Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It's my blog...

I'm so upset. I'm sad & frustrated. And I'm going to vent.
An Ontario school board has pulled the book To Kill A Mockingbird from its curriculum based on it's "racist content". (More specifically, the use of the N word). From what I have read, this was the result of a parents complain. I don't even know where to start...
How can we teach children about racism without a reference? How can children begin understand the impact it has on people if they cannot relate to it?
This much I KNOW is true:
1. When I read TKMB in school, It wasn't the first time I heard the N word.
2. It was one of the few books that stayed with my after I left school. There is a real lesson to be learned in this PULITZER prize winning book.
3. I enjoyed the book. And so did my husband & he's a Cliff's Notes kinda guy.
4. I am so sad. Sad because if this kind of censorship keeps happening, I am worried Miles will never learn about how racism affected everyone in the 1930's, or Sexual Health or even, dare I say, the Holocaust (because some idiot will say it has too much "racism or violence"). I'm not a teacher, I KNOW I am not the most qualified person to teach him these lessons & their importance in todays society. Of course, these things, along with the national anthem & FUN non-religious holidays (like Halloween or Valentine's day) will be taught to him at home, but I worry for the children who's parents won't make the effort.
(This is MY blog. You have the right to disagree with what I write & I have the right to defend myself. But keep comments appropriate as this is not a political site, just my personal opinion. Thanks.)


Kimberly said...

Haley, unfortunately, I think this is what the world is coming to. As a teacher, I have seen the power shift from schools and school boards into the hands of parents. Teachers have very little left in their "arsenal", and that was basically stripped from them with the passing of Bill 44 here in Alberta.
Unfortunately, one or two angry, misinformed, and overly cautious parents can ruin things for everyone.
I am really tired of the overprotective, we-are-best-friends kind of parents who refuse to let their children experience the world for themselves, who refuse to allow them to make informed choices, and who feel the need to make decisions for them. Can't wait to see how these kids grow up and contribute to society.

Lee-Anne said...

The way you feel about the book being pulled, is the same way I feel about them taking the Lord's Prayer out of school and a Christmas concert is now a winter festival. A lot of parents and people had something to say and if something "offends" anybody, it is pulled. I think religion is a touchy subject at the best of times, but the so called "religion" that is in our schools and universities now is pushed on everybody too. This is where it is up to us parents to teach children morals and values and I do believe in not "overprotecting" my child as he needs to experience life and learn about life on his own. I want him to have a good foundation, but I also want him not to be naive.
I know I'm not the most politically correct person in the world and I'm sorry if I have offended anyone, but I do believe a person has to stand up for their rights.

I think this is why so many people choose to homeschool their kids.

It is hard to please all parents and I really do sympathize with teachers as I know how "meddling" some parents can be. I have done my share of volunteering and fundraising in the schools and I don't want to be part of the politics. I must say I am happy with Clayton's school now as I know that the teachers all are on the same page.

Shannon said...

I'm with you on TKAMB. This is the only book that stayed with me and I'm a pretty big reader. I've re-read it as an adult 2 or 3 times and own a copy. Hopefully the parents that recognize the importance of this issue will share this book with their children.

Carol T said...

I am outraged, and have been since I first heard about this disastrous decision. This whole thing started because ONE parent complained about the n-word. ONE. Now, nowhere in the English 10 curriculum does it say that one HAS to teach this book. The student whose parent was offended by the material could have easily chosen another amazing book from the recommended list, and have still completed his or her curricular goals. This is not about getting one's child the best education possible: it is about having control and power because someone without any qualifications (or without, apparently, any common sense or wisdom) raised his or her voice.

I am a parent and a teacher. As such, I straddle that fence very carefully. I do not have control over every aspect of my children's educations. I shouldn't. Nor should I, as a teacher, have ultimate power and control over your child. I don't. This is a partnership. The ideal parent-teacher relationship is one which works collaboratively to best suit the needs of the child. There are many ways to appease parental demands, but banning a book is not one of the ways.

I almost quit teaching over Harry Potter. Yes, you read that right. In my first year with a classroom, I developed a GREAT unit about Magic with my friend Melody for her Grade 5 class. They were going to read Harry Potter (it had just come out, really) and then do all their lessons (even Math) in "magic" spells. Now, this was not "harmful" witchcraft by any means, but one parent complained and I had to "go to the mattresses" to fight back. I was appalled - not because the parent didn't have the right to wish that her child was not exposed to "magic" in the classroom, but because she was satisfied when we switched the book to another book about magic. It wasn't the magic she was offended by - it was Harry Potter, because it was controversial at the time. She hadn't even read it. Not once. And the other book, one about even darker magic, was fine with her - she had no plans to read it, either.

I FIRMLY believe that the best teaching lies outside of the curricular boundaries. Bill 44 basically ties my hands to frank, real discussions with my students.

I am all for the Lord's Prayer in school, Lee-Anne, but only if the school also says the prayers of the other major religions. I teach at, and send my child to, a secular school so that he is not told that one religion is "the way". I vehemently disagree with this in public schools -- which is why I also support the right to have charter schools and separate schools, where parents CAN have religion taught there. Having a belief is one thing: subjecting all others to it is not okay, in my book. I don't mean to be offensive or contradictory -- you have every right to have your religion taught, but public school is not the place for this.

That being said, this book does not support a belief system -- it supports HISTORY. It is a novel that illustrates what really happened; it is a novel that shows the ugly truth of history and highlights the racism that still pervades our culture. Like Haley said, this novel was not the first place she had ever heard the N-word. Today, this is a word taken back by the African American community and used in hiphop and street slang. However, it is important that we understand where it came from. You can't hide that ugliness... it seeps through the pores of our civilization. Only by knowing the roots of such hatred can we fully move on. While I hate the phrase "slippery slope" (because it is such a cliche), I feel it applies here. If you ban this book, what's next?

Censorship causes blindness. Only through seeing can we create a world where this ugliness does not ever occur again.

Martha said...

Well, what can I say. I'm not a teacher just a mom, but of course one with an opinion.

We need to raise awareness in our children. They need to get their backs up and have open discussion about those topics. Not just at home. They need to be able to debate these kinds of issues, just as we are doing, with their peers.

They also need the opportunity to reflect on mastery. To Kill A Mockingbird was an amazing piece of literature. Not to mention that it was historically accurate. There are numerous books, paintings, etc that our children will not see at school because someone's parent has got their panties in a knot. Now I wonder if said parent's opinion is at is because of their own personal views or their inherited views forced on them by overprotective parents. Have they themselves taken the time to free their minds just a bit to take in something more valuable than just another persons opinion??

There is a reason we send our children to school. To find what they are passionate about, to socialize, to debate, to learn, to appreciate. If we were to only teach them reading, writing and arithmetic more of us would home school.

All that aside. There are some things I would rather teach my child at home. Religion being one of them. Sex ed being the other. Touchy subjects. That's just my opinion.

Lee-Anne said...
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Carol T said...
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Martha said...
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