Re "Temecula trustees concerned about book," Sept. 12, and "Temecula allows novel about rape," Sept. 17
Kristi Rutz-Robbins of the Temecula Valley Unified School District really has nothing to worry about in regard to the inclusion of the novel "Speak" on the high school reading list.
Its subject matter is no more sensitive than any other novel usually read in class (I read it in middle school).
If "Speak" were removed from the list, then "To Kill a Mockingbird" should be removed for the same reason. By this logic, its "inappropriate" subject matters -- rape and racism -- outweigh the value of the novel.
Let me preface this by saying that I haven't read "Speak" either, but I have taught another controversial book, Lois Lowry's "The Giver." Before introducing the book, I asked my eighth-grade students to describe their perfect society. As they read "The Giver," they discovered many of the attributes of their perfect society in Lowry's utopia and were appalled.
With proper introduction and sensitive teaching along with classroom rules of courtesy and respect, a controversial book is worth its weight in gold. Controversial books allow for intense classroom discussion and an opportunity for students to practice critical thinking skills. Young people are exposed to sexual content, foul language, abuse and even rape, on television or at the movies, yet I think it is rare for them to discuss these topics with mature adults.
"The Giver" was a huge success in my district yet was banned on the basis of one parent's complaint. After that, it was constantly checked out of the school library.
As Mark Twain said, "The more things are forbidden, the more popular they become."
I have often wondered why the literature chosen for secondary students involves so much death, tragedy and gloom. Teenagers are at a fragile time of life; they take everything way too seriously and sometimes don't see that "this too shall pass."
My high school son's curricula did not include one uplifting book. Let's give these kids a break.