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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12/20/13  11:54 am
Commenter: Lauren Hauser

Please Reject!

A recent push in cognitive research has been to address the nature of morality, and the evidence suggests that the very act of engaging with literature increases our capacity for empathy-- it makes us "better people," literally. When students are given the opportunity to grapple with the gray areas and difficult situations that challenging literature presents, they grow not only as readers but as people. Getting outside of one's comfort zone and coping with alternative points of view is cricual for disrupting the black-and-white worldviews that a good education should combat. If we flag these works as sensitive (and by whose definition?), these opportunities will be lost. Would we have to remove all of these materials from classroom and school libraries to ensure that those students whose parents object would not be able to access them? Would we have to take away free choice in independent reading material, and thus a research-backed opportunity to motivate struggling and reluctant readers? It certainly seems that way.

Of course, I would never argue that students should be coerced into confronting these challenges before they are ready, but discouraging those who ARE ready is a grievous disservice to them, and it underestimates their abilities to self-monitor. The message is that we don't trust students to evaluate what they can and cannot handle, and we don't trust our teachers to work with students and provide them with appropriate choices in a safe but questioning environment. I have read comments on this forum implying that this amendment allows parents to "take back" agency in their childrens' educations, but what would truly allow parents to have agency would be conversation with their children and their teachers.

CommentID: 29747