Is there value in assigning a “bad book”?, Teaching African American History, Update #3

Alisha’s blog post and general conversations with every one in class regarding The Wind Done Gone brought up an interesting question: Is there value in assigning a “bad book”? More specifically, can a “bad book” or a book that isn’t enjoyable or isn’t readily understood provide meaningful learning opportunities?

When I assigned the book, I did not expect the class to fall in love with the book or to even particularly enjoy the book. It was disliked more than I predicted. I think Alisha is the only one who suggested it did open the way for important conversations we wouldn’t have had otherwise. But I am still really wondering if the benefits of reading and discussing The Wind Done Gone might come later or if they are things that aren’t as readily tangible or if it really didn’t serve a purpose. 

For the future, I am wondering if I should assign The Wind Done Gone again or if it would be better to assign another book that helps cover the Old South in the form of fictional writing. Gone with the Wind is too long, and is not Black History.

Reasons for assigning The Wind Done Gone would include that it is such an unusual book and takes on Gone with the Wind. Reasons for not doing so would include that it doesn’t have a memorable message and doesn’t convey that much information tied to History. 

What are your thoughts? If you haven’t read it, it’s worth a least a quick skim. 

Also, last week we also had important conversations about causes of the Civil War, why the Civil War was fought, the secession papers, and the Cornerstone Speech. John Tompkins of ACC did a news story about the class with several quotations from the students that was in The Alvin Sun-Advertiser on Saturday! Will include a link when it’s online. Email if you would like a copy of it. 

See also: Teaching African American History, Update #2 and Teaching African American History, Update #1


Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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3 replies

  1. There is an obvious value. It offers the same opportunity for learning as viewing a bad movie or dissecting the slush that passes for news in mass media. Sometimes it’s easier to point out obvious flaws, as a way of learning what not to do. You could employ something like The Clansman (1905) as contrast to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It depends on how much time you want to spend dealing with the dynamics of minority images within a hostile majority culture.

    Novels aren’t history, even if they happen to be set in past periods. You would need to discuss the differences between the goals of literature and those of historical research.

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  2. I still agree. The movie you let me borrow, Dear White People, while not being a good movie or particularly funny as it was billed to be also brought up interesting points so I did not completely feel my time watching it was wasted. I think it depends on how a person chooses to look at the “bad” piece of work, and if they are capable of still taking something away from it or if they just shut their minds to it because they consider it “bad”.

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