The True Telling Heart


Speaking Against Evil Unsolicited


Common Core has done it again.  My sixth grade student has requested that he stay home from school because the study of a story is frightening him.  During a discussion with his teacher about my concern, she noted that the study is provided by the Common Core curriculum.


The story is “The Tell-Tale Heart,” by Edgar Allan Poe.  Here are a few excerpts from Poe’s classic story that gives the writer’s account of his character's experience in killing an elderly man by suffocation.


“I heard many things in hell… once conceived, it haunted me day and night… I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult… very gradually-I made up my mind to take the life of the old man… Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim… the beating of the old man’s heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage… the hellish tattoo of the heart increased… so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror… I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done… I dismembered the corpse… I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings.”


The question I ponder is, “What kind of evil would possess a man to do such a thing?” Such spiritual forces will not be properly identified in the classroom and the young mind is left with no answer in contemplation of the action: killing to satisfy desire.


Here is what I wrote to the teacher:


“Is there a way that my son can be excused from your study of Edgar Allan Poe's short story entitled, "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

 I understand that this is classical literature.  However, it is the thing that we do not understand that frightens us the most.


 Poe describes his character's intent and thrill in killing the old man.  Yet we do not understand his motivation.  As represented, it is a senseless killing.


It seems that Poe elevates the criminal act as some perverse feeling of gratification his character receives in killing another human being, violence that is unsolicited, certainly unjustified. 


This kind of evil is frightening.


Perhaps the evil portrayed in Poe's story is the kind of evil possessed by the man who killed most recently at Las Vegas. What do you really believe is the source of such evil, and despite literary acclaim, should we expose innocent minds to such confusion??


Even if Poe's story is not to be taken literally, but in a poetic sense, what is his message and purpose? Is it to enlighten one to the power of the conscience?   Even so, his indulgence of the dark and evil places he has described, in my opinion, is not a justified means unto this end. It is his portrayal of the darkness that leaves the lasting impression.


Perhaps the result, even if not the intent of the writer, is to expose innocence to a corrupting knowledge of the pleasures of evil?


It's got to be pretty intense for an 11-12 year old child. I would enjoy such a weighty discussion with adult friends!


These are my thoughts on the subject.  Perhaps my son is not yet mature enough to consider such weighty matters.


I am also requesting that my son not be singled out in front of his class or embarrassed in any way.  He does not deserve this.


He has requested that he stay home from school, and understanding the nature of his fright, I am inclined to do so if you will inform me of when the story will be discussed in class.  Should I come and pick him up today before your class begins?


Thank you for your understanding!”



The teacher was very polite, respectful, and accommodating. She agreed to discretely provide another reading assignment for my son and to place him in another room to work on it while his classmates discussed Poe’s character's urging to kill.


As a father I feel a strong need to guard my son’s heart. The answers to explain such evil are in the Bible and we are encouraged in Ephesians, Chapter 6, to guard against evil powers. 


Why is it that Common Core and the public school system will present a discussion of evil but not include a meaningful explanation of its source and its affect on humanity? Theirs is truly a one-sided discussion.


Furthermore, we must teach our children that the attractions of evil are vicious lies, and that the father of such lies is already defeated.


They must learn of the power to overcome evil.


This Halloween, as the world proclaims a false victory for evil, please, discuss with your children the power of God’s love, sacrificial and victorious: over sin, the temptation to sin, and the power of sin and evil.


For the sake of the True Telling Heart, the bleeding heart of our Savior Jesus Christ, we must not let the lure of evil present itself in our homes, schools, and communities unchecked.



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Additional entries: Alan's study notes.

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