Oh, Texas. This is so very you:
A book about poverty is again being challenged in Highland Park ISD, one of the wealthiest school districts in the state.
Seems that some parents are worried that The Working Poor: Invisible in America, by David K. Shipler, is too “sexually explicit” for 11th graders in an advanced placement class that’s meant to be the equivalent of a college course. Also, the complaint says, the book would be better suited to a political science or sociology class. Worst of all, it’s about poor people struggling to make ends meet in America, and no teenager needs to be exposed to such communist lies. (We’re extrapolating that last bit).
The book was among seven books that were pulled from classroom use last fall by Superintendent Dawson Orr following parental complaints, in violation of school district policy (apparently, the parents were really mad and the books were really terrible, which makes that OK). The books were later reinstated after the action brought national attention, since Orr happened to pull the books during Banned Books Week. Following the kerfuffle, the school board began reviewing its policy for handling challenges to school materials; a new policy has not yet been finalized.
The parental complaint against The Working Poor had some pretty scathing criticisms that don’t sound even the least bit trumped up:
In the complaint, the parent objected to the book’s depiction of abortion, and sexual abuse and to its portrayal of women “as weak, pathetic, ignorant, sexual objects and incapable beings.”
“The Working Poor is not a great work of literature or an example of rich writing we want our students to emulate. One must ask, is this the best piece of literature our students can read to learn to write?” she wrote.
If English teachers want to teach global poverty and economic equality, she suggested alternate books: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, We the Living by Ayn Rand and America the Beautiful by Ben Carson.
Yes. The parent is worried that the book portrays women as pathetic sexual objects AND suggests Ayn Rand as a replacement. And to teach quality writing, she’d also be happy with a book by Ben Carson, who admitted to and apologized for multiple instances of plagiarism in that tome. But don’t you go thinking that the parent’s objections are political, no not at all. They just want the sensitive darlings of Highland Park to have access to high-quality writing. By rightwing hacks.
We don’t know anything about Out of the Dust, the other suggested alternative, although we’d note that the publisher, Scholastic, recommends it for grades 3 to 7, which makes its value as a text for college-level reading dubious.
While the parent’s challenge is under review, The Working Poor will continue to be used in the class; the English department’s review of the text
acknowledged the book contained some potentially controversial passages, but said overall it was “a means to build students’ capacity for empathy and knowledge of an issue facing millions in America and millions more across the world.”
We’re guessing that maybe it doesn’t show how the poor are lazy or contain enough examples of them overcoming poverty through hard work, which anyone can do.
Author David Shipler said it was the first instance he was aware of in which a school’s use of his book had been challenged.
“There’s nothing prurient, obscene or sexually explicit in the book,” Shipler said. “The women who told me they had been sexually abused as children told me that because they felt the trauma was relevant to their lasting problems.”
Well there’s the problem: too much sex. And then he goes and makes excuses for people who insist on staying poor. You can see why a feel-good success story like Ben Carson’s would be far better for kids. Shipler nevertheless defended his book’s completely un-American viewpoint:
“My experience with high school kids these days — and I’ve done a lot of speaking at schools — is youngsters are generally mature enough to read about very troubling situations and learn a good deal from the reading, especially in the context of a class,” he said. “They are not damaged by it at all. In fact, they may be helped by reading about it.”
Natalie Davis, the leader of an anti-censorship community group that formed following the removal of the books last fall, said she found the challenge against The Working Poor especially disappointing, considering “the stereotype associated with Highland Park.” We think she may mean the whole “bunch of rich white people in an upper-class enclave” thing.
“I understand any parent has a right to their own views and what they want for their child, but the decision to challenge this book in particular embarrasses me,” Davis said. “You can’t change nonfiction to make it more palatable and you cannot find literature that depicts that side of America without those ugly depictions.”
Obviously, Ms. Davis simply doesn’t watch Fox news enough. If large numbers of rich people think that being poor is pretty darned easy because of all the government handouts, what business is it of the schools to say otherwise?