Monday, February 14, 2011

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Or Not!)

What I can't seem to grasp, and what seems to come up at least once every week, is how certain parents think that schools should be run according to their views and opinions, and not according to a curriculum that will serve the widest range of students possible.  In the latest controversy surrounding Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a parent of a Clarkstown High School student (New York) is demanding that the book be removed not only from the school curriculum, but also from the library shelves in both high schools in the district.  Would they be happy with simply allowing their daughter to read a different book?  Hell no!  (Though I'll get to that later.)
"It is in my opinion reprehensible that this book is in front of students in high school," said Aldo DeVivo, describing the book as abominable for its depiction of sex and use of curse words. "And just as important, I being a Christian, there is a phrase that uses my God's name in vain. There is just no place for that."
Apart from poor sentence structure, Mr. DeVivo seems to believe that just because he has a certain religious belief/affiliation, that the entire school should follow his own singular opinion.  The school district's response was both enlightening and important, in that it actually confronted the notion of a single parent being able to decide what is right for every student:
The Clarkstown school district released a statement saying that its mission was to present a curriculum with a wide variety of topics that helped in creating well-rounded members of a global society. It said no parents had the right to decide what materials were suitable for students other than their own children.
"It is the district's firm belief that the classroom provides a valuable forum for the expression of responsible views on public issues of a controversial nature," the statement read. "However, in the event that a parent, as in this case, is concerned with a literature selection, the parent is encouraged to voice his/her views to the school administration." 
And voice their views, the DeVivo's did:
"We feel more determined than ever to get the word out and make parents aware," said DeVivo. "These books are paid for by our tax dollars." 
In keeping with district policy, DeVivo's daughter was allowed to pick another book for her English class. But DeVivo said he was not happy with that alternative because his daughter would be the only one reading that book. 
DeVivo said he had also pulled his daughter out of a class because he disagreed with how Christopher Columbus was depicted. 
These parents not only seem to want full control over the curriculum within the school/school district, but  don't seem to be happy with any of the ways in which the administration is attempting to diffuse the situation.  There are two main aspects of the DeVivo's argument that I would like to visit.

1) The books are paid for by their tax dollars.  Correct!  They are obviously well educated people.  And being well educated, they should also understand that there are many other people who pay taxes, all of whom have different views on books such as Wallflower.  This being the case, the tax dollars are used to provide students with materials that cover a wide range of topics, which is exactly what Chbosky's book does!  And since this is the case, parents are given options if they don't agree with what is being taught, which brings me to my next point.

2) DeVivo's daughter would be the only one reading the book that is not part of the regular curriculum.  These parents are super-smart!  Yes, she will be reading a different book, because if she was reading the same book, the parents wouldn't be happy (though they don't seem to be happy with anything) and if all the other students must read a different book, then every student is being forced to read something that one singular parent (or I suppose one parental couple) has decided on, which goes against my first point in which many people pay taxes, all of whom have many different opinions, and many of whom do not seem to mind the current book choice.

Sorry for the rant, but this particular topic is steadily growing from pet peeve to the status of something-I-want-to-wage-war-against.  But thanks for listening, and hopefully sometime soon I'll once again have some good news, but judging from my inbox, it's not looking like that'll happen this week.

Talk, comment, discuss!

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day.


  1. more here:

  2. Interesting that it's on a Reel Estate website...

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. This book is one of a short list that i will always enjoy rereading. Also one of the only books i would actually recommend to another. I read the book before i was even in highschool and enjoyed it then.