This handout was distributed at a school in Idaho during a meeting with parents to discuss concerns about literature being used in the curriculum. A few thoughts…
I appreciate that parents and the community are involved and concerned about the curriculum in K-12 schools. Approved readings always end up being a controversial topic trying to strike a balance between censorship and decency. Obviously, I think most people would agree that we don’t really want 2nd graders reading pornographic material.
At the same time however, I think older students need to be exposed to some of the ‘realities’ of the world. After all, literature is not all about rainbows, butterflies, and happy endings. Some of the most compelling literature deals with grief, loss, love, war, slavery, racism, violence, crime/punishment, history (which is not always pretty) etc.
I think it’s important for students to gain exposure to this great literature, and learn to think critically about it.
Looking at this list, the first thing I notice is that it does say this is a 12th grade reading selection, so we’re talking about 17 and 18 year-olds I think. There’s probably little if anything in theses books that they haven’t already encountered in movies/television and the internet (for better or worse), or in other novels popular with young adults like Lord of the Rings or The Hunger Games.
I think we would be doing a great disservice to students if we only exposed them to ‘American’ Literature. I find the reason for the sole grievance lodged against A Bend in the River a bit ridiculous. Its great scandal is merely being “another text from Africa.”
I’ve also noticed that many of the arguments floating around on the internet for altering reading lists seem to be noticeably influenced by a desire to adhere to conservative and religious preferences. The term ‘Judeo-Christian Values’ often comes up.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the ‘Judeo-Christian’ Bible would even stand up to this criteria. It too has tales of things ‘morphing’, dysfunctional families, illicit relationships, prostitution, damaged mothers, vicious fathers, sexual encounters, murder, suicide, and sodomy… among other things.
Oh, and it’s also a text from the Middle East and Africa (Egypt). So, I guess this ‘Judeo-Christian’ literature runs afoul of the National Education Guardians’ criteria too!