclusion lies far out of the real of literature. You’d have extreme evangelical christian parents suing schools for teaching that pi is a transcendental number beginning 3.14159265358979323846[...] because their faith tells them that pi is exactly 3 and teachers have no business teaching their children a different value for pie without their permission. It becomes absurdity.

    I must ask Danielle, why were the principal and the police informed instead of simply going directly to the teacher with the concern?

    In the military, one learns to resolve conflicts at the lowest possible level of command, and this is usually best because there is both less paperwork and more flexibility. Going over someone’s head without first attempting to resolve the problem with them is a faux-pas in any hierarchal organization, including schools. It produces more work at higher levels at a great deal of inconvenience at lower levels. Certainly, this could have been resolved much more quietly than it was. The teacher could have agreed not to spend time alone with your daughter, allow another book to be chosen, and that would be that. Instead, it has been turned into this spectacle.

    It is ever parents right and duty to control the media that their children are exposed to. I have read Eightball #22 and I’d honestly agree with the assessment of the School Library Journal. It is very PG-13. But, you have the right to disagree.

    “How did the book make you feel” is an extremely standard question in literature classes. It is highly unlikely that he meant anything untoward by it. But if it made your daughter feel uncomfortable then it is something that should be addressed. No student should feel uncomfortable. But, again, this is something that would have been better dealt with by communicating with the teacher, telling him that he did make your daughter uncomfortable, and firmly establishing boundaries that your daughter would be comfortable with, rather than by going over his head.

    Misunderstandings happen. People misjudge where the boundaries of other people’s comfort zones are and they accidentally overstep those boundaries. They should be enlightened and corrected when this happens.

    I’m sure that you can understand why some people are upset and why some people believe that you overreacted, Eightball #22 is a PG-13 book by modern standards. If it was made into a movie then it would be rated PG-13. You may not agree with those standards, you are not required to agree with those standards, and you are not required to leave your daughter to the mercy of those standards. But, still, those are the standards. And by those standards the book is appropriate for a young teenager.
    But, the biggest complaint here, the complaint of the students who are unfortunately harrassing your daughter rather than making a constructive effort to get their opinion heard, is that you went too far in voicing your concerns. Going to the police and the principal, it just goes far beyond what is acceptable in such a situation. There is a chain of command for a reason, links are not meant to be skipped. And once you went above the teacher’s head you tied their hands. There was no way to peacefully resolve this once you got them involved, they were bound by bureaucratic procedure. And people are rightly angry about this. Because going over people’s heads is wrong, passive-aggressive, and immature.

  142. HoundsRye says:

    I am always surprised by the hysteria of the comix world to the perceived collapse of civilization when somebody gets nailed for what – in this case – may be unadvised behavior on the part of the teacher with a comic book in hand.

    Figure out what recourse parents have when they must manage the effects of comix on their children. Find a way to open up discussion that will benefit people who are part of your readership – parents. They are not all the same and will not all be as liberal as you (myself included) are. Get used to it – especially as comix become more popular.

    If there were better understanding of comix among the general population – there wouldn’t be arrests over a man handing a young girl a comic book. The industry is the one to do it. Create some functional regulatory perspective or suffer over-reactions. Regulate yourselves or others will do it for you. Don’t live in fear – manage your industry.

    A taste of a trend:

    In Turnaround, Industries Seek U.S. Regulations

    By ERIC LIPTON and GARDINER HARRIS
    Published: September 16, 2007
    WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 — After years of favoring the hands-off doctrine of the Bush administration, some of the nation’s biggest industries are pushing for something they have long resisted: new federal regulations.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/16/washington/16regulate.html?ref=opinion

  143. Don’t hit me guys, but I’ve never read Eightball. For some reason, I never really though it was about pool.

    If you had to describe it, would you really say it’s about shooting pool? Is that how you would describe it to a 13 year old?

  144. matterconsumer says:

    Actually, the chain of command is that teachers teach the curriculum. As I understand it they aren’t able to pick and choose whatever they wish to teach.

    As we understand Danielle’s story, she went to the principal and the resource officer to determine if this was part of the curriculum. Now if they had responded “yes” the outcome would have been completely different.

    Instead they responded “no”. If the principal and the resource officer had thought it was “ok” the teacher would not have resigned.

    It’s early in the school year and it’s unlikely that the principal was looking to lose a teacher. If the teacher had thought he could prevail then he would not have resigned. If the principal had thought it was ok he would not have accepted the resignation.

  145. CBrown says:

    Danielle is to be commended for coming here to explain her side of the story. I doubt we’ll hear from her again; I bet she wasn’t prepared for the heat of a full-on comics blogosphere shitstorm. She sounds a lot more rational than her husband did in that article, doesn’t she? And I take that news article with a grain of salt, anyway. I grew up in Connecticut and know well that the journalistic standards of the New Haven Register leave a little bit to be desired.

    I would also come to her defense re: why she didn’t go directly to the teacher. If I had a teenage daughter and a male teacher gave her some material I thought would be suspect, I don’t think I’d go directly to the teacher and demand he explain why he wasn’t a pedophile trying to seduce my daughter. I would go directly to the principal.

    Still, it all seems like a damn shame. I don’t know this teacher, but I do feel like he was just trying to be the “cool, hip” type of teacher who gives his students adult material, trusting that they can handle it. I do think it was an unwise move on his part to try to pass this along, even though I think Clowes’ work is far, far from pornographic. It seems like everyone’s a loser; the parents look like reactionary idiots, the teacher is out of a job, the student looks like a little bitch who got a school favorite fired.

  146. hyzmarca says:

    The point isn’t to give him a chance to explain that he isn’t a pedophile. Whether or not he is a pedophile doesn’t matter in the slightest. The point is to tell him that he cross a boundary that you will not tolerate being crossed, and to explain to him exactly where that boundary lies and ow he crossed it. If it was an honest misunderstanding, clearly laying down those boundaries is sufficient to protect her daughter and everything will be cool. And if he is a pedophile, laying out those boundaries is sufficient to protect her daughter and everything will be cool. It doesn’t matter what his intent was. Clearly drawing boundries is what is necessary and it is all that is necessary.

  147. Dennis Thomas says:

    matterconsumer: The fact that he resigned can not be seen as an implicit admission of guilt. There is the possibility that the teacher was offended by the obvious implication that he was a pedophile and decided he did not want to work in an environment where that is, apparently, a reasonable assumption to make. I know I would not like it.

    Overall, looking at this whole situation, I would say that this is why we have so much difficulty in retaining teachers who care. It seems to me that the guy was trying to be (as several people have called him) the hip-cool teacher, trying to reach the students at a level they could relate to. He obviously misjudged the student/her parents, but is that a reason to get the police involved?

    Regardless of my opinions on the current state of teaching in America, I think this is a case of many people over-reacting at many stages. I am including the teacher in that statement as well!

  148. Akcoll99 says:

    I’m glad Danielle took a moment to post her side of things. It was very informative. But one thing stuck out to me:

    “Also let me tell you that when I went to the police and the school, we were not on a witch-hunt – we weren’t out to get anyone fired”

    What did you think would happen?!? You didn’t go to the teacher first. You went to the POLICE. I’m not a teacher or parent, but even I can tell you that if the police are called in on a situation like this, the teacher is almost guaranteed to lose his job and of course the media will get a hold of the story and play it up for all its worth. I understand you were trying to do what you thought best for your daughter, but your ‘best intentions’ started out by already going too far, in my opinion….

  149. usrngrx says:

    How would you actually start that conversation?

    This was the second day of school her daughters freshman year.

    I don’t think I would want to be in the room when the father met the teacher. He seemed pretty upset, which I can understand.

    I assume she went to the police because she wanted to make sure the school administration didn’t sweep it under the rug.

  150. Akcoll99 says:

    “How would you actually start that conversation?”

    I’ve found ‘Hello’ to be a pretty good icebreaker.

    “This was the second day of school her daughters freshman year.”

    I don’t see what that has to do with anything. Just because her daughter was new at the school doesn’t mean she should be afraid to approach the teacher with a concern. On the second day of school, most parents are still familiarizing themselves with the childrens’ teachers.

    “I assume she went to the police because she wanted to make sure the school administration didn’t sweep it under the rug.”

    Swept what under the rug? You make it sound like this is come huge sex scandal. It’s not. It’s just a bad decision by the teacher getting blown out of proportion. Going to the teacher first, she could have expressed her concerns, he could have apologized and assigned another book. End of story. Or if she didn’t feel that was enough, she could have gone to the principal and had him administer some sort of discipline to the teacher. This was not a matter that needed to be brought to the attention of the police or the national media…

  151. matterconsumer says:

    The mother has stated here that she considered the teacher as behaving inappropriately toward her daughter, i.e. criminal behavior. So yes one would involve the police in this situation.

    As I understand her story they didn’t go to the police first. They went to the principal and resource officer first. Then the teacher made comments to the student which the parents understood as conveying criminal intent. They went again to the principal and resource officer. And then if I understand correctly went to the police.

  152. Matterconsumer, the mother also stated that she thought maybe another student placed the Eightball with the other books as a joke. So she went to the police?

    “Also let me tell you that when I went to the police and the school, we were not on a witch-hunt – we weren’t out to get anyone fired and we were really hoping this was all a big mistake. We thought possibly that maybe some kid stuck this in his classroom as a joke and that happened to be the one she picked up thinking it was about playing pool.”

    This is what I imagine running through the student’s mind: “oh my god, mom and dad are freaking out! I’ll tell them I only chose it because I thought it was about pool”.

  153. The Beat says:

    I’d like to remind everyone that the parents of this girl are (most likely) reading this thread. Let’s be civil. You can disagree with their actions, but at least one parent has been brave enough make a comment here, and they deserve respect for that.

    I’ve removed some of the more inane comments and if there are any more when I come back from dinner I’m closing the thread.

  154. matterconsumer says:

    James, it’s a good question as to when they actually went to the police. Hopefully, this will be explained. One would hope that they went to the school first before going to the police.

    So I’m interpreting it as they went to the police and the school but not literally in that order.

    The idea of it being some sort of joke played by a student was an option to be eliminated and as I interpret it that option was eliminated before they went to the police. If the facts turn out differently I’ll revise.

  155. Jim Caldwell says:

    James and matterconsumer,

    You apparently don’t understand what a Resource Officer is at a school. Here’s a definition I pulled off a random website:

    “The three roles used to define what SROs do in the schools: law enforcement officer; law-related counselor; law-related education teacher;”

  156. matterconsumer says:

    The mom, the news article, and Charles in a way earlier post indicate police involvement beyond that associated with the school.

  157. Danielle says:

    Just so the facts are correct I will post the chain of events leading to the police getting involved and starting an investigation.

    My daughter received the comic on the Friday before the long Labor Day weekend.

    I discovered it Saturday and on Tuesday morning I called the school and requested to speak with someone about it. I was brushed off. Apparently, the administration felt that I was what almost everyone who doesn’t have the facts think I am, a crazy overprotective mother who has a religious or other agenda.

    At this point, I spoke with family members, one of which is a police detective in another town in CT. He, and all of my family members advised me to bring the matter to the attention of the police department. I went there Tuesday morning, and they referred me to the school resource officer, who is a police officer who is stationed at the high school.

    I showed the comic, and asked for advice on what I should do. He immediately brought me to see the principal, and an investigation was started through the school administration.

    Without my knowledge, the police department also initiated an investigation.

    In turn this led to the teacher eventually resigning.

    That is the chain of events in the order in which they happened. I am not defending myself or my actions. I did what I felt necessary.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and it does not upset that some people think that I acted irrationally. Most of you, after hearing the facts, believe I acted correctly. Hindsight is 20/20, I had no knowledge of who Daniel Clowes was, or what he is written, I just took what I saw for face value, and took steps to protect my daughter.

    I will never know what this teacher’s intentions were, and no one does other than himself. I hope that it was an honest mistake, an incredible irresponsible one, but trusting that everyone has good intentions isn’t realistic.

    One look at the the news will tell you that there are some pretty sick individuals out there, and half of them are at some time in there lives responsible for other peoples children. One cannot assume 100% of the time people have the best interest of your children in mind.

    I was pretty disappointed that the teacher resigned, because I was willing to hear what his intentions were, and would have considered them.

    When we first brought this to the attention of the police and the administration, we stressed that we did not have all the facts, and quite possibly my daughter received this without the teachers knowledge, or that quite possibly, our daughter was not telling the complete truth. We asked that both the administration and the police look into this matter with the utmost scrutiny before making any judgment. Apparently, when confronted by the administration, the teacher collaborated the story that my daughter told, therefor implicating himself.

    It is an unfortunate string of events that has led to this media frenzy.

    I must stress to you, I am not against the genre that Daniel Clowes writes. I am not against mature reading material used in the course of teaching. I a not opposed to nudity, violence, written or depicted, when it is used as a learning tool. Novels, magizines, newspapers, movies, music, and video games all depict images of violence and mature contect and I believe they all have there place in society.

    What I am against is this type of reading material given in private without the knowledge of the school board or any other person in a position of authority to a young adult who is very impressionable and who trusts that their teacher has their best interest in mind.

    -Danielle

  158. From “They saved the “inane comments” for posterity!”

    “…and people like Mark Engblom only enable this kind of childish, destructive behavior.”

    Judging from your unhinged post, you seem like the last person to lecture me on mature, constructive behavior.

  159. michael says:

    Danielle, thank you for coming here to rationally post your side of the story.

  160. matterconsumer says:

    Thanks for the update. I’ll revise my understanding of the chain of events accordingly.

  161. Eric Reynolds says:

    I’m grateful for Danielle’s explanation but respectfully take issue with some of it, especially this: “I was pretty disappointed that the teacher resigned, because I was willing to hear what his intentions were, and would have considered them.”

    This phrasing seems willfully naive, absolving yourself of any responsibility for his losing his job after you involved the police and your own husband was quoted in the press accusing Mr. Fisher of distributing “borderline pornograhy” to your daughter that was in his eyes “not even like a gray area, it’s clearly over the line.” That doesn’t sound like someone willing to listen. You don’t think Mr. Fisher was pressured at all, having been placed on administrative leave and with the school facing a criminal investigation and rhetoric like this in the media?

    What if your daughter had picked up Charles Bukowski’s “Women”, which is on the reading list? Here’s a random passage I just opened up to. What if Mr. Fisher had given her this?

    “Listen,” she said, “after you stick that thing inside me, pull it out just before you come, O.K.?”
    “I understand.”
    I climbed on top of her. It was good. It was something happening, someting real, and with a girl 20 years younger than I was and really, after all, beautiful. I did about 10 strokes — and came inside of her.

    Would it be okay because it was on the list? Would it be okay if Mr. Fisher asked her how it made her feel? I appreciate your concern, but this school seems pretty liberal and what Mr. Fisher gave your daughter seems absolutely tame compared to some of the authors on the list. How do you reconcile that?

    You also wrote, “I am not against the genre that Daniel Clowes writes.” Mr Clowes does not write a genre. Comics are not a genre. They are an artform.

  162. Eric Reynolds says:

    My point being, juding by the standards of this reading list, Mr. Fisher’s recommendation of Eightball #22, a comic that could be read rather quickly by someone who missed the summer assignment, doesn’t seem remotely out of line given the other authors on the list and while he deserves suffering consequences for going outside the curriculum, losing his job seems arbitrarily punitive given the books that are approved and for something that seems very likely to be an honest mistake. Even after the teacher had resigned, your husband made inflammatory and misleading comments about the work in the press (let’s be clear: it has explicit language, but it is not pornographic) that have only made matters worse in regard to enabling schools to teach the very material you claim to respect.

  163. Is anyone else freaked out by the possibility that this guy thought Civil War and Eightball were on the same reading level?

  164. Eric, the parents are not responsible for Nate Fisher losing his job. Nate Fisher is. He alone and without the school’s knowledge decided to bring a comic depicting nudity and various sex acts into the classroom. He then gave the comic to a 13-year old girl as a private reading assignment.

    Nate Fisher doesn’t have a job right now because of the actions of Nate Fisher. It’s not the fault of the girl, her parents, the police, or the school.

    The parents acted correctly.
    The police acted correctly.
    The school after initially brushing the parents off acted correctly.
    Nate Fisher did not act correctly.

  165. I’m curious about the other book recommendations the teacher made. Danielle’s daughter thought “Eightball” was about shooting pool, and the other books were supposedly about the civil war, and the Lone Ranger and Tonto. I doubt it, actually.

    I don’t doubt that’s what Danielle’s daughter assumed that’s what they were about, but the books were most likely “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline,” by George Saunders, and “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” by Sherman Alexie. Those are the types of books an “Eightball”-loving English teacher might have had on his shelf. I know, because I’m an Eightball-loving English teacher. And it strikes me that all of these books are likely ones he read in college and books that inspired him in some way. They are all great works of literature, but they are all (Eightball included) stylistically complex.

    As I mentioned on my own blog post about this topic, I’m just surprised that he chose to recommend something so structurally (and metafictionally) complex to a 9th grade student. But I also wonder what the reaction would have been if the girl had selected the Saunders or the Alexie. (I didn’t see their names on the recommended reading list, but perhaps they were–I doubt it.)

    Would anyone have declared the teacher’s actions wildly inappropriate for recommending those books even though they weren’t on the list? They are, after all, highly regarded works of literary merit.

    Or is the fact that Eightball is a comic book the determining factor in deciding to go to the school resource officer before talking to the teacher directly?

  166. Hyzmarca:”Whether or not he is a pedophile doesn’t matter in the slightest. The point is to tell him that he cross a boundary that you will not tolerate being crossed, and to explain to him exactly where that boundary lies and how he crossed it…The teacher could have agreed not to spend time alone with your daughter, allow another book to be chosen, and that would be that.”

    UN-believable.
    Yeah, just ask him not to spend time alone with my daughter; that’ll be sufficient. And whether he’s a pedophile or not “doesn’t matter in the slightest.” Jesus. I’m glad YOU’RE not working in school administration.

    Hyzmarca: “Why were the principal and the police informed instead of simply going directly to the teacher with the concern? In the military, one learns to resolve conflicts at the lowest possible level of command, and this is usually best because there is both less paperwork and more flexibility. Going over someone’s head without first attempting to resolve the problem with them is a faux-pas in any hierarchal organization, including schools.”

    You do realize that a middle school is NOT the military….?

    Hyzmarca: “Going to the police and the principal, it just goes far beyond what is acceptable in such a situation. There is a chain of command for a reason, links are not meant to be skipped.”

    “Far beyond what is acceptable” – to WHOM? You?

    By the way, I’m not assuming this teacher is a pedophile. I think it’s far more likely that he simply made a VERY STUPID mistake. If, as has been reported, he was a first-year teacher, then this guy had apparently been on the job for just a few weeks.

    I’m sick of reading insulting comments directed towards these parents. Their handling of this matter was TAME compared to what mine and many others would have been.

    The teacher’s out of a job because of his own poor judgment, period. There was no witch hunt here.

  167. FConverse says:

    Its hard to know what the parents said because the newspaper takes liberties and changes things.

    I wish they would continue the investigation anyway and find the truth in this matter and everyone can go forward and put this unfortunate incident behind them.

  168. Eric Reynolds says:

    “The parents acted correctly.
    The police acted correctly.
    The school after initially brushing the parents off acted correctly.
    Nate Fisher did not act correctly.”

    I’m not sure I agree. Again, look the reading list for this school, Fisher violated the letter of the “law” yes, but not the spirit. I’m not sure I can believe the punishment fits the crime when the school condones reading so much other sophisticated and more mature material than this issue of Eightball.

  169. Nate did resign. I admit I’m curious if he did this because of school / police pressure, or if he felt it wasn’t worth the fight and decided to start his career over somewhere else without this hanging over his head.

  170. matterconsumer says:

    Eric, what is this “punishment fits the crime” statement?

    We don’t know that the teacher had to resign. For all we know he may have made just another bad decision and decided to resign rather than go through the school’s investigative process.

    And yes we have a sense that the school officials did not think the reading recommendation was appropriate but we don’t know what that would have led too.

    We know that it wasn’t on the reading list but again we don’t know what the consequences would be.

    The biggest issue is whether it’s being alleged that he was trying to seduce the girl or engage in inappropriate behavior. Some folk seem to want to blithely ignore this.

    Now if the teacher was asked to resign that’s different. That would presuppose the investigation had concluded. It would appear that the teacher resigned before that point.

  171. matterconsumer says:

    Jamie, I read it (interpret) that he resigned willingly. If I’m wrong then I’ll modify my opinion accordingly.

  172. Hounds Rye says:

    Eric Reynolds says:
    “What if your daughter had picked up Charles Bukowski’s “Women”, which is on the reading list? Here’s a random passage I just opened up to. What if Mr. Fisher had given her this?”

    What if Mr. Fisher, or and art teacher, held up a reproduction of the painting “Rape of the Sabine Women” and said to a young girl after school, “I think you’d be interested in looking at this from a historical perspective.” Does that mean they are promoting Poussin the painter? Historical depictions? Male and female relationships in history? There are plenty of other works of art that he could have chosen being an educational authority.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Poussin_RapeSabineLouvre.jpg

    That painting has been viewed in some schools for decades – in an art class or in a history class. What age level… probably high school at the earliest. I look back with at it with a bit of revolt that, between rape and war, that there are some historic or human anecdotal moments that are chosen for depiction in our western culture. Nothing is essentially wrong with depicting them – they happened.

    You are splitting the baby between two comics supporters here, Eric.

    Two folks who seem to be modest fans of comics have shared an incident they did not have the ability to articulate in a positive manner.

    If you want your product to be a revered part of the culture, you must defend it, but you also must defend the very logical discretion of a very sensible parent who is willing to communicate intellectually with you about an incident that involving a comic book in a ill advised hand.

    It’s not your fault, it’s not the girl’s fault, it’s not the mother’s fault, it’s not the police’s fault. Maybe the school can be at fault for not having an updated policy on graphic novels. You can supply the direction if you care for intellectual discourse.

    It happened in one of the smartest places in Connecticut, near Yale. There are wide clusters of smart and sensible families all around that coast. If you can’t work this out with the smartest, you certainly won’t win with the dumbest (I won’t sat where that might be).

    Mr. Fisher indicated by his feelings of fault by leaving.

    Where was the bridge were Danielle could talk to the teacher if she needed to? That is your key. What was the teacher thinking? We are all only guessing without his explanation.

    This mother is above board. The teacher never got a chance to explain? Ask the school. This mother is thoughtful enough to explain her side to you. Learn from it, don’t persecute her with disdain. You’ll lose some fans.

    She didn’t know you or Clowes but she knew someone was acting weird to her daughter. There just happened to be a comic in his hand. How much pain and defense did the book publishing industry go through in the last century to publish writers like Bukowski? I bet it was a lot. Your publishing history is still young.

  173. Wow — so many experts on education policy here! I’m also impressed with the nuanced critiques of Daniel Clowes’ Eightball #22. And who would’ve guessed that so many people on the Internet had first-hand information on how things went down in a high school in Connecticut?

    Truly, comics fandom is the arena from which the next generation of critics, teachers and policymakers will arise. God bless America!

  174. Richard Hunter says:

    “This mother is above board.”

    I disagree. By calling something porn that clearly is not and by involving the police on the false premise that a teacher had given porn to a student, the parents have done something very wrong, something that has lead to a teacher resigning and their daughter being unfairly targeted by students who liked the teacher. I would guess that the daughter, who I think had just started at the school, is more hurt by this than by cartoony pictures of sex – after all, the mom said the kids giggled when they saw the pictures; it was the parents who went ballistic.

  175. matterconsumer says:

    Richard, the mom said that they went to the police after the school officials did not respond.

    It was in an effort to get the school officials to do their job.

    Dirk, maybe some day some of us will be able to write for the Comics Journal. Or maybe we’ll just continue to be critics, teachers, and policymakers who happen to read comics.

  176. Eric Reynolds says:

    “We don’t know that the teacher had to resign. For all we know he may have made just another bad decision and decided to resign rather than go through the school’s investigative process.”

    From what I understand, being privy to a bit more information than has been released publicly, I believe the teacher was very much put in a position where he felt he had to resign or face being fired.

  177. It was a book, a work of fiction. He didn’t hand her the Anarchist’s Cook Book and ask her to give an oral report on homemade explosives. He didn’t give her The Joy of Sex or even Our Bodies Our Selves. In Ninth grade we read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, aloud, in class, complete with drug taking, swearing and sexual content (we were assigned to watch the movie too). Most of my Highschool English teachers would have given the kids ANYTHING if they thought they would actually READ it. I’m not particularly a Clowes fan, I’m not springing to the defense of comics in the classroom, I don’t even have that much of an opinion as to the teacher’s judgment, but people having their careers wrecked over a bloody book in a highschool English class is horrifying. What sort of puritan backwater has our education system become? By Ninth grade we should be beyond pulling titles from the school libraries and calling the police because the teacher gave a kid a “dirty” book. As a culture we should have moved passed the book burning mindset a long time ago.

  178. matterconsumer says:

    Eric, so folk are holding out information.

    It would be good to hear what the principal and the teacher have to say about the situation.

  179. Sandy Hum says:

    I agree it “might’ have been inappropriate to give out a comic book with questionable nudity? (Should have asked the parents first)

    However, any pre-teen has access to:

    – Harlequin romance novels
    – Jane Austin
    – Art History books
    – Mommy’s Fashion magazines
    – MTV
    – Outdoor billboards
    – Youtube
    – Daddy’s Playboys
    – Chapters Book Store
    – Starbucks
    – TV
    – Internet
    – Video Games
    – not to mention Comic Books (with idealized male & female body forms)

    .. so somebody put this into context?

  180. matterconsumer says:

    Sandy and others who hold this view, there are rules/guidelines for what is permitted at school. This is school which is not to be confused with any other environment. And you’re being selective with your choices. One could just as well have asked:

    Does one pay for meals at home?

    Does one stand in line waiting to be fed at home?

    Does one use gender specific bathrooms at home?

    Does one use a bell at home in order to delineate time periods?

    No, because being at school is not like being at home.

  181. Eric Reynolds says:

    Matter: “Sandy and others who hold this view, there are rules/guidelines for what is permitted at school.”

    Yes! But does that *necessarily* mean this person should lose his job?

  182. matterconsumer says:

    Eric, “necessarily” would depend on the facts which are still unknown. For example, is it ok for a teacher to make a non-recommended list reading assignment.

    My initial posts assumed that the school officials would make competent decisions. This article at:

    http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=18832854&BRD=1630&PAG=461&dept_id=7736&rfi=6

    on a wholly different matter demonstrates that the same officials involved in this case are quite capable of making inexplicably bad decisions. Did they make bad decisions in the case we’re discussing. Don’t know.

  183. “From what I understand, being privy to a bit more information than has been released publicly, I believe the teacher was very much put in a position where he felt he had to resign or face being fired.”

    Eric, being that we regular folk aren’t privy to same info you claim to be aware of, we can only form our decisions with the information at hand. A male teacher with one-year of teaching experience gave a 13-year old girl he barely knew a comic containing such tasteful literary phrases such as “how’sabouta suck-job? I been living on state pussy for eighteen months!

    The teacher was not fired. He resigned. I know it sounds more dramatic if we say that a teacher was FIRED for giving a student a comic book, but the fact is he quit after giving the girl a a sexually explicit comic book. Was he forced to quit? Nothing so far points to that as being the case.

    Teachers quit all the time. Maybe Nate Fisher isn’t cut out to be a high school teacher. Most people aren’t. If he didn’t know that it was improper to assign a 13-year old female student EIGHTBALL #22 to read, maybe it’s all for the best if he decides to do something else with his life.

    It’s not the fault of the student or her parents that Nate Fisher is no longer an English teacher at Guilform High School. He has nobody else to blame but himself.

  184. You see, I’m not sure if giving Eightball #22 was even necessarilly an unwise choice. Its just as mature as anything else I read in my freshman high school year, except that cliche’ and overreading hasn’t worn down the shock of its brunt. Its a brilliant book, deep and intelligent, and not dirty. There’s a boob that has bruises due to sexual abuse and a cartoon rabbit ironically requests a blowjob and does not receive one. Blankets and Fun Home were both dirtier, not to mention Romeo and Juliet, Scarlet Letter and Catcher in the Rye [I keep bringing up the last two because those were MY ninth grade books, and Catcher makes Ice Haven look rather super tame...]

    I don’t believe the teacher even made an error. Its a deep book appropriate for anyone who made it to the ninth grade. If you’re worried about boobs, I think sex ed happens around seventh grade, and if suck job is a scary phrase, from my experience you can’t make your way through middle school without hearing your peers say worse. Its only an error in hindsight, when the police got involved.

    Ice Haven is a perfect intelligent book to give, and it IS indeed cleaner than Blankets. I don’t think he made a mistake giving it, its the lack of dialogue which happened which was the real mistake.

  185. Alex: “I don’t believe the teacher even made an error. Its a deep book appropriate for anyone who made it to the ninth grade.”

    We’re not talking about a 9th grader. This girl was 13.

    My own daughter will be 13 in a few years.
    And if any man (teacher or not) has the incredibly bad judgment to give her a book to read with lines like “how’s about a suck-job? I been living on state pussy for eighteen months!” -THAT man will be wearing his ass for a hat.

    A line was definitely crossed here.
    It amazes me how many people just don’t get it.

  186. My mistake; the article states this girl is a freshman.

    Still inappropriate.

  187. I don’t think so still. Ninth grade, like I said, read plenty of adult books. Hell, its high school. Its interesting that she’s a year younger, but that still doesn’t change her educational level. Ice Haven is a fine book to read. Is 13 a little young? Maybe. Is ninth grade a little young? No, I don’t think so. For all the billion reasons mentioned above. Besides, is anyone REALLY shocked by blue bunny?

    And please, on both sides, stop expressing how sad or amazing it is people do not get the obviousness that is your personal opinion. Its not enhancing or progressing any dialogue, it just makes you sound like Ignatius talking to the bar owner.

    Besides, the beat herself thinks that this was inappropriate, and stated that any rational being thinks otherwise, and I just wanted to chime in and say that I feel it wasn’t that innapropriate. I saw Ghost World in 8th grade, and read the book shortly after. And yet life goes on. [I thought it was smart and refreshing actually]. High school kids are gonna read about sex. Often in school, only usually the books will be at least 50 years old. In this case, the book was… 3, 4 years old? And there lies the true rage. That and the pictures.

  188. So they’re gonna read and see inappropriate stuff outside of school anyway, so let’s just toss the idea of “approved reading” out the window?
    Why not allow teachers to use rough language?
    “Johnny, where’s your damn homework?”
    I mean they hear that on tv all the time.

  189. I’ve got a copy of this comic with me here in Japan right now. And I’ll tell you straight out- calling it pornographic borders on hysteria. But what some people are missing out on is not whether we think EIGHTBALL #22 is appropriate or has literary merit (I happen to think it does) or whether or not it’s more or less crude than various novels on library shelves everywhere. Obviously there are a lot of great books out there that are much more explicit than this comic and they’ve passed practically every reasonable standard out there.

    And yeah, obviously 13-year-olds know phrases like “suck job” and use them frequently. That’s actually not relevent to the discussion. What the kid hears randomly from her peers around her is one thing, an adult giving her a book containing that language is something entirely different.

    The main point is, we live in a time when perfectly well-intentioned people have every right to determine that EIGHTBALL #22 isn’t the kind of reading material they want their daughter to be in possession of, and certainly not from someone they barely know.

    Hey, I’m going to assume his motives were completely above board. He felt EIGHTBALL #22 would enrich her educational experience. But he should’ve been smart enough or wise enough to understand that certain other people might read different things into the “Blue Bunny” section than he did. And I really don’t think he constitutes an appropriate person to be discussing that language with her.

    It’s a shame a great book like this is being dragged through the mud of whatever cultural wars are being waged these days in the U.S. (thankfully I’m way over here in Japan and out of all that mess for the most part), but the teacher was being pretty naive to think this wouldn’t blow up in his face. There are plenty of books without the phrases “suck job” and “state pussy” in them causing a ruckus as it is. You only have to look in the newspaper or click on MSN to find news stories of this nature.

    I don’t agree with all of this, but I know that’s the state of affairs and I’d like to think I’m wise enough to know what boundaries there are in relationships between teachers and students.

    I do think the lack of dialogue is part of the problem. But define who should or shouldn’t initiate said dialogue and with whom. If this girl on her own bought the hardcover book at Borders and initiated the dialoge with her parents or peers, then there’s no problem.

    A teacher taking it on his own devices to start this conversation with some child not his own… Boy, that’s dumb.

  190. Oh… At the same time, I’m not about to rise to the level of condemnation for the teacher that certain people seem to want. We have different levels of outrage over this and very different outlooks. To me, it’s more a matter of “Man, what were you thinking?”

  191. Richard Hunter says:

    “Richard, the mom said that they went to the police after the school officials did not respond. It was in an effort to get the school officials to do their job.”

    When school officials do not do their job, going to police is not the only- or even the most logical – choice. You go up the chain of command in the school administration. If I thought a teacher was, say, being very verbally mean to my child, I would not call the police if officals didn’t help – I would call the school superintendent.

    The police were called for a very specific reason – according even to the parents – who suspected criminal activity {why else call the cops?} and there seems to be no evidence that there was any. The parents created the hype around this story as one of the distibution of pornography to a minor. If a teacher had given my child Penthouse, I would have gone directly to the police, and wouls applaud any parent who did so. But not in this case.

    The parents may rationalize their decision by saying they would do anything to protect their child. But you should not do anything – you should do the right thing – and as I have mentioned before, we should not forget that their choice of action was partially responsible for the difficult time their daughter has had.

  192. scales says:

    Alex: “There’s a boob that has bruises due to sexual abuse…”

    I always thought it was some sort of birthmark and she was ashamed of not being more perfect.

  193. That’s what people keep saying. I guess it probably is. I didn’t know birthmarks could be so big, so I assumed it was a bruise. I’m silly.

  194. “We’re not talking about a 9th grader. This girl was 13.”

    One can be both. It’s called “skipping a grade.”

  195. I really think the blue bunny panel should be scanned and posted here. When you reread them its striking just how inoffensive they are. Suck job may sound bad, but when it comes from a blue bunny who was earlier seen as a stuffed animal– ho ho… its not so bad.

  196. usrngrx says:

    There is no excuse for being alone with a student and giving them and only them adult material that the administration has not approved. We will never know if there was intent or not, but prior to every one of these incidents happening, there could have been signs that would have alerted parents or administrators.

    We do not have the luxury of assuming everything is OK, so we can only go with what we see. And what I see is a teacher having an inappropriate interchange with a student, which, in every one of these cases below led to some sort of sexual crime.

    This has nothing to do with the content of the assignment. This has to do with how it was given to this girl. If you walk into a bank with a gun drawn, you are going to be charged with bank robbery, simple as that. No one cares if you were walking in to the bank, saw a gun lying on the ground, picked it up, and walked into the bank to turn it in. It’s all about preventing crimes, not punishing criminals.

    To bad if Nate Fisher had no intent. If he did, hurray for another sick individual removed from the classroom. If he didn’t, hurry for an incredibly stupid teacher being taken out of the school system who can’t realize that handing a young student adult material after class alone without the administrations knowledge is a pre courser to many other crimes.

    Stop defending the comic, it’s not about that. It’s about crime prevention. No one has a problem with the comic being used a learning tool, the problem is the actions of the teacher.

    (I had a list of about 20 links to current news stories here about teachers having inappropriate relations with students, but apparently it wouldn’t let me post them. Do a Google search for “Teacher Arrested” I only posted from the first couple of pages)

  197. markus says:

    We do not have the luxury of assuming everything is OK, so we can only go with what we see.
    Err, we do have that luxury. It’s what normal people do. And prior to the culture of fear gripping America it was what everyone did and the rest was rightly classified as paranoid.

    Your gun analogy is off, if you have any use for the analogy, better make it someone getting arrested for carrying a concealed weapon in a state where that is legal into a bank despite signs forbidding it because they were too lazy to depose the gun somewhere safe first. Yes, it violates the regulation which the bank is free to set up on it’s property, but there is no indication of any intent to commit a crime and hence it’d be nonsense* to charge the guy with robbery.
    *well, used to be before up and down changed sides

    Also, for whatever reason, your critical thinking facility is impaired or you simply lack education. The number of news reports showing a combination of “outside of curriculum behaviour” and “sexual crime” is _meaningless_. Sorry, scientific fact. That is, unless you know the _total_ number of “outside of curriculum behaviour” in which cause you could (ignoring the unreported crimes) calculate a correlation which _still_ would not establish a causal link. In either way, unless you got behaviour which _only_ happens in the context of sexual crimes – and where certainly very far from that here as far as stuff on the record goes – any general correlation would still be meaningless to the individual case.
    Let me repeat that, your fallacy suggests it might be necessary. Even if every single pedophile on record owned copies of Eightball 22 and was handing them out highly selectively to only those kids they intended to violate afterwards that still doesn’t change the default assumption that this teacher is a normal guy who happens to like the book and made a bad choice. And – once more – that is so, because lots of other people happen to like Eightball 22 and most people are not pedophiles.

    That said, interesting fact from the social sciences: the amount of “news” consumption which its built in biases to negativity, sensationalism and the lack of follow-up on cases that go nowhere does apparently correlate quite well with people _falsely_ assuming crimes are more prevalent than they actually are. No idea which way the causality, if any, runs.

  198. usrngrx says:

    I’m sorry, but if the law enforcement agencies of this country took your views, we would have be in incredibly bad shape. It is so childish and unrealistic to believe that because there is no hard proof of intent, that that intent is not there. We safeguard against the possibility of wrongdoing. Everywhere in society we do that. We can’t bring pocket knives on planes. Why? Because people in the past have used those knives to kill passengers or hijack planes. Does that mean that everyone with a pocket knife is a threat. Of course not. But we aren’t going to take that chance. This principle can be applied to almost any crime prevention tactic. Teachers can’t single out students and give them mature reading assignments without the administrations knowledge. Why? Because, in the past, these actions have led to inappropriate teacher/student relationships.

    I’m sorry if you have a fundamental disagreement with this concept Markus. It may not be fair, but it is the only way we can safeguard our students and prevent crimes from being committed. If, as a teacher, you take it upon yourself to do something without the administrations knowledge, involving a behavior that is a pre-courser to inappropriate behavior, then expect to loose your job.

    You can use scientific fact all you want, but police and law enforcement use something called “case study” to determine crime prevention. And case study clearly illustrates that inappropriate relationships between teachers and students leads to crimes being committed.

  199. “And yeah, obviously 13-year-olds know phrases like “suck job” and use them frequently. That’s actually not relevent to the discussion. What the kid hears randomly from her peers around her is one thing, an adult giving her a book containing that language is something entirely different.”

    I dont think all 13 year olds know that. They shouldnt know that that is either.

  200. SuperActionGo! says:

    Like most comic board debates this discussion tends to go pretty far afield. But the only real issue, it seems to me, is whether it was appropriate for the the teacher to give the student that particular book. Not from a moral standpoint but from a procedural standpoint. I won’t presume to speak for the CT school system. But I know from experience that the county schoolboard here (a metropolitan area) is very strict in terms of what teachers can show their students. Even showing them a DVD requires passing through an approval process with the administration, I would assume to avoid situations exactly like this. Fear of lawsuits, I think, is a much more powerful influence on these decisions than moral grounds. If that particular school has the same sort of strict guidelines (I’d assume so, but someone else might be able to confirm or deny it) and if he assigned that book without ever having it vetted by the administration then the rest of this discussion becomes moot.

  201. I really think the fact that she is a high school freshman is much more important in the discussion than the fact that she was 13. Appropriate subject matter should be relative to grade level, not age. If a child is in a certain grade, they should be responsible for working at that level, whether they skipped a grade or not. 13 is a good number to throw around to make the incident seem more insidious, but most high school freshmen are either 14 or 15…and I don’t think the teacher should be held responsible for the memorization of birthdays.

  202. ‘We do not have the luxury of assuming everything is OK, so we can only go with what we see.’

    Here’s what I see- a teacher gave someone a very intelligent book, that someone overreacted to because they didn’t know what it was.

    And that earlier comment should be super underlined, her grade is much more important than her age.

  203. I’d have to say I’m with the folks that think the parents overreacted and are, as Eric said, being willfully naive if they want to contend they would have listened to the teacher. The comments to the press are not indicative of anyone being willing to listen.

    The mother received a brush off from the school but didn’t think to go down to the school where they wouldn’t be able to get a brush off? I really don’t believe that the parent received a brush off. Anyone willing to go to the police about this situation couldn’t be brushed off. It sounds more like they didn’t have a phone call returned quickly enough for them. You can’t convince me that someone who has the courage of their convictions enough to go all the way to the police would accept “ma’am, there’s nothing we can do for you here at the school”.

    Now, it would seem, we need the school’s version and the teacher’s version.

  204. hyzmarca says:

    If you’re going to fall back onto case studies, it is a wash. The girl doesn’t match the victim profile. Having two married parents, she is an extremely poor target. Being a teacher, he’d have access to many better victims. The logical explanation for this choice is that his actions were perfectly innocent.

    Your emphasis on crime prevention shows a terrible naiveté. If we took it to the logical conclusion, all parents would be imprisoned because parents are more likely to abuse their own children than anyone else.
    We don’t because it’s stupid.

    Airlines are a special case simply because of the inconvenience:potential damage ratio, which really only comes into play when hundreds are at risk.

  205. I find it interesting no-one has remarked on the fact that high-schools now routinely have a police officer, usually called a “Resource Officer,” as part of their staffs.

    When I was in high school, back in the mid- 1970s, this would have been considered absurdly inappropriate anywhere outside of inner-city, “troubled” areas. It appears that now, virtually every high school in America is so dangerous people feel the need to have a cop in residence.

    I think the fact that there was a cop there, and the kind of mentality that having a cop constantly on the scene reinforces (“book ‘em Dano”), has a great deal to do with how this situation developed. Back in saner days, the principal would likely instead have quickly arranged a meeting with the teacher and parents to work things out quietly, rather than allowing this to become a public spectacle.

    I find it appalling how far down the road to a police-state we have come.

  206. Whether the teacher was ill intended or not, there are certain steps that should be taken when dealing with questionable reading for a child. The parents should be involved or at least notified about all the books their students are going to read as well as a rational for why they are going to read a particular book. This can all be included in a short letter to the parents at the beginging of the year. When the teachers, parents and students all work together greater learning can take place.

  207. geedis says:

    I haven’t seen anyone mention the fact that the teacher recommended a book that was not on the list of acceptable reading material. The prevention of what happened here is one of the very reasons why such lists are made.

    In veering off from that set of rules for the curriculum, the teacher took the situation in his own hands. The risk was taken at that point, regardless of what other book was chosen or whether or not the list is agreeable to everyone.

    In that sense, the discussion as to whether or not Eightball should be considered acceptable or not is an entirely different discussion, one that should be taken up with the Board of Education or whomever else makes that list.

    The best time to disagree with a list of acceptable works is not after the fact, but before an independant decision is made. This should be true in all aspects of teaching. Otherwise the teacher in question is prepared to deal with the consequences regardless of the rationality of those who set the rules.

  208. Dani R says:

    Americaaaaaaa

  209. Jamie says:

    Talking to a student after class is predatory behavior? It’s not like he was giving her the assignment in his car or something. The teacher made what amounts to a procedural error and the parents overreacted based on their misinterpretation of the material.

  210. I mourn the America of my youth, back when there was Freedom to Be a Dumbass. People could do things that were ill-advised and that caused them local humilation and embarrassment and made life uncomfortable for a while. They were known as Dumbasses, but the cops and the lawyers and the pundits and the Internet trolls and “Homeland Security” were never part of the mix. Sometimes these Dumbasses learned their lessons, and sometimes they didn’t, but life rolled on.

  211. Stefanie says:

    This doesn’t necessarily relate to this situation, but Snoid, I have a problem with your statement, ““You should NEVER be giving a kid that isn’t your own kid something to read without their parents knowledge, period. You have no right to decide what is right or wrong for someone else child to read, that is the parents job.”

    We can give parents a list of books we plan on giving children, but what about news articles or books that relate to issues in classes that involve current events. You couldn’t possibly send a note to every parent saying, “Is it ok if I let your child read page 6 of whatever news paper?” It’s just not practical. Teachers do need to be able to have some choice in what your kids read. Sorry, but it’s true. If you don’t like it, then homeschool.

  212. “Back in saner days, the principal would likely instead have quickly arranged a meeting with the teacher and parents to work things out quietly, rather than allowing this to become a public spectacle.”

    Back in saner days, teachers wouldn’t hand out wildly inappropriate stuff like this in the first place.

  213. “wildly” inappropriate. HAR! I feel that comix always get some horrible bad rap cuz they’re COMIX. And comix are EVIL. I had to read The Pearl (ever read that? whoa.) by John Steinbeck in 5th grade, among other “wildly” inappropriate things. Whatever. When I was exposed to graphic novels in about 7th grade, it opened up a whole new world of sequential storytelling for me! this whole stink is bullshit. Especially nowadays when violence and misogyny are EVERYWHERE! Jeez, glad I’m not in school anymore, if I was, EVERY teacher I had would be in jail or something! (sigh) This kind of paranoia makes me sick and sad.

  214. Danielle, I think what you and your husband did to the teacher was terrible — however you try to rationalize it. He gave your daughter a COMIC BOOK and you got him fired. You can justify it all you want, but in the end, you cost him his job. He was not harrassing your daughter, he was not being “wildly inappropriate.”

    I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m really appalled that this kind of behavior from overwrought parents is acceptable. In fact, it’s the norm now in America. Michael Moore talks about our “culture of fear” in Bowling for Columbine, and Danielle and her husband are perfect examples of that. I can’t believe we’d rather start a witch-hunt in this day and age instead of talking to the teacher himself and asking him what he was thinking.

  215. annoyed parent says:

    Danielle thanks for you post. It really clears up how this became such an issue.

    I makes me sick that you went to the police and school administration prior to speaking with the teacher.

    With that being said, the teacher seemed to have not worked through acceptable channels, he should have never given any book that wasn’t part of the aproved curriculum. He could have told the student to get such a book, but it does seem that he should have made some attempt to include parents in any assignment that is off the beaten path.

    I can related to the way you must have felt to think that you 13 yro daughter’s teacher is some kind of predator, you must have been scared. Felt the need to protect you kids, I get it. I know that I am often very protective of my own middle school age daughter, but you crossed the line.

    I don’t know for sure but from what I can tell in the news and this thread, I don’t think this teacher was a threat to your girl and you going to the police was over the line. You made what is already a difficult job, teaching, just too much for someone… and they threw in the towel.

    Shame on you.

    How hard would it have been to at least talk to the guy?

    And I feel bad for your girl, at a new school, everyone hates her because her parents flew off the handle and got a popular teacher fired, oh and I forgot to mention that she is 13 …er 14 Isn’t that an age where she would be looking for approval from her peers?

  216. Actually geedis, there have been many mentions of that fact.

    And certainly the teacher having resigned from his job can be seen as dealing with the consequences, whether that resignation came under duress or not. I do not take such a resignation as an admission of “guilt” as other commenters have intimated.

    As for the police investigation, it seems egregious. Even from the mother’s own account, I cannot see how a crime was committed here. usrngrx seems to point at the “9-11 changed everything” argument for guilty until proven innocent, but I cannot go along with that. The media, including the internet, over hype the stories and generally create a fear-induced panic about our children’s safety. With people so very anxious to condemn and criminalize, I honestly wonder why anyone would aspire to teach. It doesn’t seem worth the risk.

    After everyone is finished digesting Clowes’s “Eightball #22″, may I recommend David Mamet’s “Oleanna”?

  217. ‘9-11 changed everything’ is really the catch all of those with controlling, pushy needs. 9-11 didn’t change *everything*. Common sense is still around, no? People are easier to scare, but that’s not a *good* thing. Its not mainly preperation, its mainly brains which stops the next terrorist attack, or any other negative act for that matter.

  218. Uh, yeah. That was the context of my using the phrase, Alex.

  219. Dude, I was agreeing with you. Adding something else. That wasn’t towards you, that was with you. i guess the beat can delete that. ahhh, im outta here. hate that snarky music.

  220. HollywoodBob says:

    Danielle, thanks for sharing.

    But, I’ve gotta ask, in the 3 days you had said comic in your possession did you read it through? Or were you merely acting on the what you saw at first glance? I also must ask if you allow your daughter to watch TV, and Movies with similar mature themes/content? How much of the book had your daughter read of it before the “snickering” incident? Did you discuss the material with her?

    Now, I don’t want to seem like I’m attacking you. It’s just that you never stated whether you had read the material, or what you thought about it other than freaking out over the naughty bunny.

  221. Jacob says:

    I’m familiar with Clowes material and I’d say it definitely deals with mature themes that could be misconstrued to be worse than they are. Especially if you judge it solely by the images. It reminds me of the Nappy Hair incident in Brooklyn a few years ago. A white teacher xeroxed copies of the book “Nappy Hair” for her third grade class who loved the book. The parents saw the photocopies and went through the roof, thinking the book was racist. Of course, the writer is African American and none of the parents who complained had actually read the book. They just reacted to the pictures and title. My question to Danielle and her husband is have you actually read the entire book?

  222. Judging from Danielle’s chronology, it seems to me that the school bears an enormous amount of responsibility for all of this. If, when Danielle or her husband had contacted the school, the school had immediately taken their concerns seriously, asked them and their daughter to come down and give their account, then spoken with the teacher and gotten his account, the whole problem could have been resolved quietly and effectively. Setting aside the whole “culture of fear” issue, you would think that in this day and age, any school administrator would take seriously any complaint from a parent, particularly about something related to sex (or race or religion), not because the complaint is assumed to be legitimate, but simply because it makes sense from an institutional standpoint. The school gave itself a bloody nose, and in the process a man lost his job, a girl is going through a nightmare, and the parents (it seems) still have no answer to their fundamental question, “What was this teacher thinking?” As comics fans or professionals, our natural reaction is to ask “What are the implications for comics?” but but I’m guessing the answer is “Nil.” The fact that the material was a comic is, I suspect, incidental in the minds of most people following this story.

  223. Shades of Wertham.

  224. oren garbisch says:

    I think most of you guys are missing the point. The guy lost his job and may have trouble finding a similar position elsewhere. He’s basically screwed whether or not you think he did wrong as a teacher that’s overly severe.

  225. The guy didn’t lose his job. He quit, though the effect is the same. Anybody that doesn’t have a good recommendation from their last principal has a tough time getting work. I always thought it was a stupid system. Because sometimes good teachers may not get along with a bad principal.

  226. Emma said:
    Danielle, I think what you and your husband did to the teacher was terrible — however you try to rationalize it. He gave your daughter a COMIC BOOK and you got him fired. You can justify it all you want, but in the end, you cost him his job. He was not harrassing your daughter, he was not being “wildly inappropriate.”

    Anonymous Annoyed Parent Said:
    I don’t know for sure but from what I can tell in the news and this thread, I don’t think this teacher was a threat to your girl and you going to the police was over the line. You made what is already a difficult job, teaching, just too much for someone… and they threw in the towel.

    Wow… so you guys both live in Connecticut, you know the teacher, and you’re sure that he wasn’t introducing her to this comic as some sort of inappropriate advance?

    Or are you making accusations on what you *wish* to be the truth of the case?

    I mean, at least Emma kept her hyperbole to a minimum, rather than hiding behind an anonymous screen name to lob accusations at a parent who came her to calmly and rationally tell her side of an emotionally-charged story. But either way, both of you seem to be ignoring the elephant in the room in making your case, which is that there’s *no way* to know whether this was entirely innocent on the teacher’s part or not.

    There were mistakes on both sides of this case, folks. The teacher had known her for *two days*. Even if the teacher had the best of intentions, he made a huge error in judgment in giving a comic with mature content to a 13-year-old when he had no way of knowing if she were ready for it or not.

    Should the parents have gone to the teacher, rather than the authorities, when they got the brush off from the administration? Yeah, probably. But they were looking out for their daughter, and they were acting on advice they got from friends and family. I think that should earn them some leeway in terms of harsh judgment. (Although I’ll admit the dad comes off badly in the original news article, although I can’t say it if were my daughter that I’d be any calmer about the whole thing. Except, of course, that I probably wouldn’t be freaked out by Eightball, as I’m a comics guy.)

    And the teacher may well have been trying to teach his student, which should earn him some leeway. It just seems that everyone wants to jump in and choose which side was “right” when in fact, everybody (from the teacher to the administration to the parents) made some errors of judgment.

  227. snoid says:

    “This doesn’t necessarily relate to this situation, but Snoid, I have a problem with your statement, ““You should NEVER be giving a kid that isn’t your own kid something to read without their parents knowledge, period. You have no right to decide what is right or wrong for someone else child to read, that is the parents job.”

    We can give parents a list of books we plan on giving children, but what about news articles or books that relate to issues in classes that involve current events. You couldn’t possibly send a note to every parent saying, “Is it ok if I let your child read page 6 of whatever news paper?” It’s just not practical. Teachers do need to be able to have some choice in what your kids read. Sorry, but it’s true. If you don’t like it, then homeschool.”

    In your example a parent would, I think, at least be aware of the fact that that type of reading material would be being used in the class. I’m sure that the parent in this case or the school or school board had no ideal that Eightball would be assigned.

    And to everyone of you who is attaching Danielle and her husband, you should all be ashamed of yourself. She doesn’t owe any of you a explanation as to why she acted how she did. You people make me sick.

  228. The Beat says:

    I think we’ve pretty much run out of steam on this topic. I’m keeping it open but perhaps it is time to move on for everyone.

  229. Sharonapple says:

    Just wanted to say that it’s odd that we can judge the teacher’s actions, but we’re told we can’t say anything about how the parents handled the situation. Would most people handle it the way they did… I’d like to say no. How hard could it have been actually to have a conversation with the guy before going off to the police. It would have been the easiest way of finding out his motives… but then this assumes that the parents were really serious about finding out what was happening.

    (From a person who was given a copy of 1984 from a teacher when she was 12.)

  230. Please keep this open. I am just starting to blog on it and the comments here are important to the greater blogging community as well.

    I believe a hate crime has been committed against this teacher and that the police overstepped their authority and may even be guilty of criminal activity regarding the sudden resignation of this man.

    http://region19.blogspot.com

    – krasicki

  231. Eric Reynolds says:

    I posted a blog about it todat as well, finally, though it mostly reiterates what I’ve said on this thread:

    http://www.fantagraphics.com/blog/2007_09_23_fantagraphics_archive.html#7548833639633914978

  232. Stephen Hirsch says:

    As a sort of epilogue to this thread, I would like to seriously analyze a few of the assumptions that seem to underlie the parents’ actions in this matter as well as the arguments in support of their actions voiced by many here. Let it be known at the outset that I find these assumptions rather weird. I have managed to articulate seven assumptions, but I will limit myself to the two most interesting here.

    1. The first assumption is that works of art and/or literature possess some sort of mystical power. By believing in the need to “protect” people of whatever age from a work, one attributes to that work a certain kind of unidirectional (tyrannical or imperial) power that imposes itself upon the reader – who in this model of reading is reduced to the role of passive witness-victim to the work.

    There is a strange combination of neo-Freudian ideas and religious fundamentalism at work here. Reverence of the Word as unassailable (uninterpretable) divine revelation is here somehow partially transposed onto all written words. Books are then conceived of as messages from their makers that one must either accept or reject. An element of Manicheanism enters here, because written words, while retaining the power of the Word, do not necessarily retain its moral orientation. There become Good Words and Bad Words, and one must be extremely careful to distinguish between the two, accepting the former while shielding one’s eyes from the latter.

    And why must one be so careful? Here’s where the neo-Freudian element comes in. The Bad Words are usually distinguished as such through their presentation of sex and violence. In Freudianism, pathologies (which can persist an entire lifetime!) are theorized as originating in one moment: the traumatic witness of the primal scene (the ignorant child – in the role of witness-victim – stumbles across his parents having sex, unable to properly distinguish if the act is violent or pleasurable). The primal scene taints the child’s subjectivity, warping her psyche in some mysterious way. For the Freudians, one main function of the work of art is to re-enact or work through the primal scene. But it’s safe, because it’s just a work of art, not the real thing. But for those who transpose the power of the Word onto all written words (including Bad Words), the Bad Words somehow pose the same threat as the actual primal scene (which only poses a threat to modern mystics (Freudians) in the first place).

    Very weird, and this weird, confused, mystical idea of what art and literature are and what reading is throws the hermeneutic operation entirely out the window, denying human intelligence its interpretive, critical faculties, denying Gadamer’s simple and intuitive notion of the meeting of and negotiation between historical-contextual horizons of understanding (the individual reader has one, and so does the work, and they’re always different unless the reader wrote the work himself). Here the act of reading is an act of communication in which the reader’s understanding changes the work just as much as the work changes the reader’s understanding.

    2. Which leads me to the second assumption, which is more of a fear, which is the parents’ fear that their “value system” is extremely fragile (which it necessarily is, value systems being contingent and arbitrary). As Devlin Thompson admirably pointed out, parents and kids (and teachers!) need to “TALK ABOUT STUFF,” about different points of view and how they relate to one’s own. But the assumption on the part of litigious parents seems to be that the hold that their value system has on their child is so tenuous that the slightest exposure to “outside” viewpoints simply cannot be withstood. They hunker down into a defensive position, and in the spirit of “the best defense is a good offense,” they go to the police.

    It bears repeating: why go to the police at all? Putting aside the false specter of rampant-and-increasing pedophilia running amok in Bill O’Reilly’s America, this act is revealed as the hysterical defense that it is: an excessive action on behalf of a value system as a substitute for the verbal articulation/affirmation of that value system required at a time of crisis. Why can’t the parents fully explain what exactly it is that this “borderline pornography” might threaten? One answer I can think of is that they themselves perceive their value system to be untenable. Another answer is that they have never actually defined a system of values for themselves, but instead cling – like many of us – to a vague muddle of Judeo-Christian traditions.

    At any rate it betrays the assumption that morality – whatever it is – is something to be policed, not worked through and discussed. It seems there was a great, missed opportunity here for these parents and their daughter (and maybe even the “offending” teacher) to articulate what their value system actually is, using the work and their reactions to it as a reference point for articulating their values in a new and relevant way. Now, as things unfolded, “values” in the context of what was defended by these parents and the “pro-parent” voice in this discussion has become an empty signifier – a solid, dutifully guarded wall surrounding something or nothing, who can know?

    On a final note, it is sad that the most interesting topic of this discussion was consumed in the fires of such an entrenched comment-board flame war. This story clearly implies a persistent bias against comics as an art form in its own right, a bias that the prevalent “comics are art too!” boosterism somehow seems to inflame… Here’s a tragedy we all as comics proponents could have profited from considering in more depth. Eric Reynolds was certainly on the right track by pointing out the inconsistency of deeming Eightball 22 inappropriate while Bukowski is on the official reading list…unfortunately it seems like his posts were mostly either shot down or ignored. Not by me, but I’ve already written more than I’m sure anyone will bother to read.

  233. As a parent of teens who has been following this case with interest, I can only stress the point that I have made on my blog and that Stephen Hirsch alluded to – there were only losers in this case – and had the parents thought proactively about this, rather than reactively then the daughter might have learned a valuable lesson in human relations and conflict resolution. If both sides had discussed their views, perhaps came to an understanding that the teacher probably used poor judgement in offering up the book in the first place, and came to some reasonable understanding then everyone could have walked away from this as winners. Something positive would have been learned about the entire mishap…most importantly that people make mistakes, we forgive, and we move on.

  234. Beat- I think we’ve pretty much run out of steam on this topic. I’m keeping it open but perhaps it is time to move on for everyone.

    Hell, I just like seeing the comment number move up.

  235. I just wanted to point out a quick view that no one’s mentioned. why would the girl let her parents do this?

    when I was in high school, I was a huge english geek, and me and my english teacher got along great. I would hang back after class, we would talk about books, he’d give me stuff to read that he thought I’d like, I’d tell him what I thought about it when I was done.

    Through the course of us having this friendship, a few books with what these parents would think was “over the line” were definitely recommended and read. Now, if my mom had happened along something like the comic in question (which, by the way, I AM a fan of.) she would’ve been mildly pissed too, but there is no way it would have gotten past me, to the police. I would have had a conversation with my mom about it, where it came from, etc.

    so either these parents ARE reactionary, bypassed their daughter, and freaked out about nothing bigger than a english teacher who probably was cool and probably was just trying to get a student actually INTERESTED in literature, or, the girl thought that it was possible that the teacher WAS coming on to her, and didn’t stop this chain of events.. in which case, it probably was justified.

    because when I was 14, I was old enough to understand when someone was coming on to me. it’s not like she’s 8, she’s a teenager and a rational human being.

    sorry for the super late joining of the conversation after it’s somewhat been closed. :)

  236. Jacob says:

    Just a final note to Snoid’s comment below. I think it’s pretty unwarranted. Danielle put herself into this discussion by commenting. I think it’s great that she is open enough to do so.

    “And to everyone of you who is attaching Danielle and her husband, you should all be ashamed of yourself. She doesn’t owe any of you a explanation as to why she acted how she did. You people make me sick.”

  237. Gozun says:

    Look, at my 2nd grade (7-8 years old) I stumbled onto real pornographic comic, with full explicit detailed scenes of penetration, blow jobs etc., and I showed it to all my friends in class and we had a great time laughing at it. At 4th grade (~10 years old) I bought my first hardcore porno magazine on news stand, and read it together with my friends. Even prior to that I started masturbating. At 6th grade I bought pornographic comic book, a pornographic parody of famous fairy tales (Snowhite etc.). I brought it to school and showed it to both boys and girls, ad they’ve all read it and laughed with it (it was rather funny). We started watching porn around same time (11-12 years old). We’re all in our 30’s and no one became pedophile, mass murderer etc.

    I know several people from my school / class who started to have sex in 6th / 7th grade (~12-13 years old), and many many who started in 8th grade (14 years old).

    I’m not saying IT SHOULD be that way, just getting the facts strait – your children are not living in some kind of bubble (even if you made it a full time job to keep them in such bubble). They masturbate, watch porn in pre-teen years, have sex, experiment with drugs etc etc.

    I would maybe understand this situation if the comic in question was for example Milo Manara’s work, but Ice Haven? You can turn it upside down as much as you like, but that comic just isn’t pornographic.

    The only thing which can be debated is this: is Eightball 22 really appropriate for 14 year old girl, but not because of its explicit content / pornography (there isn’t any in that book), but because of the various intellectual and sociological concepts in that book. And that’s definitely not reason for loosing a job. In worst case she would miss some points from this book, couldn’t grasp some concepts, miss the irony etc. (and even that is questionable – it really depends how advanced student is).

    There are much worse (mainstream) comics which do far more damage to one’s psychological health, which parents buy to their 9-10 years old sons / daughters without a second thought about it.

    IMHO this is just another instance of pedophile / terrorism / whatever hysteria.

    And I also agree that this hysteria did much more damage to psychological welfare to that girl than would reading of ANY comic book. I just can’t understand why this issue couldn’t end with: “Look, I don’t think this book is appropriate for my little girl to read, please give her something else, and in the future let me know in advance if you plan to give some book which isn’t on the list etc.”. Any “normal” parent would act like that.

    As for me, I’d hug I guy who’d give Clowes’ comic to my teen child (although mychildren would probably already find it and read it in our home library…).

  238. Hounds Rye says:

    Fresh from the Connecticut’s evil shore:

    http://www.fairfieldweekly.com/article.cfm?aid=3252

    Behind the Eightball
    Guilford teacher place on administrative leave for giving an “inappropriate” comic book to a student
    By Christopher Arnott

    It’s not that Clowes’ work doesn’t deal with adult themes; in 29 interlocking vignettes, Eightball #22 tells tales of abduction, desperate young love, carnal and violent instincts, depression, loneliness, paranoia, and unlikely career goals. The 40-page story ends somewhat hopefully but documents numerous harrowing life journeys.

    Vhttp://www.fairfieldweekly.com/article.cfm?aid=3287

    Booked: Barely Legal Lit
    Five books that faced more than an irate house frau
    By Nick Keppler

    The American Library Association has deemed this week “Banned Book Week,” although the ALA uses the word “challenged” more often than “banned” (as if these titles needed a little extra time to get up the stairs). The group defines a challenge as “a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school, requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.”

  239. anonymous says:

    usrngrx,

    I am really very impressed with your insights as to preventing crime. You sound like you’re either a law enforcement person or someone who works closely with teens and has an real empathy for their development.

    I’m sorry, but if the law enforcement agencies of this country took your views, we would have be in incredibly bad shape. It is so childish and unrealistic to believe that because there is no hard proof of intent, that that intent is not there. We safeguard against the possibility of wrongdoing. Everywhere in society we do that. We can’t bring pocket knives on planes. Why? Because people in the past have used those knives to kill passengers or hijack planes. Does that mean that everyone with a pocket knife is a threat. Of course not. But we aren’t going to take that chance. This principle can be applied to almost any crime prevention tactic. Teachers can’t single out students and give them mature reading assignments without the administrations knowledge. Why? Because, in the past, these actions have led to inappropriate teacher/student relationships.

    I’m sorry if you have a fundamental disagreement with this concept Markus. It may not be fair, but it is the only way we can safeguard our students and prevent crimes from being committed. If, as a teacher, you take it upon yourself to do something without the administrations knowledge, involving a behavior that is a pre-courser to inappropriate behavior, then expect to loose your job.

    You can use scientific fact all you want, but police and law enforcement use something called “case study” to determine crime prevention. And case study clearly illustrates that inappropriate relationships between teachers and students leads to crimes being committed.

    Is there somewher I can reference the case study you refer to?

  240. crypticlife says:

    “I mean, I could give a kid ‘The Scarlet Letter’, or should I check with thier parents? After all, that has many a mention of sex!”

    Drat. I knew I should have paid more attention in high school.

  241. hester says:

    Please see yesterday’s New Haven Register for Mr. Fisher’s comments on the case. It seems that criminal charges have been dropped.

  242. Teacher in Training says:

    I’m disgusted by the attitudes some take on.

    It’s not the story that makes me doubt my future carreer in teaching, it’s the comments of the people who are judging the profession from a distance, jumping to conclusions.

    Dear old mom manages to make herself look like a pristine picture of motherhood. Oh how reasonable she is, how correct she moves. Meanwhile we all ignore the fact that the deluded crone makes no mistake in pointing a bony white finger at this teacher and insinuating, if not downright telling us, that he’s a pedophile.
    Not only that, but she manages to do the same to damn near every other teacher out there. Because so many predators are lurking in the shadows, and apparantly the best place to find those shadows to hide are in front of a classroom. Or so Danielle has us believe.

    Maybe our overly protective mother should have a good look at her husband, who seems to be up in arms about this. Me thinks he doth protest too much. After all, isn’t it true that most cases of abuse and rape occur within a family?

    But who cares right, it’s easier to just point a finger at teachers.

    People are going so far as to say that a male teacher can’t even talk to a female student after class. This paranoid attitude sends out very clear signals to male teachers across the globe that they’re by default guilty creatures with a perverted agenda, and that in such cases they are always to blame.

    I reckon Fisher resigned, not because of a guilty conscience, not because he has something to hide, but because he knows that once the case takes a certain turn, one that flatulent father has insisted upon taking, he will never ever be able to live a normal life. Because even when innocent, you are never able to live down the accusation of improper behaviour with a student, a minor.

    That’s an accusation that one will never live down, something that will haunt a man for the rest of his life. This mother has just given her daughter all the reasons to jump to that conclusion, because it’s not a defense, it’s an attack. A last resort to get your way.

    If I can’t survive this ordeal the way I had initially intended to walk from this, if I’m made into a perpetrator instead of flawless victim, I’ll always be able to cry rape, because nobody will ever question a young girl who cries rape, especially not if she calls her teacher a rapist.

    Mommy and daddy have made it clear in their replies to the media that they’re already steering towards that conclusion.

  243. Retired Teacher says:

    Several years ago I was teaching a semester course in Fantasy & Science Fiction to 12th grade students. I purchased 30 copies of Ray Bradbury’s classic, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” for my students to read as part of the class. The evening after I assigned the book, I got a call from an irate parent complaining about my assigning “satanic literature” to teenagers. When I asked her if she had read the book, she told me she didn’t need to read it, she could tell by the title.

    Years later, when I had moved to the school library, I had a parent come storming in to tell me the book his son was reading was filth and he threw it on the desk. I asked him to explain his concerns, but he refused snd left. The book? “Drums Along the Mohawk” published in 1936. I read that book three times, trying to figure out his objection, but could find nothing other than outdated prose.

  244. Not many people think the same way as you. That includes me.. sorry :)

  245. reader says:

    “It’s not the story that makes me doubt my future carreer in teaching, it’s the comments of the people who are judging the profession from a distance, jumping to conclusions.”

    GOOD.

    If you’re disgusted by people expressing disagreement with a teacher who singles out *one* of his students for more sexually explicit homework (he could have assigned Eightball to the whole class instead!), asks her to discuss her feelings about it when he requires her to be alone with him (he could have given her a writing assignment instead!), and has authority over her including the power to flunk her and hurt her chances of going to college…

    …then you really SHOULDN’T be a teacher (or have any other authority over other people).

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Facts emerge in fired teacher/EIGHTBALL case from THE BEAT [...]

  2. [...] When we assume… Filed under: Decency flaps — davidpwelsh @ 5:48 pm The mother of the now-14-year-old girl at the center of the situation in the Connecticut high school visits The Beat to present her side of the story, which is really, really welcome, given some of the assumptions that were flying around. [...]

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