Monday, October 12, 2009

G&M on book killing

Coincidentally, the Globe and Mail takes on the Harper Lee / To Kill a Mockingbird issue in Monday's paper. The article by Kate Hammer lays out the information cleanly and I learned a thing or two-- for example: I wasn't aware the Toronto board allowed parents to exempt a child from reading a particular text, if a suitable replacement can be found. As stated, it provides a good middle ground to allow a parent to exercise their prerogative without killing a book for hundreds or thousands of students.
In fact, a parent had merely raised a complaint with Ms. (Line) Pinard about the book's language, and had suggested The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill as a suitable alternative for the Grade 10 curriculum.
The parent's child isn't even in Grade 10, Ms. Pinard noted.
That didn't stifle the outcry. Staff lined up outside her office pleading the case for Boo Radley and Calpurnia. Ms. Picard's inbox was flooded with page-long e-mails from parents who had written veritable dissertations on the life lessons contained within the book.
“You can't imagine the hours I've spent on this,” Ms. Pinard said.
This week school trustees will be asked to debate the policy anew.
“I think that we're setting a precedent where we're allowing some parents to micromanage a public system that's supposed to be delivering a common curriculum,” said trustee Josh Matlow, who plans to appeal the policy at a board meeting on Wednesday.
“My concern here is that I think we're being very politically correct,” Mr. Matlow said. “… It's a very interesting discussion: What is the line between intolerance and acceptance, and then the line where we are not supporting our basic values as a progressive society.”
Murielle Boudreau, co-chair of the Greater Toronto Catholic Parent Network, said that exposing children to controversial books gives parents an opportunity to discuss important issues at home.
“If it's out there, in my opinion it's better to expose the child and explain whatever it is, rather than not to expose them,” she said. “… If you really have objections you should do home schooling.”