Controversial Book in Buncombe Schools/ No satisfactory answers

 7/2/2015 Committee Recommends Board  Allow use of Kite Runner Book in 10th Grade Honors class  http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2015/06/16/committee-recommends-board-allow-use-kite-runner/28805105/

6/1`/2015  Controversy Continues over Kite Runner and Parental Rights http://ymlp.com/zLOPBP

In addition, school population declining yet more schools to be built??  Where's your tax money going??  

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Controversy Surrounds Buncombe County School's book, The Kite Runner.  Is profanity, rape, violence against women and children appropriate reading material in our schools?  What happened to reading the classics? Parents need to weigh in.  Admin process for informing parents also at issue.   Find out the facts.  Take action.

Update 5/9/2015

Thanks, Pam.  I asked for a compromise - that the class continue to read All Quiet on the Western Front as they have been doing and read excerpts from other books (and even the Kite Runner) about Afghanistan to enrich their experience. Why not compare WWI soldiers' experience with those in modern wars?

Would you send in your paragraph as a letter to the editor?

Just in time for the Mother's Day paper, John Boyle decided to mislead the public once again and demonize me in the process:  http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2015/05/09/boyle-suspension-kite-runner-smacks-censorship/27036667/

Here's where I documented this whole issue:  buncombestudentsfirst.wordpress.com

Thanks,
Lisa
828-243-6590


On 5/9/2015 7:41 PM, Pam Danz wrote:

I think it is a good book and does highlight the injustices that are rampant in islamist-controlled countries, but anal sex is a little strong for HS students.  Why compound the grunge they are absorbing from TV, etc.? There are so many other books that give the reader a taste of life in the Middle East, why use this one?  Besides, when an HS English teacher doesn’t know enough grammar to avoid using a preposition to end a sentence in the written word, I find myself not trusting her expertise.  ( “It’s a beautifully written and riveting story — one we think students will enjoy and learn a great deal from,”)  

Pam Danz

5/4/2015 WLOS  Controversy Surrounding The Kite Runner Continues in Buncombe  http://www.wlos.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/controversy-surrounding-kite-runner-classroom-continues-20875.shtml#.VUjEXPlViko

Call the School Board and voice your concerns! Contact info here http://ashevilleteaparty.org/?page_id=849

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5/1/2015: Controversial new book in Buncombe:  No transparency and no answers.   

Lady Liberty 1885 blog post with analysis:  http://ladyliberty1885.com/2015/04/30/another-nc-reading-assignment-questioned/

It boils down to 2 issues:

  1. Common Core English Language Arts standards are set too low; removing time-honored classic literature from high school English classes erodes high academic standards.
  2. Violations of parental rights/bullying - parents had no input into the book chosen, no permission slip (or opt-in form) was sent home due to the mature adult content (and curriculum change), only partial disclosure of the sexual and violent content. The Reynolds principal's act of sending my objection to the Asheville Citizen-Times amounts to parent bullying; Saul Alinsky's Rule number 13: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."  She has sent the message that if parents question classroom materials, you will be demonized.

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Read the email exchange. 

From: Lisa Baldwin <lisabaldwin4kids@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 10:06 AM
Subject: Re: Controversial English Honors II book, The Kite Runner
To: Doris sellers <doris.sellers@bcsemail.org>
Cc: Brooke Bowman <brooke.bowman@bcsemail.org>, Eric Grant <eric.grant@bcsemail.org>, Susanne swanger <susanne.swanger@bcsemail.org>, Tony Baldwin <tony.baldwin@bcsemail.org>,rich.baldwin@charter.netmelissa.latini@bcsemail.orgJune.Atkinson@dpi.nc.govdpless@aol.com, Cindy McMahon <cindy.mcmahon@bcsemail.org>, ann.franklin@bcsemail.orgpat.bryant@bcsemail.org,chip.craig@bcsemail.orgmax.queen@bcsemail.orgamy.churchill@bcsemail.org, "Forest, Dan J" <dan.forest@nc.gov>, Al.Collins@dpi.nc.gov


Ms. Sellers,
 
I remain concerned about the disingenuous process used to let parents know about the change from a Young Adult to an Adult fiction book for Ms. Bowman's 10th grade Honors English students (from All Quiet on the Western Front to The Kite Runner.) No mention of this was made at the Open House and it was never posted on Ms. Bowman's website. I understand she was not certain the book would be approved (for obvious reasons) but important information has not been disclosed to parents.
 
I am asking that you please contact parents immediately with:
  • a revised form, asking for parents' permission for their child to read the book (opt-in form), and
  • full disclosure of the reading level (grade 6.8), the name of the 9th grade reading level book being replaced (All Quiet on the Western Front) or give parents a choice (All Quiet on the Western Front or The Kite Runner); include The Kite Runner's graphic descriptions of extreme cruelty and violence, including more than one episode of the homosexual rape of children. The Kite Runner also includes profanity demeaning to women, murder, beatings and a suicide attempt. Let parents know this is an adult book, not a young adult book.
Please do the same for Ms. Latini's class; I understand there are adult themes in the A Thousand Splendid Suns book as well. My letter is posted below with the details of our meeting and a request for the names and positions of all those on the MTAC committee who approved this book.
 
Sincerely,
Lisa Baldwin
bcc:

On Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 11:11 PM, Lisa Baldwin <lisabaldwin4kids@gmail.com> wrote:
Ms. Sellers, Ms. Bowman and Mr. Grant,
 
Thank you for listening to my concerns.I hope we can reach a resolution by Friday. Here is a summary of the meeting. Please send me any corrections/clarifications.
 
Also, please send me a list of the members of the MTAC committtee that approved The Kite Runner, identifying the which members are parents (not BCS employees) on the committee.
 
Present at the 3:15pm meeting were the A.C. Reynolds High School principal, 10th grade Honors English teacher, Ms. Brooke Bowman, and Eric Grant, the BCS ELA Specialist. 
 
1. Why was the book, The Kite Runner, chosen? For the setting in Afghanistan; content relevant to today; part of the standards.
2. Who chose the book? 10th grade honors English teachers, Ms. Latini and Ms. Bowman, chose to use A 1000 Splendid Suns (Latini) and The Kite Runner (Bowman), respectively. The two classes will come together to discuss the two books during an enrichment period.
3. It was explained 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. 
3. I made the point of the book's 6.8th grade reading level and thus its inappropriateness for a 10th grade Honors English Class. The teacher said that the content was important. Cross-curricular plans have been made with the AP World History class.
4. I also made the point that the book includes graphic descriptions of extreme cruelty and violence, including homosexual rape. (Also includes murder, beatings and a suicide attempt.) I asked the principal to explain to me what the word "cunt" on page 7 meant as an example of the crass language in the book.  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."
5. Another point I made was that this normalizes abnormal behaviors and desensitizes teens. Of course, the argument was made was that this was reality. (This is a fiction novel.)
6. 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. (It is written on a 9th grade reading level.)
7. The teacher said she would draw Will and his book into the discussions.
8. 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.
9. I expressed that Will reads Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn and I expect classical literature to be taught in his Honors English class.
10. The teacher mentioned that there is "language" in All Quiet on the Western Front; I will look into this.
11. 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. Inevitably, there will be parents who never see the form. The principal said she would bring up the form at her next principals' meeting.
12. What I didn't mention was the racism in the book. My concern is how the discussion on this topic will be guided in light of riots in Ferguson and Baltimore. 
 
Extra: After the meeting, I found an interesting review by Cath Murphy, review editor at LitReactor.com:  "This is the reason The Kite Runner became so popular. It’s not the boys or the kites or the satisfying yet overworked theme of betrayal and redemption. If this book had been set in Greece, or Brooklyn, or Iceland, there is no way in a month of Sundays it would have become required freshman reading and graced the reading lists of High Schools. The Kite Runner caught the popular imagination because it allowed us to learn about one of the world’s troubled places, discover that the Taliban really are a bunch of bad guys, learn a little Farsi, and do it all from the safety of our own armchairs....Far from being the saving grace of The Kite Runner, Afghanistan is its fatal flaw. The book played a cruel trick on us: it allowed us to feel we were learning something about a tragedy, when really it was presenting us with a revisionist view of history..."  You can read more details of the history left out of this historical fiction novel at LitReactor.com.
 
Thank you,
Lisa Baldwin
   

On Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 7:31 PM, Doris sellers <doris.sellers@bcsemail.org> wrote:
Ms. Bowman,
Thank you for making the time today to meet with Ms. Baldwin, Mr. Grant and myself to discuss the book selected for your class that begins next week and for the plans you are making to provide a comparable assignment for Will.  
 
Ms. Baldwin,
Thank you for being here today and allowing us to hear your concerns regarding this book.  We value the voice of parents and their concerns.  If you have any questions regarding the board policy papers Mr. Grant reviewed with you for Policy 3200 or 3210, please let me know.  If you pursue the Citizen's Request for Review of Building-Level Recommendation, please submit that completed form to me so that I can forward this to our MTAC committee.
Also, we will email you the plan for Will for the selected alternative assignment "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Friday.
 
Thank you,
D Sellers

On Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 7:53 AM, Brooke Bowman <brooke.bowman@bcsemail.org> wrote:
Good morning Mrs. Baldwin,
 
How about we meet today at 3:15 in the office to discuss this book?
 
Thank you,
Brooke Bowman

On Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 11:36 PM, Lisa Baldwin <lisabaldwin4kids@gmail.com> wrote:
Dear Ms. Bowman,
 
I am requesting a meeting to discuss the controversial book, The Kite Runner. It seems to have been written on a 6.8th grade lexile level. I find some of the content disturbing; the homosexual rape of a child seems to be highly inappropriate reading material for our teens.
 
I am available to meet anytime on Tuesday, April 28th; please call or email me when it is convenient for you.
 
Thank you,
Lisa Baldwin