California school district plans to ban classic books | UPDATE

UPDATE 4/12/2020: Burbank Unified School District Superintendent Matt Hill recently issued a statement outlining his reasoning for banning five classic texts from the district’s mandatory reading lists. Books will be allowed in class libraries, but no student may be required to read them. The NCAC is disappointed with the district’s resolution on this matter and continues to advocate for the district to adopt stricter book review policies and follow them when books are challenged. Also, we’re disappointed that students don’t have the chance to be guided through the types of classroom discussions that former Burbank USD students describe after reading Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of thunder, hear my cry. (Sungjoo Yoon’s essay can be read here and Chloe Bauer’s essay can be read here.)

UPDATE 11/16/2020: This Los Angeles Times article details the racist incidents attributed to books that were taken out of classrooms. The NCAC continues to urge the school district to allow teachers to teach these books. The books tell anti-racist stories using historically accurate racist language. Teaching them requires compassion and sensitivity, and teachers must be given the educational resources to do so. But banning books does not erase racist ideas or prevent racist incidents. We support the work being done in the school district to diversify the curriculum and expand the voices and stories included in the classrooms. However, we remain concerned with how these books were removed before a formal review process was completed. The NCAC continues to monitor this file.

Original message 09/17/2020:

The NCAC urges the Burbank Unified School District in Burbank, California to keep multiple books in their curriculum and allow teachers to teach the books while they are being revised. The disputed books include Mark Twain’s Huckleberry finn, Harper Lee Kill a mockingbird, Theodore Taylor the cay, and that of Mildred Taylor Roll of thunder, hear my cry. [Editor’s note: John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was subsequently added to this list and has also been removed from reading lists.]

Burbank USD policy states that when a book is disputed, the book must remain in use while the dispute is pending. The district apparently broke its own rules by ordering teachers to stop using the books while it assesses the merits of the challenge. Parents who file complaints are allowed to request alternative homework for their own students, but should not dictate what all students in the district are allowed to read.

The books in question grapple with complicated and difficult realities of America’s past and present. But programs have been developed that allow books to be taught with sensitivity and compassion. The two The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Kill a mockingbird are included on the Library of Congress’ “Books That Shaped America” ​​list and have been taught in schools across the country for many years. Roll of thunder, hear my cry received the prestigious Newbery Medal in 1977. the cay is an award-winning novel for young adults that tells the powerful story of an 11 year old boy who learns to reject racist views of his upbringing and to recognize the humanity of those who are normally viewed as “the other” by society .

At a time when hundreds of thousands of Americans take to the streets protesting against systemic racism, it is more important than ever for educators to teach books that help their students understand the role that race has played in American history and how it continues to shape our society. Burbank schools have an obligation to help their students understand why books are so painful and their responsibility in fighting racism. To do this, they must provide teachers with the resources and support they need to teach these books successfully.

Accepting an award from the National Council of English Teachers in 1998, Mildred Taylor said: “As a parent, I understand that I don’t want a child to hear painful words, but as a parent I don’t. story that is part of America, a story about a family representing millions of strong and loving families who remain united and strong despite the obstacles they face.

It is important to remember that while parents may deny their students reading these books, students who are prevented from reading classical texts with the benefit of analysis guided by professional educators may never succeed. register there.

The NCAC and six co-signing organizations urge the district to return the disputed books to class during the review process and to seriously consider their importance as the process progresses.

Hear a recent Burbank student share her frustration with the proposed ban here. (Comments begin just after the 9:00 a.m.)

Read the full letter to the school district below. Click here for a full screen view:

About Marcia G. Hussain

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