Hello, everyone. You're probably wondering why I don't contribute to this wiki as much as I used to. Well, it's because I'm not really interested in the My Weird School series anymore. I mean, I don't mind the series' playful jokes and lessons, but what I'm highly concerned of is the gender stereotypes.
Parents need to know that Dan Gutman's popular My Weird School series is full of light, funny jokes about classmates, teachers, and the principal. Readers can see how the adults in the series behave in sneaky ways to trick the kids into doing more schoolwork, which is fun to watch unfold. That said, there's a consistent message that boys and "boy stuff" like sports are cool and that girls and "nerdy stuff" like being good at school are not. In several of the books, A.J. learns that school is important and can be fun, but the series reinforces some unfortunate gender stereotypes. When the teacher asks if the students are ready to learn, all the girls say "yes" and the boys say "no." The boys are all about physical and competitive games, and the girls give each other makeovers and run screaming after teen pop stars. The writing is funny, but the messages can be troubling.
In the series, second-grader Arlo Jervis (aka A.J.) hates school, and he does everything he can to cause the maximum disruption while doing the minimum amount of work. Sometimes, though, he's tricked into working hard, like when his new teacher, Miss Daisy, says she doesn't know how to do math and her entire class has to teach her addition. Or when the principal, Mr. Klutz, says he'd give the school a chocolate party and kiss a pig if they wrote 100,000 spelling words. With his friends Ryan and Michael, A.J. squares off against the girls, Andrea and Emily, in a constant gender battle that stereotypes learning and school as nerdy and female and sports and rambunctious behavior as innately male.
This beginning chapter book series is for any kid who doesn't like school, enjoys watching kids get away with pranks, or wants to see school as a sillier place than it is. Kids love reading the My Weird School series. The language is age-appropriate, the adult characters are as loopy as they come, and the friendships between the kids are real. But any reader who's felt the sting of schoolyard teasing, or who's sensitive to seeing kids pick on each other, or who doesn't like the "boys vs. girls" theme might have a hard time with the content.
I'm not interested in the series because of how Dan Gutman stereotypes young girls and boys. Not all boys are tough and competitive, like sports, hate school, or pick on girls, and not all girls are nerdy, scared of things like rats or the dark, give makeovers, or flip out over things like celebrities and being on television. Thank goodness Dan Gutman introduced Alexia, a tomboy who stands out in a sea of nerdy girly-girls.
I'm not a huge fan of gender stereotypes, and the books use gender sterotypes (and other stereotypes, for that matter) very heavily. But it's not just the gender stereotypes that concern me, but there are some other things about the series that I'm not so crazy about.
One of them is the message that the series gives. The series is funny and portrays school-related adults in a universally positive light. But it repeatedly tags a sensitive kid as a "crybaby" and calls a girl who's accepted into the school's gifted program a "dweeb" and a "know-it-all." A.J.'s hatred of school and learning is seen as cool, and his inner monologue is punky and dismissive and can be bullying. He rarely says anything out loud to the girl who cries easily, but readers of this series will see exactly what he thinks of her, and it isn't positive.
The teachers, principal, and staff are supportive, kind, and funny, joking with the students and trying to get the kids to understand the importance of trying their best. The parents are almost nonexistent since the series is set at school, but mentions of parents are generally positive. The students, however, are always picking on each other, and their behavior is the opposite of what teachers everywhere try to have in their classrooms, which doesn't make them good role models for the students.
There's mild but consistent teasing among students at school, with some tense moments when the students get in trouble. Confrontational teasing between kids is portrayed as normal. The name-calling is almost nonstop. "Nerd," "crybaby," and "dumbhead" are only a few of the insults flung around the second and third grade; A.J. and his friends insult the girls for being smart, and Andrea (his nemesis) insults the boys for being dumb.
To sum up, I don't really care for this series anymore, because of the gender stereotypes, consistent taunting, and bullying. The only thing I like about the series is its educational value. Occasionally, an advanced vocabulary word (such as "photogenic") or idea (such as a brief mention of the laws of physics) is introduced.
That's why I don't contribute to this wiki very much. The series may be funny and a hit with kids, but it has a lot of disadvantages.