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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nothing But The Truth by Avi

A lesson in how political schools can be and how things can spin out of control.

Normally, I do not read Young Adult (YA) literature, but as a teacher I do delve into it from time to time just to see what's out there. In this case, I picked out this book for purely personal reasons.

Nothing But The Truth is all about a misunderstanding and mindless application of a zero tolerance rule in school.

The premise is we have a popular, respected and excellent English teacher (Miss Narwin) and a bright student (Phillip Malloy) who does not really apply himself too much. Malloy has been re-assigned to Narwin's homeroom. His previous homeroom had been rather loosely run, but Miss Narwin expects the rules to be followed and the school's written rule is absolute silence during the playing of the National Anthem. Malloy hums loudly during the Anthem (which causes and is directed to stop - something he was allowed to do in his other homeroom. He does not stop. Why not? He thinks Narwin is a hard-case teacher that is picking on him.

Malloy is removed to the office twice during the week for humming loudly during the anthem. The administrator ignores Malloy's real complaint - he dislikes Narwin for "giving" him bad grades in English class. Those grades are keeping him from joining the track team. Instead, the administrator follows a zero tolerance rule that says if you are sent to the office twice in one week you receive a three day suspension from school.

Soon, Malloy's neighbor, who happens to be running for the school board, picks up on this story and starts to campaign to reform the schools that suspend a boy who wants to display his patriotism by singing the National Anthem. Soon, the story spins out of control, rumors fly, careers are ruined and Malloy and his family have no idea how to deal with the situation.

The Author, Avi
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I would encourage any teacher to read this book as a cautionary tale. I would encourage everyone else to read it as a demonstration of how media tales get a life of their own and the truth is not always brought out. I used to teach in a middle school that was caught up in a milder version of this sort of event. A young thug (a serious bully) was audiotaping classes and editing the tape to make his teachers sound bad. His tape was confiscated and a local TV station was brought in ("Call 6 for Help!") and the overblown reporter told a slanted version of the story in an effort to help this poor disabled child get his audio recorder back from the bully of an assistant principal so that this young scholar could finally take his notes. Except - he was not disabled, he took notes just fine without it and there was no mention of the disruption that occurred while he played his edited versions during class time.

Our situation blew over fairly quickly, but it was intense enough.

So, the long and the short of it is, Nothing But The Truth is a great piece of fiction that explores what happens when politics, media sensationalism, mindless policies and failure to have a face-to-face discussion with all parties involved rips a school apart.

I rate this book 5 stars.

This book can be found on Amazon here: Nothing But The Truth
Reviewed on August 29, 2010.

Avi's website is: http://www.avi-writer.com/index.html

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