Cruel and Unusual

Local student forced to read actual chapter of assigned book

Matthew Wilcox, Section Editor

He’d done it a million times before, but when confronted with a particularly challenging chapter of “Dante’s Inferno,” Amir Rothko simply could not understand the Sparknotes page he had visited in lieu of actually reading the book.
“It wasn’t just Sparknotes that I couldn’t understand,” said the sophomore Mr. Rothko. “I went to Shmoop, Cliffsnotes, and even some website called ‘’ which probably gave my computer a virus. I was completely lost.”
Rothko represents a growing number of complaints against book summary giants. As Rothko put it, “They don’t tell me what my teacher expects me to know from the book.” All-too-short summaries, combined with confusing teacher instruction on what exactly they need to skim over, has caused students and parents alike to call for the abolition of assigned readings. “When I was a kid, we never had to go to these websites for school,” said Sam Pound in a recent PTSA meeting. “Why should my kid have to suffer by poring over these summaries?”
Complaints have gotten so severe that clubs are forming in schools across America. Students for Educational Change (SEC), a national club with over 2,000 branches in high schools, has recently launched a letter-writing campaign directed toward the Bureau of Consumer Protection demanding regulations on book summary websites that would make summaries more understandable, making it easier to avoid reading assigned books. SEC failed to provide a representative for a comment, but from online shared letters, it’s clear that they won’t back down until change is made. “I’m willing to write letters over and over again until YOU fix the crooked laissez-faire system that plagues our online book summary industry,” said Liam Rude in one letter shared on SEC’s front page.

SEC meets in room 2505 on Wednesdays during lunch.