Once again, there is a buzz about town (in Canyon) regarding a book being given to students as part of their curriculum. The book in question is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.
In case you have yet to see the sensational, fiery, emotional speeches delivered to the CISD school board by a handful of concerned parents and grandparents, I have included it below. Warning; it does contain very graphic, explicit language at times.
In the comments section of the video, concerned parents lay out their concerns a little bit better than in the video. While they are not calling for the book to be outright banned or burned, it does appear they want it eliminated from classrooms.
One of their major points is that there are rating systems already in place to protect our young from explicit content. Why should our classrooms not also be protecting students from explicit content?
As is the case often when it comes to art, the issue at hand goes a bit deeper than just "explicit content." I'll mention this again shortly, but context is everything.
This is a Memoir; Not Just "Some Book"
First, and I do think this is very important, we need to address what The Glass Castle is. It is a memoir written by Jeannette Walls. This isn't a work of fiction dreamed up by the imagination of a person sitting in front of a keyboard. This work is the life lived, and endured, by the author. It is a celebrated bestseller, and has been made into a major film starring Woody Harrelson and Brie Larson.
My point is that this isn't "just some book." It is a celebrated memoir that represents modern literature, for better or worse.
Their Assumptions About Students and Parents
Second, I do take umbrage with two of the assumptions being made by those who were featured in the video. One, I find it laughable that an assumption is made regarding the intents of a 14-year-old boy after reading this book. If you honestly feel that your son could be persuaded so easily to engage in such reprehensible behavior, I am forced to inquire about the methods you use in parenting. Do you really not trust your son that much?
Second, I find it offensive that anyone would assume that a young man would have ill intents toward a young woman after having read this book, simply because of what they read. While it may not have been intended, this is a slap in the face to every other parent in the school district. As a person who has a son attending these schools, I take your assumption regarding my son personally and would request an apology on behalf of everyone who has a son in CISD.
Why Context is Important
In regards to the content of the memoir, context is painfully important. While these words are considered to be offensive, it is important to understand the context in which they are being used. Is the offensive behavior being celebrated? Should we look at the use of such language and content in terms of the piece as a whole; especially considering that this is a memoir?
These Conversations Should and Need to be Had
When it comes to the way CISD is handling this as part of the curriculum, I do hope that there are essays and discussions being had regarding the content of the book. If there aren't, I am curious as to why. This type of content demands a discussion regarding relationships and what it means to be a victim.
On that note, how do we honestly feel about saying the experience of a victim of abuse should be censored or banned? Is that really something you are honestly okay with saying?
What About the Handbook and Hypocrisy?
In terms of what is acceptable for students to say at CISD according to the handbook, I have no sympathy for any student that is forced to skip words or parts of a book while reading aloud in class. Many of us have had to do it. It doesn't mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater.
This also goes back to my point regarding the behavior of students after reading the book. I would wager that if you were to take a survey of freshman students, you would find that the majority of them (if not all) know that language deemed foul and offensive in polite society is not okay to stand and say to a teacher.
While I do understand the drive and desire to protect one's children from the more abhorrent parts of the human experience, I have to respectfully disagree when it comes to the issue of banning a memoir from classrooms. Is the material uncomfortable? Yes. Does it challenge our sensibilities? Yes. That is what makes it important.
Final Thoughts and Suggestions
Honestly, this video is an emotional, hyperbolic mess and there is so much more that could be addressed. The cherry picking of words from the text so we focus on the words used and not the entirety of what is being said is intellectual laziness. Surely there are better ways to combat this book than with hypothetical situations that assume the worst of all our children at CISD.
If the coursework presented makes you, your family, your child this uncomfortable then I recommend looking into one of the many other available options afforded you when it comes to the education of your child. I hear that home schooling is becoming increasingly popular. Also, there are charter schools available that will also teach your child a marketable trade by the time they graduate.