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Comments for Nothing But the Truth

Nothing But the Truth: 03/07/15

cover art

Nothing but the Truth by Avi follows the unfolding events after a teacher has a boy suspended for humming along with the Star Spangled Banner every morning in homeroom. Through "documentary evidence", namely transcripts, letters and interviews, Avi presents the points of view of the different involved characters: the 9th grader, the English teacher, the Principal, and so forth.

My mother in law worked for twenty years as a high school math teacher. She describes teenagers as elementary school children in adult bodies. Clearly that's the case here with Philip Malloy. Being transferred from a rather liberal homeroom where the request for quiet isn't enforced, to a very strict room where I suspect an accidentally dropped pencil during the music would be cause of a trip to the office, is a rather disconcerting proposition for a teenager or for anyone.

Coming in midway through a year and not being party to the initial introduction of this homeroom's rules is surely a recipe for disaster. Add in the boy's age and it's only natural that he would continue to hum even when asked not to.

From the parents' point of view — the rule seems rather arbitrary and there's no way a punishment can be fairly executed if different teachers have different rules for how to behave during the national anthem. If I were Philip's parents, I would probably react in a similar fashion and continue to go up the school district's chain of command.

The teacher, too, is probably burned out. And she probably resents not having a consistently followed rule either. The principal probably has never addressed the staff on acceptable behavior during the anthem. That leaves her world against the students. When things get blown out of proportion because the principal doesn't react sensibly, it's unfortunate but realistic that it would be the teacher who takes the fall. It's a frustrating and painful read only because everyone's own stubbornness plays into the over all tragedy of a student's career nearly derailed and a teacher's otherwise good career forced to end under such unfortunate circumstances.

Three stars

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