Dear Readers,

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Horace Mann, Censorship, and Prep-School Novels

So there's a massive brouhaha and fuss at my alma mater Ho'Mann because teacher Andrew Trees wrote a satirical novel (Academy X) about the school and then a year later got fired. A whole bunch of censorship, controversy, indignant huffing and whatnot followed. As an alumna and the onetime editor of the weekly paper at the center of the storm, The Record (which was a way way better experience than the Crimson ever was, but that's another story) I felt I had to weigh in on this tabloid-fodder shitstorm.

I'm all about free speech, of course, and although there are occasionally legit issues with protecting students in a closed community from certain kinds of hateful nonsense in certain specific cases, there's absolutely zero fucking reason to fire someone for writing a novel. And I don't understand it about Horace Mann--you'd think it would be totally thrilled to be written up, fiction-style.

Because of Academy X, Horace Mann was vaulted into the top tier of boarding schools and colleges that have been novelized, if you will. In fact, Academy X, which was brassy, zippy, and a brief read, aptly summed up the nouveau-riche, hyper-competitive atmosphere of Ho'Mann just as Curtis Sittenfeld's angsty, overwritten but excellent Prep was a class-conscious ode to uber-WASPY Groton (hi Babs!) and This Side of Paradise was a tortured yet loving look back at Princeton. People write about schools. People are fascinated by schools because schools are like microcosms of society and prisons all in one! Can we fucking get over it already?

Horace Mann, which was started because Jews couldn't get into those preppy prep schools like Andover and Hotchkiss and so forth, has always been the hard-working, immigrant aspirational, cranked-up-on-speed little cousin of those staid gentlefolk academies in New England. And I always kind of liked that about it. So why not take proud ownership of trashy old beach read Academy X, head of school Kelly?You should say, "Hey, you may write great literature, you Anglo-Saxon bitches. But we at Horace Mann write books that SCREAM REALLY LOUDLY and have ridiculously contrived plots." Let's show those polo-playing WASPs what we're all about--our seedy underbelly (or over-belly in Horace Mann's case, all the money-manuevering is pretty obvious).


  1. Ho Mann sure has gotten even more image conscious since our glory days.