Saturday, June 7, 2014

Because Telling Teenagers "No" Always Works

The principal of Booker T Washington High has stepped in to cancel one of their school's summer reading programs rather than let the students read Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, which is all about teenagers challenging wrongheaded authority. (Seriously, read it -- it rocks.) An English teacher and a librarian had set up the One-Book-One-School program, which exists side-by-side with a more standard Summer Reading program, developing a study guide/brochure for students and parents. It explains the program, and gives questions the students should answer after they read. Notice that it also encourages the parents to read the book so they can discuss it with their kids, and allows parents who object to the book to contact the coordinating English teacher to get an alternate book for their kid to read.

Apparently giving the parents final authority over what their kids read isn't enough for the BTW principal, though. When the program coordinators refused to choose a different book, the principal cancelled the whole program.

It was pointed out in comments to the Techdirt article, multiple times, that the principal could've done nothing to more effectively encourage all the students to eagerly read this book. [wry smile] A few people suggested that this might've been the hidden purpose behind the cancellation, but I think that's giving too much credit where it's probably not due.

In response, Cory Doctorow and his publisher, Tor, have donated 200 copies of the book to the school. I'd be interested in hearing what the school does with them, considering the principal's actions so far.

Oh, and note that the school's more standard summer reading program already includes Little Brother. o_O So apparently the principal is okay with the eleventh graders reading the book, but thinks it would be harmful for the ninth, tenth and twelfth graders...?

If you're interested in reading Little Brother, which I highly recommend, Cory offers the e-book on his site for free, in pretty much any file format you might want. Check it out.



G. B. Miller said...

Must be a Democrat. Or a disciple of George Orwell.

Angie said...

G.B. -- I always thought Republicans were more into restricting access to books that advocate resisting authority. But yes, Orwellian I'll buy. How about an idiot? Can we agree on that? :)


Charles Gramlich said...

They say no publicity is bad publicity

Angie said...

Charles -- that assumes that your business profits from publicity. This is a public school, and I can't think how negative publicity could benefit them. Or any publicity at all, really, since they get their funding from tax money whether or not anyone on the internet notices them. :/


Suzan Harden said...

I swear school administrators are hired based on having an IQ less than 100. The principal in one of the Houston suburban school districts cancelled an entire book festival after one, and only ONE, parent complained about a book. No opportunity to find an alternate book. No consideration for the thousand other parents who said the book was fine by them.

If another parent doesn't want their child to read a particular book, that's their right.

But that parent does not have the right to supercede MY parental authority and dictate what MY child can or cannot read.

Angie said...

Suzan -- maybe he's related to this other one in Florida...? :/

But seriously, you have to wonder what these people are thinking, or whether any actual thought is occurring. [sigh]