What’s a Good Reason to Have Books Removed From School Reading List?

It doesn’t matter which state you live in or even which country, there are books that are taught in school that parents speak out against. I can name more than a handful of books that are constantly challenged.

I have no kids. My parents never had an issue with any book I was assigned in school. I don’t think I can come up with any reason I’d have a problem with any book assigned in school. If books deal with sex, mental illness, death, history, or any other “difficult” topic; then I can’t think of a better environment than a classroom to learn about those things. I see no reason why a parent wouldn’t be actively involved in those discussions if they’re being discussed in school.

What do you think is a good reason to speak out against an assigned reading book?

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Banning Books Will Never Work

A parent in Virginia has concerns about schools assigning The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird. As a result, both books are now temporarily banned from use in the classroom until some kind of hearing can take place. The rationale behind her concerns is that the N-word is used quite a bit in both, which leaves students focusing on its repeated use rather than on the book. I couldn’t disagree more.

I, like just about all of you, have read both books. And though I absolutely have a problem with the language and offer no justification during any time period for its use, I can’t help but scratch my head. Why? I actually found a quote from the parent in which she backs her argument about how divided the country is. To me, it sounds like her concerns about the language are just a front for her political motivation.

I’m curious as to whether she thinks books written in the 19th and 20th centuries and taught to teens in school actually contribute to that division she speaks of. I’m curious as to whether she believes highly educated teachers are incapable of teaching books such as these two because of the language within each of them. I’m curious as to whether she would rather kids be taught books written in the 21st century with absolutely no historical element. And I’m curious as to whether she utilized her ability to opt out of the assignment of particular books in school. Because I know schools and teachers always make it 100% clear BEFORE an assigned book is started that parents can choose to have their son or daughter read something else if they have a problem with a title.

But doing this and causing these two books to be banned from classroom use does nothing positive for anyone. I’m sitting here thinking about what my reaction to some of the events in To Kill a Mockingbird would have been had I read the book in class.

A question I’d have wanted to discuss is what I thought would have happened at the jail had Scout and Jem not showed up alongside Atticus. Because we all know what that mob group intended to do. And we all know why they intended to do it. That discussion taking place amongst friends and a highly educated teacher who has likely read and studied the book several times is where I want it to take place. Because parents don’t always know what to say about certain things.

As you can see, I have strong feelings about any book being banned for any reason. But this parent’s argument simply doesn’t hold up under the weight of its own words.

Check This Out

I’ve written on here a number of times discussing writing in school. I don’t think writing is taught nearly as comprehensively as it should be in most classrooms. But one school district in Maryland is trying to pave the path toward change.

Teaching literacy no longer falls solely on the shoulders of English teachers. Every teacher in every subject is now on the literacy train. Students will now be writing and thinking analytically in every class. It could be chemistry or physics, statistics or world history. The district’s goal is to better prepare its students for college or the workforce because how many college classes or jobs don’t require a good bit of writing?

I think this is great. And hopefully it is implemented well and other school districts follow suit. I’m sure some of you think students should be thinking and writing analytically in school already, but what do you think of this district really emphasizing it now?

Common Sense Sometimes Pulls Through

Recently in Arizona a school board voted in favor of tearing out pages of honors biology textbooks that discussed abortion in a manner they didn’t like. The alternative was to have the pages redacted via Sharpie. I can’t make this stuff up.

But then something rather hilarious happened. Voters voted for a new majority on the school board shortly after they made their decision. And now no textbook pages are being ripped out or blacked out. Nope. Instead a small sticker has been placed on the inside of the back covers that says something like, “If you have questions about sex, ask your parents.” I’m not joking. I don’t see how anyone can claim victory for something like this when the previous goal had been quite different. And I know this isn’t the only thing I could say about legislators or school board members getting involved with school textbooks, but this is fairly recent and the school year is just about here.

Who do you think should be deciding which textbooks are used in public schools? I say the state should give wide ranging guidelines for textbooks, but that school districts should ultimately decide for themselves.


 

On this day in 2014 I published Would you Rather…. This is a book tag that is STILL making its way around YouTube and WordPress. Surprised someone hasn’t thought of something better.

What’s the Best Book you were Forced to Read?

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I’m talking about assigned school reading here. Schools down here in Texas mostly assign classics in the classroom, which isn’t bad, but I’d like to see some more variety. I’ve heard of teachers assigning The Hunger Games for class. Like…where the heck was that teacher when I was in school?! I know John Green’s books are assigned. And several others. But my experience in the classroom was with books that were written decades before I was born, and sometimes centuries before.

Let me just make a random list of books I remember reading in school. This isn’t necessarily going to be in any order or by genre or anything. Romeo and Juliet. Does that even count? The OdysseyDraculaJurassic Park12 Angry Men. Was that originally a book? The Great GatsbyBeowulf. I’m just naming whatever I can think of. I’m sleepy. I Have Lived a Thousand Years. Of Mice and Men. That’s all I can come up with. I just sat here rolling my head on my desk in an effort to stay awake. I don’t think that list really fits with my previous assertion that I read a lot of classics in school. Oh well.

I know there are a million more books I was assigned during my time in school, but I only listed out those books for your benefit. I know which book was the best. Dracula. I’ve written about that book several times on here, because it’s quite honestly the only assigned reading book that’s stuck with me. I don’t hardly remember any part of any other book I was forced to read in school. But I remember the Count. I remember Mina. And Lucy. And Harker. Van Helsing. The gypsies. Shapeshifting. The pure evil of it all. And no, I didn’t take a look at the Wikipedia page for the book. I don’t have to. I even know the year it was published by memory. 1897.

I know I liked The Great Gatsby, but I couldn’t tell you hardly anything about the story itself. Oh! We read The Giver in 8th grade. No idea what it was about. I know Jurassic Park pretty well, but that’s a good book while Dracula is iconic. The others…eh.

Now you know the best book I was forced to read in school, what’s yours?

Saturday Selects: Getting your degree

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Photo Credit: Degrees Finder

Saturday Selects is a series of posts I write the first Saturday of each month in which I discuss a topic that is unrelated to my typical bookish posts. You can read the previous posts here. This week we’re going to talk a little about college. And that ever moving target we all know as a degree. But first, let me tell y’all a bit about my experience.

My time in college started in August of 2010. This came of course immediately after graduating from high school in June of that year. I didn’t step foot on campus until orientation, which happened in July. My first thoughts were not all that positive. See, the University of Houston Downtown is in downtown Houston. There are skyscrapers and a million gazillion cars everywhere, people walking around in suits, there’s the county jail…suffice it to say that there is A LOT going on in downtown Houston. As there likely is in the heart of any metropolitan area. So I don’t know how I still managed to think that I’d have that picturesque college campus. Nope. The school consists of six buildings that are within walking distance of one another. North and South Towers, which are literally towers. I think they’re 13 stories high? Academic Building. Commerce Street Building. Shea Street Building. One Main Building. Why am I telling y’all this? My experience is immediately different from the experiences of most students just in the layout of the university. There are no huge areas of green grass surrounding any buildings. There aren’t extravagant buildings added each year. Though two of the buildings have been added within the last decade. The point I’m making is that UHD has a different feel to it than most universities. There aren’t even dorms.

Now just a little more about my experience while I was there. I never considered taking part in any fraternity or association on campus. It just wasn’t for me. I never really thought to make a bunch of friends or socialize, to be honest. My philosophy while I was in school was essentially go to class, sit in the front row, take notes when necessary, get home as soon as possible once class is over. I’m not kidding. I could easily go days in class without speaking to anyone. Because I was there to get the piece of paper I have sitting right here in front of me now as I write this. The degree. And no one I went to school with was going to help me get it but me. I stuck with that philosophy throughout my time in school. And guess what it got me? Not only did I get that degree I was after, but I did so with honors while being the youngest in my graduating class. My time at UHD ended on May 15, 2013, the day my graduation became official.

But this post isn’t all about me. I’m 22. I know A LOT of people still in school. My high school graduating class is now four and a half years post graduation. You and I both know that some of these degrees that are being sought will never be earned. Why? Because my philosophy doesn’t seem to work for most people. All you ever hear about is the college experience and how great everyone wants those years to be. That’s great, but I’m afraid that too many people have lost sight of the actual goal. See, the goal isn’t to have sex with as many people as you can or to see how many weekends in a row you can find yourself over the toilet because you don’t know when it’s time to stop drinking; it’s that degree. At least for me it was. I was one of those guys in high school who constantly said how smart I was but I didn’t try (I graduated #427 out of 527). Because I knew college would be the time for me to put up or shut up. I put my money where my mouth was and got down to business the minute I walked on campus.

Another part of the equation I’m thinking about now is how many kids don’t particularly care about what they’re doing because they have parents who are paying for their new car, their off-campus apartment, and everything else they NEED while they’re in school. See, I didn’t have that. My parents cannot afford college tuition for any university, so all of my expenses were paid for by grants, scholarships, and the federal government. That was my incentive for staying focused on the goal at hand. Sure my GPA was high and I was getting paid to go to school, but if I decided to slack off for a semester or two I’d struggle to find the money to pay for future classes.

This post isn’t meant to say that every single person should go to college and get their degree. That’s not what I’m saying because I know that college isn’t for everyone. Quite honestly, I’m not even sure it was for me. But I gave myself three years at a university to get it done and I did. And if I can, so can you. But you have to want it. You have to be focused on what it is you’re trying to do. Do you want to be one of those students who spends nearly a decade in school without getting your degree? Or do you want to become a graduate?

My message to you would be to forget about that upcoming Halloween party. Forget about what you’re going to do for your friend’s 21st birthday. Go study. If that’s too much to ask, then read a book and get off Twitter. Focus on the ultimate goal of the college experience. You have the rest of your adult life to make memories of things of much greater significance than that frat party.


Whew. Sorry guys. I sat down to write this and had no idea what I was going to say.