I went to elementary school in Canada during the mid 1990s. I need hardly remind anyone who was present at this time and place that, on the schoolyard at least, Goosebumps novels were the currency of the realm. If you owned the latest one (and took care to be seen brandishing it), then you were automatically part of the in-crowd, at least for that one day. The more extensive your collection, the greater your prestige.
To the series’ credit, it was fairly creative (at least during the earlier volumes*), and it was the venue (together with television’s Are You Afraid of the Dark) by which most children of the 1990s became familiar with the conventions of the horror genre.
As for its literary merit…eh. It had about as much literary merit as you would expect a series of novellas for preteens featuring ejaculating brains on their covers to have. Indeed, its anthology horror format ensured that it could never even develop the sort of story arcs or meaningful character development of the contemporary Animorphs series. But at least children (particularly boys**) were reading, right? Surely even the most persnickety librarian couldn’t turn up her nose at that, could she?
Well, apparently she could, since the series was promptly banned upon school property. Teachers were scandalized by its lack of literary sophistication, as if they were expecting that the kids reading Say Cheese and Die Again! would immediately switch-over to Tess of the d’Urbervilles as soon as the object of their interest was forbidden.
If you presently have more than two braincells rattling around your head, then you already know what happened: the kids, now being penalized for reading the books that they wanted to read, took instead to reading nothing at all. The worst part was that the whole time that I was in high school, I had to endure hearing English teachers converse with each other about why kids these days (again, particularly boys) weren’t reading as much as they should be, as if it was some sort of incredible mystery.
I’m bringing it up now, because this particular news item reminded me of it. It seems a school in Toronto, responding to safety concerns, has taken to banning all of the balls which are actually fun to play with.Teachers elsewhere have gone so far as to ban tag, red rover, leapfrog, and unsupervised cartwheels. No doubt they are expecting that children will respond to these changes by calmly jogging around in circles for fifteen minutes during recess. And I’m sure we can all look forward to watching the moral guardians a few years down the line scratch their heads and wonder why childhood obesity has gotten even worse.
*It’s quality declined precipitously after the series essentially became a corporate enterprise, with ghostwriters churning out multiple books and spinoffs each month.
**For whom this is supposedly a problem