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Text Book Review Bill, A Teacher’s Opinion

A Teacher’s opinion of a state law making it easier for parents to object to text books.


by Keri Watts, Oviedo.

Maya Angelou, J.K. Rowling, Toni Morrison, Aldous Huxley, J.D. Salinger, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Maurice Sendak …

What do these prolific writers have in common? They all have titles on the “Top 100 Banned Books” list compiled by the American Library Association. And if our elected officials in Tallahassee have their way, it will be even easier for one parent’s complaint to ruin it for everybody.

As a parent of public-school students and as a public-school teacher myself, I value every child’s right to a quality public education. It is the backbone of freedom, democracy and economic equality.

However, instead of ensuring fair funding for classrooms, enriching the experiences of our children, expanding schools’ mental-health services, or expanding opportunities for affordable higher education, our legislators seem to be following the will of extremists. Apparently, nothing says freedom like turning back the clock and banning books.

Senate Bill 1210 and House Bill 989 would make it easier to formally object to classroom libraries, instructional materials and media-center collections. If one parent’s complaint is deemed reasonable, the entire district would have to eliminate that title from its shelves.

In addition, all “instructional materials” being newly adopted would have to go through an even more extensive public hearing. I can’t imagine that this new hoop would expedite this already-cumbersome process.

One nice touch in the bill was that any instructional materials unfairly depicting people on the basis of race, creed, ancestry, gender, etc. would be deemed improper for adoption. Notably absent was the unfair representation of LGBT people.

The House Bill mandates that no school-district money be spent on books deemed to possess any qualities listed as obscene. Let’s revisit “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Beloved,” “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” These books aren’t “Fifty Shades of Grey.” They fuel literacy and the hunger for words. Removing them would drive Florida even lower on the achievement scale than we already are.

While our state senators and representatives are protecting our fragile children from the dangers of Captain Underpants, Harry Potter and same-sex relationships, these same guidelines are not being proposed for charter schools. Shocker.

In addition, this “problem” does not actually exist. If families are uncomfortable with reading material, schools offer alternative assignments. Therefore, families have individual choices. These bills would repeal this individual freedom and allow extremist viewpoints to dictate all children’s access to reading material. This issue is best handled individually, not by forcing government to intervene further on what goes on in classrooms.

We are in the last days of this year’s legislative session. While the energy lobby is still trying to expand fracking, and the far right is attempting to remove book options for our kids, take a minute to call your representatives to speak out about what concerns you. Instead of complaining about it on social media or over a glass of wine with a friend, make a phone call.

If we don’t demand reasonable legislation, then our representatives have no reason to provide it.

This article appeared as a ‘My Word’ feature in the May 2 , 2017 Orlando Sentinel,p. A13. On May 3 the bill passed the Senate and was sent to the Governor.