I recently posted my review of ACTION PHILOSOPHERS – a great book, but not one that I recommend for a classroom – and Illustrator Ryan Dunlavey asked me why I did not recommend it for high school students. I was not clear about my reasoning for only recommending the book for college-aged students, to which I offer my apologies. I’m glad he asked and I offer my response here. I will also post a clarification to the original review so my recommendations will be clear.
What’s the deal? It comes down to the makeup of the book. What makes the book funny is also what makes it inappropriate for the classroom: It is too racy. I stated in my original review that as a teacher I would recommend this series to those high school students who thrive on and learn from irreverence. There are so many high school students who would do well to know that many of society’s great brains had their own problems. But to keep the book on hand in a school library or in the classroom is to ask for trouble. Teaching about the toils and troubles of the great thinkers is one thing. Illustrating them in compromising adult situations is quite another and is likely to raise the ire of many of parent.
Take the St. Augustine storyline as only one example. In the first panel he is portrayed in bed with a lady on each side, getting drunk. Throughout the story he is exposed as a womanizer. True though it may be, having the knowledge and seeing it illustrated in a comedic fashion are two different things. I howled at that particular story. I thought it was great. I learned more about philosophy in the one trade paperback of ACTION PHILOSOPHERS than I ever did in my undergraduate years at college. Van Lente and Dunlavey deserve lots of praise for bringing this to us. I would give ACTION PHILOSOPHERS to my daughter when she is in high school, but considering the adult situations in the book I would not keep it on a shelf in the classroom or the high school library.