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04 February 2015 @ 12:58 pm
Novel ideas?  
I find it amusing that there are recent articles about using novels to help teach kids about history and current events. I find it amusing because these approaches are often touted as "novel" (no pun intended or is there?). What is not amusing and is definitely not novel is the insistence on using the same set of books for all students in a particular grade, class, etc.

And then there is the flip side of this novel idea. That is the chilling censorship occurring all around. Most notably now is the challenge that continues in Highland Park ISD in Texas (you can read about it here: http://www.slj.com/2015/01/censorship/two-books-challenged-again-in-highland-park-schools-in-texas/#_). One parent is complaining that kids are being brainwashed because the literature they read is teaching them about history and culture and all these "other" things when it should just be teaching them about literature and only literature. Here is, in part, the crux of the matter:

"If HPISD English III is intent on teaching "social issues" and addressing global poverty and economic inequality issues as referenced by Mr. Nelson, this can be accomplished by so many better choices such as; "Out of the Dust" Karen Hesse, "We the Living" Ayn Rand, "America the Beautiful" Ben Carson and "Nothing to Fear" Jackie French Koller. "The Working Poor" is not a great work of literature or an example of rich writing we want our students to emulate. One must ask, is this the best piece of literature our students can read to learn to write? Let us seek the highest quality of literature for our HPISD students."

Instead of reading a piece of nonfiction (The Working Poor: Invisible in America), this parent proposes two pieces of historical fiction both about the Great Depression or Ben Carson's treatise on what makes our country great or Ayn Rand. Note that the latter two books were written for adults and have a decided political best (something the woman in Highland Park says she is NOT in favor of) and the books by Hesse and Koller are for much younger readers (not that they have to be relegated to younger readers) and center on history and not contemporary society.

One more note: the complaining parent seems to think we read to learn how to write. If that is true, and if we are worried about college and career ready, I would suggest that The Working Poor is perhaps best suited for that. Just sayin'.
 
 
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