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Budget and Questions Slow Adoption of Graphic Novels Course

Above, the BOE deliberates at a June 2009 meeting. | Photo by Madeline Hardy ’11

Petey Menz ’11
News Editor

Above, the BOE deliberates at a June 2009 meeting. | Photo by Madeline Hardy '11

During the fall of 2009, English teacher Jesse Bauks, art teacher Carla Eichler and English K-12 Coordinator Lisabeth Comm geared up to present a graphic novels course, hoping that it would be included in the 2010-11 curriculum. However, Superintendent Elliott Landon decided the budget was too tight to allow a new course into the curriculum.

“Because it was a bad budget year, he did not think it was a necessary time to put in a new English course,” Comm said.

Bauks began designing the course four years ago and planned on co-teaching the class with Eichler. He does not believe that the class would not cost much.

“For the most part, it was not an expensive course,” Bauks said. “We already had Photoshop and any software needed to make comics.”

At this point, Bauks is not certain if the class will make it into the curriculum, though Comm believed that Landon liked the course and would have put it in had it been a better budget year.

Landon believes that if the budget is large enough to accommodate another class, the course would still need to be examined.

“I have questions, not doubts, about how it fits into our total program,” Landon said.

Despite these obstacles, Bauks and Comm agreed that the course would be a valuable addition to the English curriculum.

Bauks does not describe himself as a comics fanboy, but recognizes the literary and artistic significance of the medium.

“In college, I took a graphic novel course taught by the head of the English department, and he thought this was the direction literature was going to go,” Bauks said.

Comm agreed, saying that major universities are beginning to integrate graphic novel courses into their curriculums.

“[Comics] have won major literary prizes and they can be legitimate works of art,” Comm said. “They’re challenging to read and understand.”

Both agreed that a course of this type would put Staples at the cutting edge of education.

“Our idea was to be ahead of the curve, to introduce something no one else has, to take a course you’re not going to get anywhere else,” Bauks said.

He also believes that the class would be important because it would motivate reluctant readers to take an interest in English classes.

“[English doesn’t have] the math awards, the Physics Bowl, the debate competitions, Model UN,” Bauks said. “It’d be something to get kids talking about English.”

Even if the course does not make it into the curriculum, Bauks and Comm both have plans to integrate more comics and graphic novels into the English curriculum next school year. Both spoke of possibly including Gene Luen Yang’s book “American Born Chinese” into the AP Language and Composition curriculum.

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