Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Outcasts United big on college reading lists, conservatives pissed

Posted By on Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 7:10 PM

The National Association of Scholars thinks too many colleges are recommending books like Outcasts United
  • The National Association of Scholars thinks too many colleges are recommending books like Outcasts United
Earlier this month, the National Association of Scholars released a rather interesting list of books assigned as "summer reading" to incoming freshmen. Much like The Big Read or One City, One Book programs, these assignments are supposed to encourage the entire student body to read a single book as a springboard for common discussion and community building. Like most well-intentioned, non-graded college programs, I imagine these suggestions are largely ignored for more pressing summertime matters, like keg parties and Facebook updates.

Still, it's fascinating to see what colleges are suggesting that students read on their off time, especially because so many of these picks are up-to-date, well-chosen books. Fiction from Sherman Alexie, Edwidge Danticat, Junot Diaz, and Mark Hadden are all over the place. Two classic graphic novels, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Maus by Art Spiegelman, were chosen in a number of places. Recent non-fiction dominates the most common picks, including Outcasts United, Warren St. John's book about a youth refugee soccer team on the outskirts of Atlanta, which was chosen by six universities around the country, including KSU and Agnes Scott.

The National Association of Scholars, a group that's quite fond of conservative code words, says that these recommendations are "disappointing" and a "cause for concern." Apparently too many of these books, like Outcasts United or Dave Egger's Zeitoun, fall into a theme that the group is calling "Multiculturalism/Immigration/Racism."

"This is a bundle of themes that most students have been saturated with since kindergarten. We question whether in their introduction to college they need once again to be subjected to this form of attitudinizing," the report reads.

I certainly wasn't "saturated" with long-form journalism about refugee youth soccer players in Atlanta or non-fiction novels about Syrian-Americans during Katrina when I was in kindergarten, but maybe the folks over at the NAS had a different experience.

(H/T to The Book Bench)

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