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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12/18/13  3:33 pm
Commenter: Rebecca Walker Menchville

Please Don't Shoot Yourselves in the Foot...Again

So you want to send home a syllabus explaining to parents that their children will be reading novels with potentially inappropriate content?  Virtually every novel that we teach in ninth grade has inappropriate content.  To Kill a Mockingbird has the n-word, a black man accused of raping a white woman, hints of incest, and cuss words just to name a few examples of what would be considered inappropriate.  But the novel also serves as a platform to teach social injustice and the need for the civil rights movement not as historical, or social issues, but through the lense of humanity, and boy do the students get it.  They are outraged when the jury finds Tom guilty.  Atticus is the moral compass many students do not have at home, and students love him too.  Moving on to Romeo and Juliet, how about going behind your parents back, lying, committing suicide, and murder for inappropriate content?  We teach it however, to show how impulsive acts can lead to your downfall, and for teenagers, that is a powerful lesson.  The Odyssey contains several sexually explicit situations as when Circe tells Odysseus that if he wants to free his men, he must take her to bed.  There is also cannibalism, and a pretty gory murder scene.  Students read the Odyssey because It is one of the only chances for them to study the epic hero, and the universal hero's journey, all of which college professors will expect them to know.  How do you expect parents to react when you send home information like you are suggesting?  Some, who are familiar with these pieces, and remember studying them, will not have a problem.  Many however, will have the typical knee-jerk reaction, and demand that their children not be exposed to this content.  Are you prepared to provide us with funding for alternative books for these kids?  And how are teachers supposed to teach analytical skills when the students in the class aren't even reading the same novel?  Or do we send those students to another room when we are discussing this potentially harmful content?  Can we count on you to provide us with additional teachers or teacher assistants who can monitor these students while they are outside of our classes?  What do you think students will do when they are shielded from all controversy, and then run smack into it in college?  Will they be able to be mature, and understand the author's purpose for including content that contains cuss words, for example?  Or will they be running to their dorms to call Mom and Dad and report the professor for teaching them filth?  Are you going to place this requirement on college professors as well?  Frankly, if you were down here in the trenches, you would see that logistically, you are creating a potential nightmare for teachers.  But you have already done that with the EOC SOL, so I guess that line has already been crossed.  You really shot yourselves in the foot with that one.  You have schools failing all over the state, and students who may never graduate from twelve years of public education with a high school degree because of that one test.  You can't put that on the teachers.  The test is not valid or reliable; it does not meet any of those standards.  You tried to increase the rigor on a multiple choice test, and that is intrinsically impossible.  The questions are not harder, and the answers seem to be designed, not to be more rigorous, but to actually trick the students.  It's really not fair, and in my opinion, these EOC tests are a black mark on our state.  You will continue to reap the rewards for that mistake as more and more schools fail to make AYP, and more students do not graduate.  Don't do it to yourselves again.  Don't pass this requirement.  Have some respect for your teachers.  We are professionals; we know how to teach controversial material in a manner that is appropriate. CU


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