Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Game That No One Wins

A Guest Blog by Jo Whittemore

A complaint by a Vancouver resident has led to the discontinuation of the Scholastic book club program in Vancouver schools. Yet, the complaint wasn’t with the program itself, but one of the books carried in the Scholastic catalog: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

The legal counsel for the school district says the objection to the book’s perceived anti-Christian theme raised a “whole other different issue.” This issue is that “district policy prohibits (the schools) from promoting for-profit businesses.”
What about the candy bars or wrapping paper that kids sell to go on field trips to museums? Those fundraising companies get a cut of the profits. Do the Vancouver schools plan on discontinuing those educational ventures as well? Or will they wait until someone objects to the museum’s History of Evolution display and then use the “district’s policy” as an excuse to appease one narrow mind?

Because that’s what I believe it comes down to. One person’s opinion on one book is shaping the future of so many others.

The responsibility of running the Scholastic sales in Vancouver has been passed to the parent teacher associations, but this only brings to light the economic disparity between various schools. Some have parents who can afford to help out, while others lack the support necessary to keep the program going. Still other schools are posting sales on their campus websites, but many students come from lower-income families who don’t have credit cards or easy access to the Internet.

Parents are frustrated by the removal of the Scholastic book club program, and rightly so. It can be difficult to get a child to read, but when they see the colorful catalogs and hear their classmates discussing their favorite picks, they get excited and place an order, too. That’s how some readers come to be; they are nurtured in a school environment.

This is made even more complicated when there are no books in the classroom to read, since several schools stock their classrooms with free books they’ve earned from Scholastic book club sales. If you want to talk about a butterfly effect, this is it.
So, who benefits from taking reading opportunities from our students and revenue opportunities from our schools? No one.

Please, Vancouver school district. Surely, in your policy you can make a loophole for literacy.