Questioning Curriculum

Noah Gilbert, Editor-In-Chief

On November 15, 2021, reports of a parent complaint surfaced regarding the presence of two books, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” and “The Hate U Give”, in classroom curriculum and libraries.

“It seems to be a phenomenon happening across the metro,” said high school Principal Ryan Woods. “It is fairly unique but it’s happening right now.”  Although these challenges are not historically common to our district, there are  policies in place for issues such as these.  “If a parent wants to come to the school board and request a reconsideration of some curriculum or a book they can do that,” Woods said. Once a complaint is made a committee is formed to evaluate the topics and gather information from both sides of the issue. “The policy lays out exactly who should be on that committee, but at least so many teachers, administrators, parents,” Woods said. “So it’s a community, not just teachers, not just parents. It’s a committee of all these people put together.” Once the committee has reviewed enough information, they will make a recommendation to the Superintendent Laura Kacer who will then give her recommendation to the School Board. 

The two books in question focus on topics such as the experience of people of color. “The Hate U Give” is a young adult novel by Angie Thomas. The book is narrated by the main character, Starr Carter, a 16-year-old black girl attends a private school in affluent, primarily white part of the city. She becomes involved in a national news story after she witnesses her friend Khalil be shot by a police officer during a routine traffic stop. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is a first person narrative novel about a 14 year old Native American boy named Junior who leaves the Spokane Indian Reservation school to go to a nearly all white school.

The complaint states that the two books contain vulgar and sexual content that is “inappropriate” for learning. But supporters for the books call this move “hypocritical.” They point out that books such as “1984” and “The Great Gatsby,” which were not named in the complaint, have similar profane language and sexual themes, only without the experiences of people of color or other minorities.

“I think when teachers were picking out resources, we saw a lot of traditional, conservative, white authors and main characters,” Woods said.  “So the goal was to bring in more multicultural, multiracial, cultural authors, characters, all those things, so our students would see themselves in their literature.” Woods also said that we should be increasing diversity in our curriculum as our student population grows more diverse as well.  

The committee will have their second meeting on Thursday, November 18, 2021, to hear from teachers and supporters on why these books are important. A final decision date is not known as of yet.