On Reasons for Leaving the Field of Education

I saw Bridge to Terabithia this week.
I was not impressed.

Ever since EDUC 3?? ("Teaching Children's Literature") I've known that I wasn't cut out for the classroom. Don't get me wrong, I really like both the "working with kids" side and the "teaching students" side of elementary school work; It's the teachers I can't stand.

If you watch the "themes to discuss" feature on the Bridge... DVD, you'll be treated to half an hour of teachers telling you how well Katherine Paterson understands the emotions of childhood, how she captures the imagination and creativity of boys and girls alike... you get the idea. Once in a while, the kids who starred in the movie chime in with canned acting-coach lines, like "my character just has so much light in her, so her smile just makes everything around her seem brighter..."

Here's Bridge to Terabithia summed up in one word: shallow.
Sure, there's a shocking and emotionally-charged scene near the end of the movie that's designed to tug at your heartstrings, but it doesn't communicate any "universal themes about the challenges of growing up." (At least, I didn't identify with it. Maybe I'm from a different universe.)
Worst of all, this story is almost always hyped as an "imaginative" story. From the movie website:

[Terabithia is] a secret land where [the main characters] reign supreme among the giants, ogres and other fantastical creatures they create. As their imaginations soar and their friendship deepens, they discover how to rule their own kingdom, fight the forces of darkness and change their lives forever.

Here's a more apt description, from the Amazon reader reviews:
Together they create the magical land of Terabithia, a place in the woods that becomes a safe haven as well as a place to come to understand some things that can't be explained using "regular" terms... to "regular kids"... Jess and Leslie are neither.

Do you see the difference? Paterson is not a fantasy writer. She's not even an adventure-story writer. I was expecting something deep and Mythic out of Bridge to Terabithia; a fantasy world where children could explore and become involved in something greater than themselves, something they don't quite understand. In short, I was expecting an American version of Narnia.
Instead, all I got was another book by a teacher who is to write about what kids feel when life is hard. The fantasy becomes an allegory for things that kids already know, a tool for repression or release of the bitter facts of life. What's so great about that?
Tolkien and Lewis had fruitful imaginations; Katherine Paterson has a mother's intuition about what a growing boy feels and a teacher's insight into what children like to think about. One of these traits leads to successful literature for children, the others do not.

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