Julie Smith Statement Concerning Vote On Reading List (GPS Board Meeting 12-16-14)
I wish to address inaccurate statements about a vote that was taken at the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board meeting on Tuesday, December 16th. Many are claiming that I voted to approve a reading list of junior and senior high school literature books that some in the community find to be objectionable. This is false. The motion that was made at the meeting was: To approve the 2015-16 course description book with the removal of the reading list. The vote was 3-2. AYE Humpherys, Smith and Tram NAY Burk and Colvin. The vote can be verified by viewing the meeting at part 2 time stamp 25:52 start of the motion and at 29:04 the vote on the motion. The reading list was pulled due to data necessary to make an informed vote was not available to board members. In addition to a lack of data to make an informed decision, inaccurate statements were made by Staci Burk about the use of the book, Beloved, in senior AP classes and questions on the AP exam. Ms. Burk asserted that this book, Beloved, and this book only must be used and questions about the book are on the AP exam. Ms. Burk went so far as to suggest that the board remove the senior level AP English course. After the vote on this issue, I was informed that Beloved is not the only book acceptable for this AP course, that questions on the exam are conceptual in nature and the student can choose from a list of approved AP novels to answer the question (s). This poor research of a problem is an example of “Throwing the baby out with the bathwater” type solution which is not in the best interest of the students of Gilbert Public Schools. This issue will be brought back before the board in January for a vote. For my research I plan on reading the novel, Beloved; obtaining a list of the group of acceptable reading books for senior AP English and sending a detailed list of requested information to be provided by the superintendent at the meeting in January.
I stated at the meeting on December 16th but wish to readdress here that I have had problems with accessing and reading my board e-mails. For anyone who e-mailed me about this or any other issue in the past week, I have not been able to read your e-mail due to server issues for which I apologize. I have notified district staff and hope the situation is rectified soon.
Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board Member
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Posted on: 2014-12-20
Anyone wishing to know the truth about what was said should watch the meeting. There are inaccurate statements made in the above post.
During the meeting I made a motion to remove the book Beloved from the reading list. Beloved has been a book that we have received many emails from parents over the last year and a half asking that it be removed. The concerns have been that it contains graphic sexual references, beastiality, and a gruesome detailed murder of an infant. The vote to remove the book from the reading list went 3-2. Daryl Colvin and I voted to remove the book Beloved from the list. Julie Smith, Jill Humpherys and Lily Tram voted against removal.
Here is an example email from a parent that spoke at the meeting against keeping the book;
Dear Gilbert School Board and Superintendant Kishimoto,
I am writing tonight with a very heavy heart because the faith I keep trying to have in the public school system continues to slip away. I was raised here in Gilbert and was part of the first graduating class from HHS. I loved growing up in GPS and I would love for my 5 children to grow up in GPS. However, the way things are going here makes me, and I know I can speak for many, question why we stay.
Tonight I am asking you to please carefully consider the books that make it to the approved reading list in GPS. Specifically I am asking that you remove "Beloved" and the "The Bean Tree". These books have NO business in GPS. At a minimum, these books contain questionable moral content and material that is extremely offensive to many. In a system where we are so quick to not offend, to remove God because it offends, to remove prayer because it offends, to not speak in a way that offends, I simply cannot believe that we are even having a discussion about books with content that offends so deeply. You can get online and search "Beloved" and find multiple articles regarding parents challenging this book in other districts. You know this is controversial but yet you are still trying to get it on our GPS list? That is completely unacceptable to me.
These are MY children and you have no right to feed them this pornographic and damaging material. I have trusted you with my children. I will not allow this type of material to be permitted in our school system. This has nothing to do with "banning" or being a "prude" and everything to do with my authority as my children's parent. I hope that you will realize that there are much better classics for our children to read than this smut.
MOST OF ALL, I hope that you can put the pieces together and realize that issues such as this are why children are being pulled out of GPS in the droves. Why can't we as GPS look at our competition, charter schools, and figure out why they are appealing to families? I can tell you that the number one reason is that they would never allow this type of disgusting material in their schools.
Please remove "Beloved" and "The Bean Trees" from the GPS reading list. Further, once removed, I would like to see and would expect some type of parent/stakeholder's committee formed that would review future books that would like to be added. THere has to be a process. "Beloved" was fought to be kept from the approved reading list years ago, and "somehow" someone in GPS slipped it back on the list. Were you hoping the parent's weren't watching?
Here is another example;
Read the excerpts from this Toni Morrison book and ask yourself if you want your kids reading books (Beloved), by this author? This is from another one of her common core promoted books (that the Gilbert Board is set to approve next Tuesday);
Following are graphic and explicit excerpts from The Bluest Eye, which is on the Common Core’s list of exemplar texts for 11th graders. If you are easily offended you may want to skip them and go straight to the story. (Note from editor: Even heavily edited, this is still very graphic.)
Pages 162-163: “A bolt of desire ran down his genitals…and softening the lips of his anus. . . . He wanted to f*** her—tenderly. But the tenderness would not hold. The tightness of her vagina was more than he could bear. His soul seemed to slip down his guts and fly out into her, and the gigantic thrust he made into her then provoked the only sound she made. Removing himself from her was so painful to him he cut it short and snatched his genitals out of the dry harbor of her vagina. She appeared to have fainted.”
Page 174: “He further limited his interests to little girls. They were usually manageable . . . His sexuality was anything but lewd; his patronage of little girls smacked of innocence and was associated in his mind with cleanliness.” And later, this same pedophile notes, “I work only through the Lord. He sometimes uses me to help people.”
Page 181: “The little girls are the only things I’ll miss. Do you know that when I touched their sturdy little t*** and bit them—just a little—I felt I was being friendly?—If I’d been hurting them, would they have come back? . . . they’d eat ice cream with their legs open while I played with them. It was like a party.”
Pages 84-85: “He must enter her surreptitiously, lifting the hem of her nightgown only to her navel. He must rest his weight on his elbows when they make love, to avoid hurting her breasts…When she senses some spasm about to grip him, she will make rapid movements with her hips, press her fingernails into his back, suck in her breath, and pretend she is having an orgasm. She might wonder again, for the six hundredth time, what it would be like to have that feeling while her husband’s penis is inside her.”
Pages 130-131: “Then he will lean his head down and bite my t** . . . I want him to put his hand between my legs, I want him to open them for me. . . I stretch my legs open, and he is on top of me…He would die rather than take his thing out of me. Of me. I take my fingers out of his and put my hands on his behind…”
Pages 148-149: “With a violence born of total helplessness, he pulled her dress up, lowered his trousers and underwear. ‘I said get on wid it. An’make it good, n*****, Come on c***. Faster. You ain’t doing nothing for her.’ He almost wished he could do it—hard, long, and painfully, he hated her so much.”
I understand that after reading those excerpts a lot of you may be angry that this is approved for reading in any school. I could probably end the article here.
However, there are many things that need to be addressed and I have detailed for you here with much help from Jill Manning, PhD.
Adams 12 5 Star School District is the 5th largest school district in Colorado and has transitioned to the new Common Core standards. The book, Toni Morrison’s 1970 novel, “The Bluest Eye,” is among Common Core’s exemplar texts for 11th graders.
I was recently afforded the opportunity to discuss the book with Dr. Jill Manning, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has been involved in social policy and research and has testified for legislators on these issues. Dr. Manning is also a former Social Science Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. She knows what she’s talking about and she also happens to be a concerned mother.
Obviously the reason behind some parents calls for removing the book are the graphic depictions of incest, rape and pedophilia. And not just that, the book actually lets the reader see the depictions from the perpetrators point of view.
In fact, the author of the book, Morrison, says that she wanted the reader to feel as though they are a “co-conspirator” with the rapist. She took pains to make sure she never portrayed the actions as wrong in order to show how everyone has their own problems. She even goes as far as to describe the pedophilia, rape and incest “friendly,” “innocent,” and “tender.” It’s no wonder that this book is in the top 10 list of most contested books in the country.
The Bluest Eye is the story of Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, who prays every day for beauty: for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to fit in. As her life begins to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife, such as being raped by her father and beaten by her mother, she finally appeals to Soaphead Church, a pedophile, to help her attain blue eyes. After being impregnated by her father, she loses her baby and ultimately loses her mind.
Dr. Manning is one of 5 people to introduce research-based arguments to remove this book from approved literature in the classroom. Among the five people were two concerned parents who had children that were negatively impacted by the book, an English teacher, a lawyer, and Dr. Manning.
The parents who are actively petitioning the school board to have it removed from the classroom do not want a complete ban on the book nor its removal from the school; rather they would like it to be removed from the approved reading list in the classroom, where students spend three to four weeks reading and discussing, in depth, the developmentally inappropriate material.
There are people out there advocating to let this book remain in the classroom because 11th and 12th graders have the ability to read this material especially those in Advanced Placement classes. As Dr. Manning points out, there is a huge difference between being labeled a mature reader, as in one that is technically capable of reading challenging novels, and biopsychosocial maturation. One of the top reasons behind choosing this book is the fact that it is on the Common Core Standards list of exemplar texts. It aligns with the standards and meets the course objectives and needs of students.
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