At the end of last month, I wrote about a former Buncombe School Board member questioning a reading assignment given to their child for an Honors class.
That board member is Lisa Baldwin and her scenario regarding the book The Kite Runner is a shining example of why I have begun blogging about parental rights in education in North Carolina.
Baldwin’s objections to The Kite Runner saw some traction and press from the Asheville-Citizen Times, but as is typical in NC media, the outlet didn’t tell the whole story. This is part of why parents come to me.
— LL1885 – A.P. Dillon (@LadyLiberty1885) May 4, 2015
The Asheville Citizens times left out key pieces, which Baldwin corrects on her blog in the article, What The Asheville Citizen-Times Didn’t Disclose…
Reading Is Fundamental
Mrs. Baldwin has shared many of the related email conversations with various individuals with me. This email chain included another parent, one Ann Ogg.
Ogg’s right to her own opinion is just as valid as Mrs. Baldwin’s. Yet Ogg’s comments in the email conversation are dismissive, even mocking, of Mrs. Baldwin’s position. Better yet, she also takes a swipe at yours truly.
Here’s one email to set the stage:
On 5/2/2015 10:22 AM, Anne Ogg wrote:Dear Lisa, Score one for Kite Runner! The best way to gets students to read a book is to have it banned. That aside, I was thrilled that Ms. Bowman had chosen a challenging, beautifully written novel for my daughter’s Honor’s English class. Have you read it? Yes, there are some issues in the novel that are sensitive. I trust Ms. Bowman to conduct the class in a way that allows the students to thoughtfully discuss the book without focusing on one part. Such a shame that you have chosen to target this book.
I know that I am among a majority of enlightened parents who see how important it is to have our children read contemporary authors from other cultures and gain a greater understanding of how the world is remarkably different from our own sheltered hamlet.
Don’t set us back 50 years by embroiling yourself in what happens in your daughter’s classroom. Let Ms. Bowman teach. Kite Runner has been a book used in Honors English for several years without problems.
Incidentally, have you read the violence in All’s Quiet? Here’s some samples:“My thoughts become confused. This atmosphere of carbolic and gangrene clogs the lungs, it is a thick gruel, it suffocates.”“When he sees that we cannot escape because under the sharp fire we must make the most of this cover, he takes a rifle, crawls out of the hole, and lying down propped on his elbows, he takes aim. He fires – the same moment a bullet smacks into him, they have got him.”
“While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded dying. While they taught that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger.”All’s Quiet is a miserable dissection of the human cost of a war front. I would not object to All’s Quiet simply because it has an challenging subject matter. And I don’t object to Kite Runner either. Please let Ms. Bowman do what she is perfectly capable of doing – teaching Honors English.
Oh my. All aboard the Shame Train!
This bit was my favorite part.. because, SHUT UP! they explained…:
“Don’t set us back 50 years by embroiling yourself in what happens in your daughter’s classroom. Let Ms. Bowman teach. Kite Runner has been a book used in Honors English for several years without problems.”
Shorter: How dare you give a crap what your kid is reading and how dare you question your education overlords?
What’s worse in that passage, is that Ogg alleges no one has questioned it.
Why would that be? Maybe because parents don’t know about it, as Baldwin’s journey objecting to this book has shown? Like it or not, Ms. Ogg — Mrs. Baldwin has the right to object.
Just like you have the right to start an ’email writing campaign’.
— LL1885 – A.P. Dillon (@LadyLiberty1885) May 4, 2015
We’ve seen your ’emails’ on this topic so far, Ms. Ogg.
Be sure you’re ’email writing campaign’ is advocating for the book instead of smearing another parent.
As for excerpts, here’s one Ms. Ogg can use in your ’email writing campaign’:
Assef knelt behind Hassan, put his hands on Hassan’s hips and lifted his bare buttocks. He kept one hand on Hassan’s back and undid his own belt buckle with his free hand. He unzipped his jeans. Dropped his underwear. He positioned himself behind Hassan. Hassan didn’t struggle. Didn’t even whimper. He moved his head slightly and I caught a glimpse of his face. Saw the resignation in it. It was a look I had seen before. It was the look of the lamb.
What This All Boils Down To Is Shutuppery
Well.. Bully for her!
Ogg’s opinion is the one that matters. Screw the other parents who might object, they must be book banning nuts, right?
Gimme a break lady.
Here’s where I get pulled into it – bolded below:
Lisa Baldwin Mon, May 4, 2015 at 8:59 AM
To: Lady Liberty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Her arguments are weak and don’t address what I sent her in my email. See number 4 where she takes a swipe at you.
Thank you for responding, Lisa.
First of all, the book is far beyond the reading level of 6 grade, Lexile or otherwise. The author’s first language is not English. The artful craft the author uses to tell the story, the incredibly beautiful landscape as a backdrop for complicated relationships, is far from 6.8, as you infer. If you want to count words of more than one syllable, I’m afraid Hemingway would be tossed out. We cannot rely on a computer program to judge great literature.
Second, you cannot give Kite Flyer a “quick read” to fully appreciate the author’s skill at weaving his story.
Third, the book has been used by thousands of 10th grade classrooms across the country – they can’t all be wrong.
Fourth, you did ask them to pull the book – and use excerpts. Have you ever planned a lesson? It takes time and tons of preparation. You can’t ask a teacher to totally change what she/he had planned days before the unit is to begin. This shows no grasp of a teacher’s work life.
You have reduced a beautiful novel to a few sound bites in order to stir up a small number of constituents. Your blogger friend relies on Cliff notes to make her decision on whether the book has merit. Such a tragedy. And yet you begin your email to me suggesting I enjoy the beautiful weekend. I will enjoy it, but I need to take time to enjoy it – by taking a walk, or smelling the new blossoms. These special moments can’t be taken in by driving 70 miles an hour down a highway.
I do hope you can see the beauty in the writing of the book. I would suggest that you take time and read the book carefully. You might actually like it!
A woman who has been going on about ‘challenging’ reading is actually reading challenged herself?
I zipped a reply back to Mrs. Baldwin:
Lady Liberty <email@example.com> Mon, May 4, 2015 at 9:17 AM
To: Lisa Baldwin
Yeah, her reading comprehension either sucks or she didn’t read the whole piece — and you can tell her I said that.
I said “I’ve read this book.”
I offered the link to Cliff’s notes for those who haven’t read it.
Feel free to point that out to her.
Here’s the direct quote from my prior article:
I’ve read this book. If you haven’t, you didn’t miss anything but here’s the Cliff’s notes.
Let me repeat that: I READ IT.
Let me expand on that: I read it… as AN ADULT.
It was graphic, violent, depressing and has many layers of themes that an adult, with historical knowledge and more breadth of living experience, can handle.
No one is arguing if The Kite Runner is well-written or not — it is; the argument is over content. Is this appropriate for 10th graders?
You can read the whole passage where I talk about having read The Kite Runner in my previous blog post.