Opinion: Danbury parents should do homework on book

Feb 26, 2013


The book in question, “Fallen Angels,” is a gritty, realistic look at the Vietnam War from the perspective of one soldier.

The 1988 novel, a winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, delves into controversial subjects from racism to war in general.

Is it pretty? No, but neither is racism.


Click here for the e*Paper or buy a copy of the Register at a newsstand near you for the rest of this editorial.


Is it gut-wrenching? In the same way all war is, yes.

The language is raw, the horrors of war are graphic, the changes in young men drafted to serve are heartbreaking. Yet, the book met with no objections in the previous four years it was read in Danbury middle school teacher Tim Heffernan’s class.

In a world where children much younger are exposed to simulated violence via TV, movies and video games, a heavy dose of the real tribulations of soldiers is a strong lesson to learn.

War is sometimes necessary and sometimes honorable. But it can’t be sugar-coated. Young men and women deserve to know the reality of war. They are the future of our military and the future of America.



I couldn't say it any better. Parents need to do their homework. The school sent out a form for the parents to read and sign to allow their kid to read this book. If they didn't want their kid to read the book, why did they sign the form.


There was a form sent home, AFTER the book was already started in class. The students were at least a 1/3 of the way through before parents were made aware by a student what was being read. The book is fiction and this is a language class not a history class. The vulgar language that is in this book should not be read but 13 and 14 year olds in class let alone out loud in class. The parents were NOT given the option to have their child opt out of the book before it was started. It is rated R content and the school should not be using it in their curriculum.


I am sorry anyone that THINKS a 13-14 year old is not using vulgar language when away from mommy and daddy is crazy. Have you seen facebook/twitter and all the other things TEENS do these days? These kids play video games where they shoot people, steal cars, and all kinds of other things. The movies they watch are just as bad if not worse. I will not even discuss the tv shows everyone is obsessed with (jersey shore, teen mom, etc) I am sorry but kids these days are NOT innocent little babies.


Not one of them Ladydye?


No challenge is intended in this question, but who/what rated the book R? I have only looked at 'The Coretta Scott King Award" which rating is 'Young Adult' and Amazon which rates it 12 to 13. This also is not to suggest that everyone doesn't have the right to rate whatever they read. Just as everyone else has the right to or not to agree.


I started reading this book and the content of it, if in a movie, would have been rated R. If I was to post sections of this book they would be deleted by moderators. It seems to me people in general are making uneducated statements on this book. When I read the back cover of the book I myself thought it may be a good read. As I actually started reading this book I truly understand why MY child asked the teacher if there should be a consent form signed. I also understand that children these days watch and talk some may talk that way. NOT IN MY HOUSE! We do not watch MTV, VH1, or any of the shows of that nature! I do monitor text messages and facebook. I am in the position of raising children not letting my children raise themselves.


Let's see if I understand the argument presented by this "viewpoint"?

This book can be considered essential for presenting an understanding and sensitivity to racism. Which is certainly laudable.

And is essential to presenting an understanding and sensitivity to the horrors of war. Is this not arguable depending on the age of the reader and in considering (if considered at all) the values of the parents?

And besides, what difference does it make? The kids hear/see/experience this stuff, in some form, all the time anyway....
Except for the children who don't. Is there no belief that there are children out there at that age who were raised to believe that this type of coarsening is not necessary to understanding that racism is unacceptable or that war is horrible?

Finn Finn

Well said Maggdi


I had a older brother in Vietnam war. I never understood what he went thru. Why he act the way he does now. I never would let my two teenager kids go around him, because you don' t know when he would act out. Both my kids read the book and now understand a lot more about the war and him too. We was giving a paper at open house. Tell us what the kids was going read and the rest homework for the year.


So, open house was when? Maybe August, September?

The Big Dog's back

War is hell. Racism is hell.


If any book that contains "questionable" subject matter is presented to a classroom, then perhaps parents should receive the right to object or have their kids pulled from that class prior to it's being presented. Then they could be given something like "To Kill a Mockingbird" to study instead, which is also big on racism to study, but is a little less "obscene" in it's presentation of words. It is, however, somewhat graffic in description but not as bluntly so.

Either way, the point is made. Literature or language class teaching from either book is still maintained. One from a lesser blunt era, and one from a more blunt era.

I don't disagree that the second book is filled with profanity and today's language. It is meant to be, to be understood, just like being set in the Viet Nam war. It isn't meant to be "pretty" either. Whiile it isn't meant to be historic in nature, it is meant to teach literature and language arts to students. And yes, the kids of today do hear it from just being around other kids whether we adults like it or not. And whether we teach it at home or not....as much as we would like to protect them from it.

This book will always be a hotbed of contention with parents who don't want it used in schools with kids of this age group. Perhaps a better age would be high school students around sophomore or junior years, but unfortuanately it wasn't.

In that respect, the school and this teacher should have considered the audience to which they were offering this book before letting the students read it in class...especially outloud. Sometimes education gets a little too ahead of itself to do anyone any good. This time may have been one of those times.


What's the point here? Maybe it's time to institute a 140 character limit on SR posts?

BTW, the book is filled words written in the late 80s based on the late 60s not "today's" language.

Also, it has one of the great male hand-holding-on-a-plane scenes in all of YA literature and will teach you how to handle a hectoring Army Ranger if you're a short Latino.

Moreover the children of today r watching graphic pornography online from age 10.

Finally, it's about the horrors of war not racism.

Class dismissed.


Thanks so much for the lesson. But according to everyone else's take on this, there is much more to it than that...including racism. Did you read it and miss that? Not all kids are watching online pornography from age 10 either. So I wouldn't be too sure that ALL of us missed the point, either. wordy comments or not.


We don't need books with agendas (agendae ?).

BW1's picture

Maybe parents SHOULD read the book before judging it. Maybe they SHOULD consider that parents in preceding years didn't object. However, this is not about what parents SHOULD do, but what government MUST do - honor the rights of its citizens. It's the RIGHT of parents to raise their children as they see fit without interference from the state. It's their right to be closed minded, to judge without reading, and to make decisions without checking with the parents of last year's class for approval. For that matter, it's their right to be racist or pro-war, if they choose, and to teach their children those beliefs. Of course, it's also our right not to have to support their kids when those beliefs interfere with their ability to function in civilized society, or to lock them up if they violate the rights of others (something those beliefs make very likely.)


Well BW1 my only reply would be in the new vernacular: BOOM!


Very interesting series of comments. I am a VN vet, haven't read the book but after Johnny got his Gun hard to believe ANYTHING could be more obscene than that. Our children must be taught the horrors of war, especially today when we have drones making killing look sanitary, and politicians lying to us to get into unjust wars. OK you know how old I am, could someone explain "boom"? I saw it used in a commercial "chicken go boom" or something like that, did not get it at all.

Truth or Dare

According to Scholastic.com this is an R rated book, 8th. gr. reading level, suggested for 9-12th. graders and is a Realistic Fiction based upon the life of a young 17 yr. old who graduated High School and due to the fact he couldn't afford college, knew there were no answers on the street, went directly into the Military, serving in Vietnam. The topics covered? Bravery, Honor, Heroism, Discrimination, Racism amongst a few.

This book is considered a tribute to all that died and served in the Vietnam War. I don't need to read the book, cause we got to watch the war unfold before our very eyes on the nightly news, as did most of America. You don't think Moms, Dads, siblings were watching in horror, fearful they're sons/brothers wouldn't be coming home, were missing in action, were prisoners of war, or would fill one of the many body bags that were part of their military inventory?! Aside from seeing that, we were also able to wintness all the protesting and the way Vietnam Soldiers were treated when they arrived back home!

Fast forward to Dessert Storm, and BOOM, President Bush made a law that wouldn't allow the carnage of war to be viewed/witnessed by the people that were funding it! Hmmmm, why do ya suppose that might be? I believe our children should be educated to the truths of War, so they themselves can make an educated decision. As I said before, something they'll be doing in just a few short years! After all, they're the one's that will be serving and fighting our nation's wars, voluntarily or otherwise! Wars that we as citizens don't get to vote for, or against!