Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finally, some good news

In an act of pure sensibility, the review committee at San Luis Obispo High School that was charged with deciding the fate of Kaffir Boy (written about earlier this month here), voted unanimously to keep the book both in the school library and in the honors program curriculum.  Pat Pemberton, writing for the San Luis Obispo Tribune recapped the situation, saying,
Controversy arose when anonymous letters complaining about “Kaffir Boy” were sent to [history teacher Carrie] Zinn, school administrators and the school board. The letters complained specifically about a single page describing boys prostituting themselves for food.
The principal had put together a 7 person review committee shortly after the complaint.  The committee met with an audience of 50 people, including students, teachers, and parents.  Pemberton writes,
The audience unanimously favored keeping the book, both in the library and as a part of the honors class curriculum. When a committee member asked if the anonymous letter writer was in the audience, no one responded.
A few said high school students were old enough to handle the language used — one student suggested she heard similar language daily. And a couple of teachers expressed concern that banning “Kaffir Boy” would lead to challenges to other books, including classics such as J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.”
These concerns are certainly not unfounded, especially considering the challenge that recently occurred in Florida, where a mother requested that her son's school ban Catcher in the Rye because it took the Lord's name in vain and used to many "f" words.  Hopefully the review committee in that case will look at the handling of this situation and will not allow a single parent to limit what every student in the school reads.

There was a suggestion that there be a revised copy of the text used, that didn't contain the graphic details of the original, but that was removed from discussion early on. 
While teacher John Franklin suggested that the abridged version still conveyed the horrors of apartheid, others contended an edited version whitewashes history and disrespects victims of segregation.
Any comments, thoughts, or rants about this story?  I, for one, applaud the common sense of the individuals on this reviewing committee and congratulate them on their unanimous vote to keep the book in the curriculum.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a book I need to read... next on the long list, unfortunately