California school district bans ‘racist’ books, including To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn

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BURBANK, CA – Back on September 9th, middle and high school English teachers in the Burbank United School District were told that until further notice, they would no longer be allowed to teach some of the books that have been a part of their curriculum for years.

The LA Times reported that five novels have been challenged in Burbank. They are:

Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird; 

Mark Twain’s, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn;

John Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men;

Theodore Taylor’s, The Cay and;

Mildred D. Taylor’s Newbury Medal-winning young-adult classic, Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry.

Reportedly, the challenges came from four parents, three of them black, for alleged potential harm to the public school system’s nearly 400 black students. All novels, with the exception of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have been required readings in the school district.

The Blaze reported that one parent, identified as Caremenita Helligar, said that a white student approached her black daughter and taunted her with the N-word, which the student claimed to have “learned” from reading “Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry.”

Another student, a boy, reportedly said to Helligar’s child:

“My family used to own your family and now I want a dollar from each of you for the week.”

Helligar told the news outlet:

“My daughter was literally traumatized. These books are problematic…you feel helpless because you can’t even protect your child from the hurt that she’s going through.”

Nadra Ostrom, another black parent said:

“The books are problematic because there is no counter narrative to this black person dealing with racism and a white person saving them.”

As the books were put on hold and the review process inched forward, a diverse group of teachers and students came out against the novels’ removal, arguing that their teaching was essential. After teachers learned of the removal, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) sent a letter to the Burbank Unified School District to allow the teaching of the books while the challenges remained under review.

Below is an excerpt from that letter:

“District policy AR 1312.2 states that challenged texts should ordinarily stay in use while a challenge is pending. The parent who filed the complaint can ask that his/her/their child be excused from using the material in question. Therefore, we call on the District to follow its own policy and instruct teachers that they may continue to use the books in class unless and until the challenges to the books are upheld by the school board.

“Given the clear value of the books, we urge the District to choose the latter option. While we recognize that they contain offensive racial epithets and other expressions of racism, they are also immensely valuable for students, both as literary works and as powerful statements against racism.”

On October 14th, PEN American released a petition calling for the same.

Below is an excerpt from the petition:

“Each of the books in question deal with difficult subject matter from our country’s complicated and painful history, including systemic racism. In a year when we have seen a national movement against systemic racial injustice, it is crucial to bring these subjects into the classroom with care and sensitivity, which teachers are well-equipped to do.”

Additionally, at least one district teen created an distributed a Change.org petition calling for the district to stop the censorship.

A portion of the teen’s petition states:

“In a time where racism has become more transparent than ever, we need to continue to educate students as to the roots of it; to create anti-racist students. These literatures, of which have been declared ‘Books that Shaped America,’ by the Library of Congress, won Newbury Medals, and are some of the most influential pieces, cannot disappear.”

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Shock: Massive California school district plans to fight alleged racism gutting the current grading system

October 19th, 2020

The following article contains editorial content written by a retired police officer and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.

SAN DIEGO, CA- Instead of holding children to standards to bring them up, the school system in San Diego, California is going to lower standards in order to accommodate the lowest common denominator.

Under the excuse of “combating racism,” the San Diego Unified School District will no longer grade students based on a yearly average, or even hold students to timelines for turning in assignments. Unbelievable.

Board members in the district call the dumbing down of all students a means to combat racism. To us, insinuating that minority students are incapable of achieving at a high level, is in and of itself racism.

“This is part of our honest reckoning as a school district,” said SDUSD Vice President Richard Barrera. “If we’re actually going to be an anti-racist school district, we have to confront practices like this that have gone on for years and years,” NBC-7 in San Diego said.

Data presented by the school district showed that minority students are failed by teachers at a higher percentage than white students.

For example, the district said that in last year’s first semester, 30% of all D or F grades were given to English learners, while one in four, or 25% went to students with disabilities.

By ethnicity, 23% of D or F grades went to Native Americans, 23% to Hispanic students, while 20% went to black students.

Conversely, only 7% of failing marks went to white students.

It is unknown if the district investigated family dynamics, such as a nuclear family consisting of a mother and father in determining which students were having a difficult time in school.

The district plans on fixing that “racial imbalance” by changing how students are graded. So, instead of working to help minority students achieve, the district is going to lower standards to “level the playing field.” Sounds pretty racist to us.

Of course, such a practice does a tremendous disservice to the kids, because once they are out in the real world, working jobs, completing tasks on time is usually a requirement of most jobs. Teaching students at a young age that timelines really don’t mean anything seems to be sending the wrong message.

According to the district, grades will be focused on mastery of material as opposed to a yearly average. Board members complained that such a requirement “penalizes” students who get off to a slow start, or who may struggle at various points during the year.

Likewise, teachers can no longer consider actually doing assignments on time as a factor in issuing grades. The same goes for classroom behavior.

So, a student can act up in class, interrupting the good students and refusing to complete tasks on time, and they have the opportunity for the same grade as the diligent students. This is apparently what you call rewarding good behavior in San Diego.

The above factors will no count toward a student’s “citizenship grade,” not their academic grade. Extra points for citizenship probably if they participate in a riot or destruction of property…double points if they get in the face of a police officer probably.

Citizenship grade? What is that, points for just showing up for class? “We’ll start you off with a C and just work up from there.” Kind of like participation trophies in youth sports, right?

Barrera said, “I think this reflects a reality that students have described to us and it’s a change that’s a long time in coming.”

So, in other words, kids complained about being punished for not doing their assignments on time, so the district says, “That’s a great idea! Those kids that do their work on time shouldn’t be rewarded for doing so. We’ll dumb down the whole system!”

A student member of the school board, Zachary Patterson, a junior at University City High School noted that some classmates had expressed reservations about the new system, which inflates grades, however he said most of his peers’ feedback was positive.

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“I know students all across the school district are really happy with the idea that these accountability measures are no longer going to be defining their understanding of knowledge,” Patterson said.

He had expressed concern during last week’s school board meeting about alleged disparities which come from a zero-tolerance disciplinary policy on cheating coming up in the next few weeks.

We’ll have to keep an eye on that one. Seriously why should students be punished if they cheat off one of their classmates’ papers? Fair is fair right? Wouldn’t want cheating to be considered racist, would we?

 One teacher, who does not teach in the district expressed some concerns about the proposals.

“These disparities are extremely disconcerting. A focus on mastery can be an excellent move, provided it is done right. But I have my concerns. Mastery based approaches are standard based. I’m a fan of standard-based education, but you can game this easily, if you want.”

Read Mr. Fulton’s entire thread. He makes some excellent points.

An editorial in Red State raised a great question.

“If the San Diego Unified School District’s manipulation of its grading system does result in “grade inflation” as “some students” in the district fear, how will that grade manipulation prepare students whose grades will have been inflated throughout their SCUSD career to enter college and compete against students whose grades have not been inflated for 12 years?”

Great point! The school district is doing its students a tremendous disservice by dumbing down the system. Instead of a “rising tide lifting all boats,” they are using the educational equivalent of the lowest common denominator. It makes zero sense.

Red State did have a great idea however. The New York Post recently reported that Harvard University, which used to be an educational stalwart and one of the best universities in the country, has now decided they will utilize three different SAT admission standards—based on race. Wait a minute…standards based on race? Isn’t that…racist?

“Harvard sends recruitment letters to African-American, Native American, and Hispanic high schoolers with mid-range SAT scores, around 1100 on math and verbal combined out of a possible 1600.

Asian-Americans only receive a recruitment letter if they score at least 250 points higher—1350 for women, and 1380 for men.

White students in states where Harvard attendance is sparse, such as Montana and Nevada, would receive a recruitment letter if they scored at least 1310 in the combined SAT math and verbal tests.”

Wait a minute. So Asian-Americans are punished for their typically superior academic performance? Isn’t that…racist?

John Hughes, a lawyer for Students for Fair Admissions says, “That’s race discrimination, plain and simple.”

Ah, but William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions at Harvard disagrees, saying that the university targets “certain groups” in order to “break the cycle” by getting students who wouldn’t normally apply to the Ivy League school to consider doing so.

Racism defined:

  • prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized” 
  • the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.

As we said, it sounds like a racist policy to us. 

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