Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Merits of the Richland SD Review Process

A recent article on highlighted the various components of the Richland School District book review process. Previous attempts by a parent to remove Snow Falling on Cedars from an AP English class at Hanford High School were thwarted in each level of the review. The district recently updated the process and new policies were put in place to address parental control over classroom materials. Here is a brief summary of the events surrounding the challenge according to the article:
In some ways, banning a book from the school system is a greater act of censorship than banning it from public libraries. It prevents not only access to the text but also an academic discussion of the ideas and issues the book explores.

It's not the first book this parent has hoped to have removed. He's part of a group that ranks books used in Richland classes on their perceived levels of offense.

Judging from the grades given by the parent group, they're pretty easy to offend. It's a rare book that gets an "A" grade from them. They equate an "A" book to a G-rated movie for content.
Obviously this is an extreme view of literature (as is often the case when someone is trying to ban a book from a classroom), and all parents have different policies for their own children, which is why "Under Richland's policy, parents have the right to remove any book from their children's reading lists." The article goes on:
But the most easily offended parents can't be allowed set the standards. There needs to be a better system for evaluating books than counting the number of curse words.

That Snow Falling on Cedars made it through the new review process is a testament to the system.

It carefully was reviewed by district administrators, the Instructional Materials Committee -- a combination of teachers, administrators and parents -- the superintendent, and finally the school board. And it passed each test.
It is good to see a review system that works, that addresses all aspects of the piece of literature on multiple levels (review board, superintendent, school board). With this sort of system, the text is put to a number of tests, and once it reaches the end of the process and is (hopefully) kept in the system, it would be incredibly difficult to refute the decision made by three different levels of review.

The article also brings up another aspect of book challenges that I have covered before: They're great publicity. Since the book was under review for the school year, it was off the reading list until a decision was made, but during that time, and now after, there will most likely be many more students who will read it to find out what the big deal was.

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