NEW YORK. Acting on complaints by American high school students, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights today announced that she would take action to end required summer reading lists in the U.S., saying they are a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.
“Children should be free to play while the sun is shining,” said Michelle Bachelet. “If they want to take a book to the beach, fine, but don’t keep them cooped up in a musty old library all day reading ‘My Friend Flicka.’”
The incoming president of the National Association of High School Student Councils applauded the move, saying it was time American English teachers, who are largely responsible for requiring summer reading, recognized that students should concentrate on their tans, which are more likely to result in successful employment. “I want to be a hostess in a nice restaurant when I grow up,” said Denise Haley, who will be a senior at the Dennis Rodman Consolidated Regional High School in Dearborn, Michigan, this fall. “Nobody will care whether I ever read Oliver Dickens by Charles Twist when they want to get a table for four in a hurry.”
Summer reading lists typically include a number of works chosen from different categories such as fiction, history, biography, poetry and science. Teachers who work in schools where corporal punishment is banned use the lists to spoil summer vacation fun by casting a pall over a student’s every waking moment between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
American teenagers have contemplated international sanctions for reading lists since the late 1950′s, when Eddie Cochran hit the airwaves with his song “Summertime Blues” and threatened to take his problem to the United Nations. “That was the first time a rock ‘n roll singer had appealed to the conscience of the world,” says music historian Grant Ross. “When you’re a teenaged boy, there’s nothing worse than a pile of books standing between you and a girl in a bathing suit with a bodacious set of knockers.”
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