Book Review Of Stuart Nachbar’s Book About Education And Politics
Stuart Nachbar has created a curious novel in The Sex Ed Chronicles. Using a backdrop of 1980 New Jersey, we are introduced to the murky world of school politics. He has selected the contentious subject of compulsory Sex Education, however the subject could equally have been Religion or Evolution. All are subjects that have strong backers and equally strong detractors.
Schools and School Boards may not be the media favorites that the House or Senate may be. But make no mistake, the issues are as hotly contested, and the tactics used by the protagonists just as dirty as the big league politicians, maybe even dirtier, because of the lack of media attention.
The main character is rookie journalist Greg Mandell, just out of college, and working for not much money as a reporter for The Ocean Republic, a small New Jersey newspaper. The author uses Greg in an interesting way, he is by no means the hero, he is the conduit through which the story flows. The style of writing is innovative, the story unfolds in small nibbles each one prefixed with a title and tagline, much in the fashion of newspaper stories.
The action takes place between January and June in 1980. The New Jersey School Board decide to explore whether or not to include Sex Ed as part of its regular curriculum. Some schools have already adopted the subject and some have not. To resolve the issue a series of public forums are planned so that the matter can be decided. There is a quiet certainty that although there will be a few grumbles the majority will be in favor of teaching Sex Ed.
Rookie Greg Mandell is given the task of covering the Sex Ed story, an assignment that he really does not want to do. He quickly discovers that few wish to talk openly about the subject.
What looks at first sight to be a boring and mundane assignment quickly erupts into a firestorm of controversy when a supposed parent-backed group called PAST get involved. Led by the bombastic and bigoted rich widow Carolyn Lattimore, PAST are firmly committed to abolishing Sex Ed in schools, and to achieve their goal set out to establish their members on the various school boards.
Caught in the middle of the fray is a young history teacher, Andi Gilardi, who becomes the centerpiece of PAST’s diatribe after she permits some students to post a Sex Ed test in the school newspaper.
Greg finds himself torn between openly supporting Ms. Gilardi and jeopardizing his job, or supporting PAST who are large advertisers with the newspaper.
The Sex Ed Chronicles is a very thought-provoking work, the author has done a very fine job of writing about the political process, and the fashion in which political skirmishes take place. Like a chess game, mating your opponent’s King is easy once you have picked off the Pawns!
Great read, and if I was an English teacher this would be a book that would I would love to evolve a class around. The potential for gaining real world understanding from within the pages of this novel are huge.