Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Jane Pittman Stays

The school board at the Puyallup School District (a stone's throw from where I live) has deciced to keep The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman on the required reading list:
“The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitt man” will remain required reading for eighth-graders in the Puyallup School District.
The Puyallup School Board voted 5-0 Monday night to uphold an earlier decision by a district committee requiring eighth-graders to read the novel.

The board made the decision in considering an appeal from a parent and a group of six teachers who challenged the requirement. The challengers said that while the novel is a valuable and compelling account of its period, its complicated content, including implied incest and rape, and heavy use of racial slurs made it inappropriate for eighth-graders.

In explaining their vote, each board member recounted the difficulty of balancing valid concerns on each side of the debate. Board President Diana Seeley said it wasn’t a sole issue of dealing with racism or the “n-word.”

“This is about the environment in which it’s being used,” she said. “We don’t necessarily know that by telling children not to use that word, they will stop using it. But it is our hope by giving them an explanation of the word and where it came from, they’ll understand it’s inappropriate to use it in the future.”
One part of the article caught my attention:
Before making their decision, board members heard from numerous parents, community members and staff members. Some advocated requiring the book for eighth-graders for its perspective on race relations and slavery, while others were concerned that youngsters that age would be confused by the book’s adult situations. Several expressed concerns for children who have been sexually abused, and the trauma they could experience as they study the book in a classroom of peers.
Uh, not to put too fine a point on it, but this is the dumbest thing I've read in a long, long, long time. Ban a book because some kids are sexually abused and the book might trigger some trauma? Um, if that's a criterion for banning a book, well, we can pretty much close up the libraries now, can't we?

I'm sure these people mean well, but, I mean, wow.


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