Friday, December 17, 2010

Books on Stevenson High's reading list offensive...

What is the role of a school?  I have started to question this more as I read story after story of parents saying what schools should and shouldn't do with their public funding.  As far as I'm concerned, the public funding aspect is exactly what allows schools to teach things that challenge the status quo and to encourage students to think about issues they wouldn't normally think about at home.  Teachers are not the same as parents in a school situation.  They are there to teach many perspectives and opinions.  Parents, on the other hand, are there to teach children certain morals and values at home, and if they have taught their children well, then the introduction of other perspectives should not be seen as such a threat! 

Do parents these days have so little faith in their own ability to give their children a moral compass that they think schools should start whitewashing the world?  Once these children leave school and leave their homes for university or to start their own families, they will encounter the things they could have been taught in school.  But without being taught to look at different perspectives and how to defend their own ideas, these young people will only flounder and be more likely to desert what many are calling "traditional values."  I won't even start on what that means because I really have no idea what a "traditional" value is.  If anyone can give me a workable definition, I would be most grateful.

The article in question today is found in the Daily Herald and concerns Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL.  A parent at the school became concerned after reading a few titles on the reading list that his children are asked to follow.  Some titles include The Flamingo Rising and a short story entitled "The Casual Carpool."  Mr. Dreyer is opposed to both of these stories for the ways in which they undermine these so-called "traditional values" that he holds so dear.
A sexual encounter depicted in the novel was definitely something you could consider “X-rated,” he said. He called the book offensive.
Dreyer also objected to “The Casual Carpool,” a short story that his youngest son recently was assigned in class. He was critical of a lesbian character's desire to find a sperm donor so she could have a baby.
“The values that I've held dear my whole life are being redefined,” Dreyer said. “I don't believe for a minute that the majority of the parents in this community think this is OK.”

The thing to pay attention to here is not necessarily that the stories are that "objectionable" (methinks he's overstating the "X-rated" sex scene in Flamingo) but that the values Mr. Dreyer holds close are being challenged.  Are these values built on such a weak foundation that a novel and short story in a classroom are enough to shake them to the core?

At least one parent stood up for the other side during the meeting:
“My children all read ‘Flamingo Rising' and they found it a very thought-provoking piece of literature,” Slivnick said. “The opening of ideas … is the way to have our children learn.”
Now, before anyone jumps down my throat over the issue of free speech, I want to say this: I am glad that these parents are able to express their views, and I actually applaud them for taking a stand.  I also think it is great that they are taking part in their children's education.  What I have a problem with is the reason for their intervention.  Children need to start learning to think for themselves, especially by the time they get to High School.  The majority of students are already being influenced by peers and the real world more than they are by the fictional narratives they are being asked to read.

I could go on for hours, but I'm still flummoxed, trying to figure out the definition of a "Traditional value."  Well, I will sign off now.  I think this rant is suitably exhausted for today.  Thanks for reading.

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