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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12/17/13  3:07 pm
Commenter: Chuck Miller English teacher in a Virginia public school

Amendments Regarding Use of Controversial or Sensitive Instructional Materials

As an ordained Baptist deacon currently serving on the active deacon board of my church and as a teacher in a Virginia public school with 37 years of classroom experience,  I think I can offer a unique perspective regarding The Virginia Board of Education’s proposal to add the following language: “including a notice to parents about any sensitive or sexually explicit materials that may be included in the course,” to Item B.1 of section 8 VAC 20-131-270 of the Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia.  I can appreciate both the mindset of the parents who may have lobbied for such language to be included in the accreditation standards and the point of view of the teachers who would be affected by this action.

I strongly believe that teachers should establish a dialogue with parents regarding the books their children are reading and why they have been selected, and I try, as best I can, to keep the parents of my students informed about the works we are studying in class.  However, I also believe that no good can come from inserting the language noted above into the standards of accreditation.

The language is arbitrary at best and open to a myriad of interpretations and misinterpretations by those who may have little or no knowledge of why a text has been selected.  When such terms are applied to a literary work, the educational value of the work is overshadowed by the fixation on a single aspect of the work taken out of context.  Under such scrutiny, even the Bible, a text which I suspect many who support this measure hold dear, would not pass muster.

A literary work is more than the sum of its parts and should be regarded in its entirety.  To do otherwise is not to truly appreciate or understand the work, its purpose, or its place in the curriculum

CommentID: 29661