****This pregnancy is really getting in the way of my school board meeting participation. I mean I CAN'T DRINK RIGHT NOW.
So I'm watching the live feed because those chairs were going to see to it I never stood up straight again, and writing a blog... and it's really a ridiculous thing that I even have to write about.
The TOPIC: The inclusion of a nationally recognized and award-winning book, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by author Sherman Alexie, into curriculum, as requested by the English Dept.
If you haven't heard the CVUSD school board president, Mike Dunn's opinion on a book he hasn't read in its entirety, he has made some pretty aggressive comments, describing the book as pornographic, stating that "forcing" "children" (high school students) to read this literature (approved by UACT), is "child abuse." Again, I must remind you that at this time, he hasn't been able to confirm actually having read the book, after having more than two months' time to do so.
Now, these assertions are wholly, wholly irresponsible and abhorrent. How dare our school board president accuse the dept. chairs and teachers —whom are experts in their subjects — and that form the curriculum committee, of child abuse. CHILD ABUSE.
I'm going to risk sounding like a broken record BUT, apparently it's needed:
YOUR RELIGIOUS OR PERSONAL "FAMILY VALUES" AGENDA DOESN'T GET TO DETERMINE WHAT LITERATURE IS INCORPORATED INTO OUR PUBLIC SCHOOL'S CURRICULUM.
I value your right as a parent to teach whatever your personal values are at home. I welcome your right to have the religion you have, or practice whatever set of ideals you feel important. I welcome you to practice those beliefs in a church, mosque, etc. of your choosing. However, these personal choices and personal religious choices don't have a place in influencing our public school education.
If you want a customized curriculum that caters to the idea of "innocence" you've developed for your children, you have every right to home school or choose a private school that caters to your religion. No, the public school system is not designed to act as your specific tool, to be altered to suit only your personal morals and beliefs, and those you teach to your children. That is not how public education works and it's preposterous to demand that public education be censored to fit a religious criteria.
Now, I did my due diligence. In order to understand what was so "controversial" about this book, I READ IT IN ITS ENTIRETY. Not only did I read it, I invited everyone who participates on my page to read along with me, and a lot of us participated in analysis of themes and conversation. I asked over and over and over again for those who found objection to share examples of how this book was pornographic, abusive, or inappropriate for high school children.
NOT ONE out of the 40 or so parents that participated felt this piece of literature lived up to Dunn's claims. I made sure to leave this topic open-ended throughout the book reading process and encouraged diverse viewpoints. I also reviewed countless study guides found online through school sites and shared how the themes would be discussed and handled.
And then, I took a few excerpts of reaction to the book and sent it to the entire board so they could also read that feedback.
So, I did my homework on the book.
DID YOU, MR. DUNN?
In regards to the areas of "worry" expressed: language, explicit sex, bullying, violence, etc.... I found these topics no more represented in this literature than in MANY of the current books already in place in the school curriculum. Some titles come to mind: "Romeo and Juliet," "The Lord of the Flies," "Hunger Games," "Catcher in the Rye," to name a few. A FEW.
Are we cool with these books because the author is white? YES OF COURSE WE ARE.
Should it surprise you that a group showed up tonight that identifies themselves as "Unified Conejo" represented by, from what I could visibly deduce as at least 90% white men, to decry this literature? They're worried about family values you see, and that what they teach at home, won't be mirrored in the classroom, and so, they demand this book not be included.
Y'all. Have you not been paying attention to what has been happening not only in our hometown but in our country? Last week a video went viral, that captured high school students in our district, singing and chanting racist speech and insinuating that all black people need to die.
This past weekend, a young woman was murdered by a white, domestic terrorist who ran her over with a car at a white supremacist rally while she was peacefully marching for equality. It's sweet if you think "all minorities are valued," but you've clearly been turning a blind eye to the fuckery that is happening all around, and next to you.
Diverse curriculum is invaluable. It should be quite apparent, especially now, more than ever, that we need to do right by the students in our district. We owe it to them, we have a RESPONSIBILITY to them, to expose them to guided conversation on challenging topics and themes that will help broaden their knowledge base and enhance their education.
It is not the board's job to vote to suit the religious right who backs them in campaigns. That is not what it means to be a board member in our district. I realize that Dunn has a re-election coming up in 2018, and wants to satisfy his conservative base, but IT'S UNACCEPTABLE to prevent students in the district from the opportunity to be exposed to diverse literature in order to pad their upcoming campaign runs.
And let's talk about the issue of formalizing and enhancing an opt-out policy. Where do we draw the line? Something can be found offensive in every single book ever written. What will the district do, when this circus encourages droves of conservative parents to demand multiple opt-out options on curriculum? What then? How will the teachers satisfy these requests? How can we guarantee our students receive an enriched education, if we spend our time trying to appease only the religious right? How can our teachers even handle that amount of work?
A student speaker today said it best: it is not the board's job to protect students' innocence, it is their job to educate the students.
JUST IN: THE BOOK IS APPROVED, DESPITE DUNN'S VOTE AGAINST THE BOOK. There is still concern on Mr. Andersen's part regarding opt-out policy and discussion, but he is hopeful a discussion will be had moving forward.