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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Murder Mystery Theater...in MIddle School?

Okay, so maybe because it is the season of cheer, giving and, for some, the celebration of someone's birth but I saw this in this month's School Beat and I had to shake my head.

McClure Middle School is putting on an fundraiser that is a "true audience interactive murder mystery with dinner" called Three Doors to Death or...The Choice is Yours. I saw the script and it's not bloody and the corpse even talks. But if you want to put on a play, why a murder mystery? (And corpses don't talk unless you are talking about the forensic evidence on their bodies.) There are so many good plays and musicals I just wonder at this choice.

Maybe I just feel melancholy for the deaths of the 5 polices officers in one month. Maybe it's because I listened to "This American Life" and the subject was about how the murder of a loved one can change how you view murder (no watching Law and Order, no murder mystery theater, no Clue). The way one person put it, "Substitute rapist for murderer in a murder mystery theater. Tell people one person was raped and one person is the rapist and we're going to figure out who the rapist is. Not so fun."

I'm probably just a Scrooge.

31 comments:

Elizabeth W said...

In a drama (as opposed to comedy) something big has to happen. That's generally going to be murder, romantic betrayal, or large-scale political corruption. Which would you prefer to direct tweens and young teens in? Odds are good that they'll do a nice musical comedy in the Spring.

GreyWatch said...

Funny, I read the article and thought, "what a fun idea!" I still think it is. Then again, I was a drama kid, and campy murder mysteries are a hoot for the cast. Based on the promotional photo this should be a delight.

Michael said...

Yes, you are being a scrooge.

ParentofThree said...

I agree, this sounds really fun and completely out of the box, unlike White Christmas that Roosevelt is doing, now there's an unPC production for ya.

TechyMom said...

Yep... Scrouge.
I read all of Agatha Cristie's books in 7th grade. Middle schoolers can handle non-gore murder.

Melissa Westbrook said...

To your point, Elizabeth, what you are talking about is conflict. It does not always need to be large or deadly. Most children's books have great drama without any of the things you suggest.

Dorothy Neville said...

Most children's books have dead parents.

Anonymous said...

sounds like fun to me. I loved reading mysteries as a kid (still do actually).

Sahila said...

Our kids are being forced to grow up too fast as it is, especially in the media/video games/books etc... I agree with Melissa - this subject matter is inappropriate for a dramatic performance for this age level...

I am angry at school for allowing my 6 year old to come home with two "animorph" books from the school library last week. He was drawn to the cover illustrations - had no idea about the story line. He wanted me to read him the stories... I checked out the content and refused... I dont need my 6 year old to explore teenage/adult ideas about fighting for the survival of human beings, trapping human beings in their 'morph' states to take them out of the 'game'; threatening to kill others...

Sahila said...

Drama for children needs something big to happen... for children, that's not necessarily "murder, romantic betrayal, or large-scale political corruption", as per Elizabeth's post...

there's plenty more happening in life that is dramatic...

Elizabeth W said...

Really?

Here's the King County Library System's list of "Classic Novels for Middle School Readers": http://www.kcls.org/teens/booklist.cfm?booklistid=46

I think if they can handle (among others) Across Five Aprils, The Time Machine, The Lord of the Flies, and To Kill a Mockingbird, they sure as heck can handle a 30-minute murder mystery play that is almost assuredly far more Columbo than CSI.

Elizabeth W said...

Here's that link in a more convenient form:

http://www.kcls.org/teens/booklist.cfm?booklistid=46

Sue said...

You are definitely a scrooge!

Megan Mc said...

Sahila said,
I am angry at school for allowing my 6 year old to come home with two "animorph" books from the school library last week.

Isn't that censorship? It's not the school's job to regulate what kids check out.

You did your job as a parent in helping your child determine what is appropriate for him at his stage. Other first graders will be at different stages and other families may be fine with the content of the book.

seattle citizen said...

Megan Mc,
you wrote that
"Isn't that censorship? It's not the school's job to regulate what kids check out."
well...yes it is. School librarians determine what, exactly, is in their libraries that students can check out. They can (and do) "censor" every time they make an acquisition. You're right that they might not decide what a kid checks out from ther library, but one would hope they would decide what gets put on the shelves.
I don't think "Clockwork Orange" is on the shelves of many K-5s!
Animorphs? Don't know 'em.

But this is an interesting discussion...Themes: which, for which level...wow, tough one...with parental permission, a student can check out anything, in my opinion, but without it edcuators in class and library might do well to be thoughtful about content. The bigger questions are:
a) is the student developmentally and academically prepared for the text?
b) as it's school-related, how does it fit the curriculum, what are the knowledge and skills being taught/modeled, who is the school and/or parent mediator between child and text?
c) Is it sex and violence for sex and violence's sake? Why bother? That's just feeding base (and crass) desires for entertainment. Violence is out there; let's learn lessons from it rather than glorify it or commodify it (aren't there Animorph tie-ins? I haven't seen any for Lord of the Flies...)

dj said...

I suppose this isn't where I should share that I was reading Stephen King novels in elementary school? Well, I enjoyed them, anyway.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I note that no one noticed that I said maybe it's sadness over the police officers but picked up easily on the Scrooge thing. I did rather set myself up (lesson learned).

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, you are right that the timing is off, perhaps, with these recent tragedies...and I believe murder, death, violence....needs context.

With you, I share a sadness about ALL these recent murders.

Sahila said...

Perhaps people might want to think about the role of media in 'normalising' violence for our kids and communities...

See all the stories being written for children these days that are filled with violent subject matter and plots and characterisations that were reserved for adults in the past...

See the language used to refer to authority figures - I hear the word 'cops' being applied to policemen and women constantly by mainstream media... in my time (!!!), using the term "cop" was considered an insult and disrespectful...

See how the police move around the city heavily armed.... as if they expect murder and mayhem at every corner... and what they expect is what they do get back because, logically, what kind of a response are they likely to get from marginalised elements of the community when they are equipped and authorised to use such lethal devices (seems to me, from recent events, that its often a case of "shoot first, ask questions later")...

In New Zealand and the UK, police are not routinely armed... they have firearms available to them in the boot (trunk) of their patrol cars, but they do not wear guns on their persons... and look at the rate of killings in those countries.... much lower than here....

Here in this country, (multiple) killings are described casually (as 'normal' events) on the news every night of the week - the state of the weather gets more attention and excitement.

And then we have games and theatre that normalise and make violence 'fun'????

And then you wonder why there is so much violence in this corner of the world????

Its here because we teach our kids that its normal and to expect it, that violence is a legitimate way to deal with problems...

See the death penalty for the truth of that:

Thou shalt not kill, but if you kill, we shall kill you... where is the logic?

Thou shalt not kill, unless you are a member of the police force or the armed services, and then we shall send you to other countries to kill people you dont even know and who dont know you and we'll give you medals when you come home...

Its so basic.....

seattle said...

"See all the stories being written for children these days that are filled with violent subject matter and plots and characterisations that were reserved for adults in the past..."

Violent subject matter being written for children has been going on for a long time.....Fairy Tails come to mind?

Sahila said...

fairy tales were originally intended for adult audiences... see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairy_tale

Dorothy Neville said...

When my kid was 6 he loved Animorphs. He read them himself though. Same with Goosebumps, but I did read and enjoy a few of each series.

When he was about 13, he read "Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence" by Gerald Jones. It was his parenting bible for a while.

GreyWatch said...

My kids were in the Waldorf school world for several years. I am no expert on the pedagogy, but this is what I do know:

1) Media of all types was discouraged, particularly in the 7 and under ages. Books are great at home, but don't appear in the classroom until 1st grade.

2) Fairy tales and other world legends were big. Dragon slaying Saints (grade 2), Jewish heros evading murderous plots (grade 3) , and Norse gods wreaking havoc, and eventually restoring order (grade 4).

3) Again, I can't speak to the pedagogy much, but I know all of these things were presented at certain times, for certain reasons. I could be wrong, but one of the theories is that kids are pretty black/white, good/evil in their assessment of the world (anyone have a speed checking child in the back seat of their car?). These stories speak to them where they are in their that development.

All I know is that my kids ate it up. It was so much more interesting for them than the color the 1's red and the 2's blue stuff they were getting in the early elementary school years.

Finally, I think most kids take away what they are able to digest. I know nothing of animorphs, but I know my kids have read and loved many books which are much richer and deeper on so many levels than the level they happened to be on. To me that is the sign of a great book.

Bird said...

If you think kids today are "normalized" to violence, you should check out the kids from the 12th century!

Little Onfim couldn't even learn to write his letters without including a drawing himself impaling an enemy.

http://www.goldschp.net
/archive/
childart.html

The more things change...

seattle said...

"fairy tales were originally intended for adult audiences..."

Um, that may be so but they have been read to very young children for several generations in many countries.

And BTW I don't generally accept wikipedia as a credible source to quote.

seattle citizen said...

ann, the idea that Wikipedia isn't credible is a fairy tale, and is refuted here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Reliability_of_Wikipedia

seattle said...

To each his own Sea Cit.

My child's school will not allow students to use Wikipedia, nor will my place of employment accept it as credible.

That's hardly a fairy Tale

Sea cit maybe you should challenge Seattle Schools instead of me

Not saying I don't like or use Wikipedia. I do. But I refrain from citing any data that I gather from it as it is not always (100% of the time) a reliable source.

seattle citizen said...

ann, it was kind of a joke, but I guess it didn't go over too well...

using wikipedia to refute accusations that wikipedia isn't credible...nyuk nyuk

Sorry, to intent to challenge you (though we have had the discussion about wikipedia recently, I forget which thread, and it's a pretty good resource...)

anyway...happy holidays!

Ryan said...

Not saying I don't like or use Wikipedia. I do. But I refrain from citing any data that I gather from it as it is not always (100% of the time) a reliable source.

No on-line source is. Neither is most printed material. Your standard is quite high.

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