Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Regulations Governing Local School Boards and School Divisions [8 VAC 20 ‑ 720]
Action Amendments Regarding Use of Controversial or Sensitive Instructional Materials
Comment Period Ended on 1/15/2014
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1/7/14  10:42 am
Commenter: Chris Reilly

What is sensitive? / Opening the mind of students

As a previous student of a Virginia school, I can say that the books I read in my high school career helped shape my understanding of literature and has made me a much better writer, critical thinker, and reader. 

The books that are assigned in class aren't assigned as busy work. There is at least one literary device that is taught in every book that is read. The ones that seemed to stick out for me are, Love Medicine, In the Time of the Butterflies, The Turn of the Screw and The Oddessy. All three were used as teaching tools, and not as busy work. In fact English is the one subject in high school where I don't think I ever received busy work. 

Since everyone seems to know about it, let's start with The Oddessy. Homer has this epic tale that has been alluded to in numerous works, and has been a reading staple for quite a while. Why is this still used in classrooms? The answer is simple, it's a wonderful teaching tool to introduce students to the "hero's journey", as well as explain and show exmaples of motifs, metaphors, and also show the writing style of an epic. There are other books that have similar lessons, but not to the extent that this classic has been able to accomplish.

One that is less well known would be Love Medicine, as well as another book I read in high school English, In The Time of the Butterflies,  both teach a similar lesson. The first writing technique that they utilize that was useful to learn as a student was learning to read and write in the narrative form. The chapters in both of these books were always told from a different characters point of view, very similar to the Game of Thrones novels that are popular right now. However these also touched on areas of life that people were not as familier with, rather than mythical lands and kingships. 

The last book that I mentioned earlier was The Turn of the Screw. This book has a lot of uncomfortable moments, and was about a governess who is either seeing ghosts or going insane, or both. Reading this was a key point in my English learning career because it aided in explaining and providing practice for understanding rhetoric. Any paper written about this book in class needed to have evidence clearly sited from the text to support our claims. Since the idea of this book is to create discussion and thinking through its ambiguity it was a real challenge, and I am a much stronger writer because of it. 


Now that I have touched the surface of what these books are able to teach students, I want to point out that any and all of these books could possibly have a moment or two where there may be content that some would classify as "sensitive". These books are not inappropriate for children, they have helped me learn and grow and made me a better reader, writer, and critical thinker. 

I strongly suggest not censoring our education system, but rather allowing it to flourish in a way that continues to teach these necessary writing skills to our future leaders. In short, please reject this proposal. 

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