I am the parent (along with 20 other parents), who went before the Santa Rosa School Board on Jan. 27 to request that the book "Tortilla Curtain," by T.C. Boyle, be taken off of the "required/recommended" reading list in our high schools. Unfortunately, the board voted to keep the book on the list.
As a concerned parent who is very candid and open with our children about any topic, my intent in this whole matter was not to "ban" the book or take it off the library shelf, but to get it taken out of the high school classroom, as it is adult literature clearly shown by the inappropriate content of the book.
This book deals with racism between illegal Latino immigrants and "white" America, which I feel is a good and important topic to be aware of along with any other topic we face in society today. That being said, this book is riddled with brutal, offensive language, sexually explicit material depicting a rape, sexual relations, degrading comments to and about women, not to mention how it stereotypes young Latino girls. I feel this book is too graphic (regardless of the theme) and exposes our high school students to material they might not have otherwise or should not be exposed to. Why do we need so much vulgarity to get a point across when there are so many other valuable books a teacher can choose from?
It was interesting to hear that several of the board members did not like the book because it was too graphic, yet they agreed to allow our students to read something they as adults didn't even like or agree with. They got fixated on the fact that I read passages from the book "out of context" and failed to focus on the "content" that was being read.
One of the opposing arguments in the meeting was that "a teacher would lead the students in these discussions." As a parent, I feel very strongly that it is not the teacher's place to do so. It is our role in the lives and experiences of our children to choose what we feel comfortable with. Who knows how discussions will be presented, what opinions the teacher might impose and what effect this inappropriate material will have in the minds of our minor students. Not all great teachers teach great truths.
Ironically the focus of the meeting was "censorship," when in reality the material in this book couldn't be seen on TV, heard on the radio or even printed in your paper. Many of these kids wouldn't be old enough to see this if it were a movie because it would be rated R, yet our schools can bring it into our classrooms, without our permission, and teach it to our kids in the name of "literature."
Another argument was that it would be too much work for the teacher to inform the parents about books containing inappropriate material. They need to get our permission to show R-rated movies in school. They should also need to get our permission to read R-rated material.
About 10 years ago, the school board voted to take a book off of the recommended/required reading list. I feel they need to take another stand in the best interest of our kids and take this one off, too. Teach our kids with positive, age-appropriate books/material and let them choose the books they want to read outside of class. But don't present it in the classroom as required or recommended.