Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Richland Reverses Previous Ban on "Part-Time Indian"

The Richland school district reversed their decision to ban The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian after finding out that not all members of the Instructional Materials Committee had read the text.  After reading the book for themselves (which the probably should have done in the first place!) two board members changed their minds and called for a re-vote, which is only allowed if a member of the majority vote asks.  Rick Donahoe, one of the board members, said that he actually found the book to be "outstanding."  Mary Guay also changed her vote.  The lone dissenter was Phyllis Strickler kept her vote against the book.  But, two in the crowd at the last meeting still spoke out against the novel, according to TheNewsTribune.com:
David Garber read from a Wall Street Journal article critical of coarse themes and language in young-adult novels that names Absolutely True as an example. Garber is a member of the IMC and of a group that rates novels based on how much of their contents it finds offensive. 
Dave Hedengren questioned if board members lost the ability to know when a book went "over the mark," and equated some of the books taught in Richland schools with internet pornography, which is electronically blocked from school computers. 
The district cannot meet the exact standards of every parent in its votes on novels, which is why the last say over what a student reads is with the parent, Jansons said. 
"That's why we have the opt-out policy," he said. "I trust the process we're using."
After the results of the new vote were given, Guay and  Donahoe assured everyone that they would be reading every novel they vote on.  While I do applaude their decision to reverse the vote, I'm not sure why the reading of contested novels is just now being lauded as a good idea.  Has voting on the opinions of others ever been a very good way of doing it?  Especially, in this case, a Review Committee on which all members don't even bother to read the books in question?

If the board had simply read the book to begin with, perhaps all the political hearsay and controversy wouldn't have been as big of a deal as it is now.  But what do I know?  I'm just a guy who reads books.


  1. If I were these Board Members, I would thank the complainers for giving me the task of reading one of the best YA books ever written. :)