Plymouth-Canton Parents, Students Speak in Support of Challenged Books
'Beloved' up for review today by panel of parents, instructors and administrators.
More than 100 Plymouth-Canton parents and students filled the meeting room at the E.J. McClendon Educational Center on Tuesday to encourage the school board and administrators to keep two challenged novels in the district's AP English classrooms at Plymouth-Canton Educational Park.
Toni Morrison's Beloved and Graham Swift's Waterland have been challenged by Matt and Barb Dame, district parents who took offense to the books' sexual, thematic and violent content.
Waterland was immediately removed from assignment by district superintendent Jeremy Hughes, who said he was uncomfortable with the book's content and could see other parents sharing the same concerns. This drew fire from parents, students and teachers who supported the book being part of the college-level course's offering.
Hughes agreed to put Waterland through a formal review process, while Beloved will undergo its own review at 5 p.m. today at the E.J. McClendon Educational Center, 454 S. Harvey St. in Plymouth, from a panel consisting of parents, instructors and administrators.
Steve Barnaby from Plymouth Township, a parent, said the debate over the book shows a lack of trust in teachers and students.
"The action of taking this (book) out of the classroom really violates trust and divides the community," he said.
He said he was opposed to restricting students' reading options.
"Banning books and taking books out of classrooms is something that should be the exception and not the rule," he said. "It's a very dangerous precedent to set."
Mark Johnson of Canton, a parent, said the curriculum for AP English students was based on college material and, accordingly, tackles more mature subject matter.
"I'm troubled by what I see as a small minority of people who have spoken out and effectively removed a book without due process," he said. "It's a troubling and slippery slope to go down."
Jessie Long, a student who currently is taking AP English, said parents alone shouldn't steer the curriculum for classes.
"If you could maybe ask the students?" she proposed. "There's a lot of parents here, but ask the students."
While a majority of parents spoke in favor of keeping the books, Matt Dame said Hughes' decision to pull Waterland from the classroom was the right decision.
"I applaud Dr. Hughes for his courage," he said. "He shuddered, as we did."
Matt Dame said the books were never approved under policy guidelines and maintained that the removal of the book was not a book-banning issue.
"There have to be options for my daughter, who thinks it's pornographic," he said.
He countered remarks online that the book was removed because one parent objected.
"One informed parent objected," he said.
Matthew Bugajski, a senior at Plymouth High School who read Waterland in AP English during his junior year, said he never had issues with other classmates or teachers imposing something he and his peers felt was uncomfortable.
He said students who take AP English treat the class as a college course.
"If we're treated like children, how do we expect to be treated in class?"
He said Waterland was "one of the most inspiring" books he's ever read that prompted intelligent discussions.
"This is not vulgar," he said. "This is not pornographic. This is literature and art and it should be treated as such."