Former Buncombe School board member, Lisa Baldwin, recently raised an issue with school staff at her child’s high school.
The reading assignment was the book, The Kite Runner, and was given to her child in their 10th grade Honors English class.
The Kite Runner is an adult fiction book featuring several episodes of homosexual rape of children, graphic… http://t.co/VTEE9ExUwo
— Lisa Baldwin (@LisaBaldwin87) April 29, 2015
The book, according to Baldwin’s research, apparently has a lexile score of a 6.8th grade range, yet it contains a number of sexually explicit scenes and accompanying strong language.
I’ve read this book. If you haven’t, you didn’t miss anything but here’s the Cliff’s notes.
Rape is consistent and recurring theme. It’s violent. It’s depressing. If they are using this for ‘cross-curricular’ purposes with AP World History, to which one has to ask, exactly what purposes?? Other than being set in Afghanistan, I’d like to hear this ‘cross curricular’ purpose.
To be blunt, it’s a damn downer and I’d rather read a collection of Sylvia Plath poems 1,000 times over before picking The Kite Runner up again. So I tend to agree, it “sucks“, although I’d probably say ‘creepy-depressing’ instead.
Shorter: It’s not something I’d have my 15 or 16-year-old reading without my knowing about it.
Back to the Objections
Baldwin reached out to me, knowing that I’ve written about and covered similar events.
Baldwin expressed her concerns with the book to local school staff at the high school, via email. In the email, Baldwin listed her objections and her request that her child be given an alternate reading assignment.
What happened next may be familiar to parents who bother to ask questions —
The school staff that she emailed brought Baldwin in for a meeting.
I’ve got a summary from Mrs. Baldwin on what happened at the meeting. At least there was an opt-out form offered, most parents who come to me don’t even get that much.
It looks like that opt-out doesn’t matter much.
The net-net of the meeting was the staff wouldn’t stop using the book, but her child could read an alternate book. However, her child would still be brought in on class discussion of The Kite Runner.
It’s worth noting, the book the other class (1,000 Splendid Suns) is reading doesn’t look much better and looks equally as depressing. It is also set in Afghanistan.
The following text is unaltered, except to address formatting and to clarify sections for ease of reading.
Here’s what happened:
Present at the 3:15pm meeting were the A.C. Reynolds High School principal, 10th grade Honors English teacher, Ms. Bowman, and Eric Grant, the BCS ELA Specialist.
I told them all I was videotaping the meeting with my phone and I did.
1. Why was the book, The Kite Runner, chosen?
Answer: For the setting in Afghanistan; content relevant to today, part of the standards.
2. Who chose the book?
Answer: 10th grade honors English teachers, Ms. Latini and Ms. Bowman, chose to use 1000 Splendid Suns (Latini) and The Kite Runner (Bowman), respectively. The two classes will come together to discuss the two books at some point.
3. It was explained to me that the books were on the “approved list”. I asked where the list came from? The MTAC committee decides what is “approved”. I asked if there were any parents on the MTAC committee and no one knew the answer.
4. I made the point of the book’s 6.8th grade reading level and thus its additional inappropriateness for a 10th grade Honors English Class. Of course, they insisted that it was the content that was important. Cross-curricular plans have been made with the AP World History class.
5. I also made the point that the book includes graphic descriptions of extreme cruelty and violence, including homosexual rape. Also, it includes murder, beatings and a suicide attempt.
I asked the principal to explain to me what the word “cunt” on page 7 meant. She did; I had to look it up on-line. According to Wikipedia, “Scholar Germaine Greer said in 2006 that cunt “is one of the few remaining words in the English language with a genuine power to shock.”
6. Another point I made was that this normalizes abnormal behaviors and desensitizes teens. Of course, the argument was made was that this was reality. (Huh? In whose world?)
7. Apparently, this book is taking the place of the 9th grade reading level book, All Quiet on the Western Front. This will be the book my son reads as an alternative.
8. The teacher said she would draw Will and his book into the discussions.
9. I said I didn’t want Will in the discussions of the other book. I would like him to be separate and have a certified ELA teacher.
10. I expressed that Will reads Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn and I expect classical literature to be taught in his Honors English class.
11. Of course, the teacher mentioned that there is “language” in All Quiet on the Western Front. I can’t imagine that this book would be as sexually charged in the 1930s as literature is now, but I will check on it.
12. I expressed my disappointment and even called it a “black mark on Reynolds HS” to read this book. I also explained that I was unhappy with the opt-out form; it should be an opt-in or permission form. The principal said she would bring up the form at her next principals’ meeting.
13. What I didn’t mention, since I had just picked the book up from the library, was the racism in the book (there were 2 classes of Afghans.) I am disturbed as to how this may be discussed and applied to minorities in the US today.
I appealed to their sense of morality and Christianity and got nowhere.