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Plymouth-Canton Parent Group: 'We're Not Going Anywhere'

The group supports removing controversial textbooks from the schools' curricula and enforcing rules against 'dirty dancing.'

A group of parents incensed about mature themes in assigned readings and “dirty dancing” at school dances is taking a stand.

Parents & Community Advocates for PCCS, a group led by parent Tina Waldrep, has pushed for the removal of Graham Swift’s Waterland and Toni Morrison’s Beloved from Plymouth-Canton schools’ required texts, citing extreme violent and sexual content.

Superintendent Jeremy Hughes removed Waterland from assignment after Barb Dame, a district parent and wife of former school board candidate Matt Dame, complained about the book’s content. After , Hughes agreed to . Beloved will be reviewed Wednesday by school administrators.

The group met Monday at the to discuss its future course of action, including having a presence at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting.

Barb Dame said she never imagined the type of content that would be in the two books, but she particularly cited the content in Beloved.

“(Waterland) was the appetizer,” she said. “The second book (Beloved) is so, so explicit, and there’s so much stuff in there.

Barb Dame said her 17-year-old daughter showed her the book, telling her mother, "Tell me that's not pornography."

Matt Dame said the books in question were never vetted by the district and said books aren’t held to the same content ratings of television and films, so it’s hard for parents to know what is appropriate for their students.

“Books get a slide,” he said.

Tina Waldrep, whose husband, Ken, at Plymouth High School’s homecoming dance in October 2011, said the district is not enforcing existing rules and that the book controversy is a continuation of enforcement problems identified during that dance. She said she hopes the school will consider using parents such as herself as hall monitors in the future to help enforce the rules.

She told the 15-20 parents at the meeting that in order to succeed, the group will need to remain visible to the school board and administrators.

“We’re not going away until we see the code of conduct enforced,” she said.

The group maintains a website, p-cap.org, for concerned parents that contains excerpts of the books in question, contact information for school board members and administrators and documents to file complaints to the district.

Waldrep urged parents to join her at to speak about their concerns regarding student misconduct and inappropriate reading material, calling on concerned parents to wear blue so they can identify each other and sit together.

The Plymouth-Canton Community School Board of Education will meet  at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the , 454 S. Harvey St., in downtown Plymouth. An organizational meeting will be held beforehand at 6 p.m. to assign board officers, but no public comment segment will be provided until the 7 p.m. meeting.

dswan January 10, 2012 at 08:14 PM
I would apply my arguement to Sports...what's the academic value? If the answer is zero, then why is it sponsored by the school? I don't see the value of spending much needed classroom dollars on sports. There are other extra curriculars that offer both social and academic benefits. With declining revenues and education reform on our minds, I would hope this would be part of the discussion. BTW, I'm not certain what social skills provided by a contemporary school dance will enrich our students lives going forward.
Tina Waldrep January 10, 2012 at 08:52 PM
I certainly don't believe in censorship, and that isn't what this is about. I do believe in using review processes in place for such controversial books...would you call that censorship? I also believe in parental consent with full disclosure of questionable reading material before a requirement is made for a grade. By making this required reading, it is forced onto all, including those who are uncomfortable with it. That doesn't mean they are immature. If a teacher forced one student to read sexually explicit material that made that student feel uncomfortable, wouldn't that qualify for sexual harassment? It would according to PCCS Board policies and by-laws. There are so many quality choices available, why opt for the controversy? What is the exceptional quality of the literary value of graphic description of a 15 year old girl's "hole" being digitally explored by a teen boy? If you are offended by this, then why would you want anyone's teen kids to be required to read it for a grade? If you haven't read this controversial material yet, please go to the p-cap.org website on the current issues page, where you may obtain the portions of Waterland and Beloved being debated so that you may make a truly informed decision of what you think.
NCS January 10, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Required reading for a college course taught at the high school to excelling students who want to get a head start on college credits. AP English is not at all a required class. That is my only point. I'm sure the teachers have been using the same books for years now. Could the parents that signed the permission slip not have pre-skimmed the books beforehand?
Debbie Piotrowski January 10, 2012 at 09:02 PM
with all due respect, i will repeat what others have said... this is NOT a required class. I will also repeat that IF your child is in AP English your student was required to be recommended by his/her current English teacher LAST year & you were, as a parent, given the opportunity to review all possible books at some point over the summer. this is a college level class available ONLY to upperclassmen. & when a book that has been in the PCEP curriculum for 8 yrs is removed from the classroom without proper protocol being followed & not allowed to be read, yes, i call that censorship. I also find it a shame most people opposing the book have only read the controversial sentences. I hope you don't ever take your almost adult child to a holocaust museum, or to an art museum if there are Michelangelo paintings there.
Tina Waldrep January 10, 2012 at 10:18 PM
It is required reading for this class. A student should have the opportunity to take this class based on academic ability, not based on their moral comfort level. That would be discriminatory. Also, full disclosure of questionable material to parents should be provided, not just a book list. If you are concerned with protocol, it was not followed to begin with. The book never received vetting before being assigned. Lastly, just because something has been around for 8 years doesn't make it a good thing....like grinding.
NCS January 10, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Just curious. Was your son/daughter the one morally appalled by this book or was it you? What is he/she going to do without parents at college next year? Avoid every situation where someone talks about sex, drugs or drinking? Good luck!
Michael Pare January 10, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Tina: These books are not "required" reading. A parent can ask to opt-out of some selections. The parent did not ask the teacher for a substitute. A compromise could have been worked out. Would you be OK with that or do you not want any student to read this material, not just the ones whose parents might be offended?
Debbie Piotrowski January 10, 2012 at 10:37 PM
the fact you people keep lumping in award winning novelists books with dirty dancing is so very odd to me. these are 2 very separate issues.
Mike Andro January 10, 2012 at 10:43 PM
You seem to have "inside" information on this book situation. Do you work for the district or might you have an inside contact?
Michael Pare January 10, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Mr. Andro: All I know is what I have read in news reports about this on the Patch and Observer web-sites. It has been reported numerous times that parents could ask for another selection. It has also been reported that the parent never talked to the teacher, which common sense would seem to indicate would be the first thing a parent would do if they had concerns about a class and wanted them resolved. It's all part of the public domain.
Emily January 11, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Ann, my error in how I wrote that. My point was simply that these are kids taking the college equivalent, and I think this is ridiculous that these books are being scrutinzed. If the scenes in "beloved" are sexuallly arousing, these parents have more problems with their children than I am even able to address. How many of these parents have even READ these books? The students in these courses are supposedly mature, intellectual, and advanced academically. In a matter a months, many will be off to college. If you do not like the course selection, dances, or athletics offered at PCCS, I have a word for you: Homeschool.
Ann Wisniewski January 11, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Emily, I wanted to emphasize that AP classes are actually college courses in content. I get the feeling from these posts that those on the parent committee and some of the board members may not really appreciate that fact. I agree that these students are supposedly up to the challenge of AP, but I would not want to promote homeschooling for high school completion, especially considering the kind of world our children are going to face.
Emily January 11, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Ann, I wish I could insert sarcasm into my comment. Please don't get me wrong, as I agree. That was my point...keep them sheltered forever because they are not going to be able to handle the real world if this is so upsetting to them. I think you and I would get along very well. I completely agree with your comments.
TM January 11, 2012 at 02:07 PM
However if a student were to repeat the language in this book aloud, no matter whether it is offensive to you or not, it would be considered inappropriate and they would probably be punished, suspended or expelled. The "educational value" is just your opinion as well. There are many other wonderful challenging books that are not written at a 6th grade level for a 12th grade student. I am glad parents are starting to pay attention.
NCS January 11, 2012 at 02:19 PM
And THAT (being able to hear about something and not just go out and repeat it), TM, is what makes functioning members of society. Didn't your parents ever ask you: "Well if Jimmy jumped off of a bridge, would you?" I'm pretty sure the same concept applies here. Sometimes these controversial books bring out the best discussions in class amongst the students and teacher.
TM January 11, 2012 at 02:22 PM
I believe you may be misinformed and not have all the facts? Do you know for sure that a substitute reading selection was not requested. You may be making assumptions you can't back up with facts.
TM January 11, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I wonder why the "who" is important?
TM January 11, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Still thinking I would want my 12th grader reading on the 12th grade level to becoming a functioning member of society.
Michael Pare January 11, 2012 at 02:56 PM
TM: I don't understand where you get the idea that these are books written at the sixth-grade level. Beloved won a Pulitzer Prize. It is very challenging, college-level reading. Just because it has sex in does not make it adolescent.
NCS January 11, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Where are you getting this 6th grade reading level stuff? I can google "Beloved reading level" and find http://classkc.org/readinglevel.php this too. Bravo!
Michael Pare January 11, 2012 at 03:12 PM
TM: Mr. Dame told the board meeting last night that his daughter was given an alternate reading selection for Beloved. He still wants the book taken out of the curriculum, thus depriving other students the right to read it. His concern seems to go beyond his own child and inpacts the children of parents whose views are different than his. While I appreciate his concern, I have handled the parenting of my children just fine and don't need his imput about what they are allowed to read or study.
Jerry Thompson January 11, 2012 at 06:55 PM
mj- "raping our students' minds" .... "Spending time reading of beastiality, incest, and detailed explanations of similar situations are unnecessary". Who benefits from this kind of inflammatory comment? I assume your family Bible is in the trash or at least Genesis 19:30-36 is blacked out along with many other verses. Every one of the "unnecessary" acts you name are quite graphically portrayed in that book and presumably "rape" our minds as we read or study it. My point is that one can conjure fear and create divisiveness about a great many things: prize- winning college texts written by Nobel scholars, best-selling holy books, etc. If I am afraid that my son/daughter in AP Chemistry might choose to make an incendiary device, in AP Biology might use advanced knowledge to inflict pain on an animal, in AP History may come to admire excerpts from Mein Kampf, in AP Physics develop curiosity about construction of an atomic device, in AP Computing might create a virus to inflict serious damage, in AP French might come across the writing of the Marquis de Sade - then is the problem with the advanced nature of the studies and the world we live in OR is the problem with the fear we have encouraged in ourselves and the distrust we have in our own upbringing of our children. And if it is the latter, isn't that a private matter you and your family need to deal with instead of foisting your private fears on the rest of us who want our children to learn from the top scholars and texts?
Jerry Thompson January 11, 2012 at 06:56 PM
I would find it embarrassing to challenge an AP History or AP Psych text/course because I personally was offended by the obscenity that IS Adolph Hitler being studied in the course. I might restrict my child from the course but to restrict the material from others studying it? Really? Because I can't handle it, study of him isn't of value? I completely support the district materials review process. It is built for incidents like this, when fear abounds and little real reading and sound judgment is being practiced. But much of what I read in PRO-removal comments are people regretting private choices they themselves made. And I hear private matters that should be handled within the family turned into blame of our best educators and blown into a public grievance in order to force the fears of a few onto the many. I understand that a Board member or 2 with this fear agenda have been elected? The organized group fanning the flames of this, equating it somehow with "dirty dancing" not only embarrasses themselves but the Plymouth-Canton community. We've seen these private matters taken public before. The strong community standards that are pro-education and learning are up to the challenge as they have been in the past.
Ann Wisniewski January 11, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Jerry Thompson, Amen! Amen!
Prashant January 11, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Literature is complex and nuanced. From my admittedly permissive point of view, I had a good chuckle over the irony contained in the statement "We're Not Going Anywhere". Ever heard of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater"?
Mike Andro January 11, 2012 at 09:49 PM
I enjoy reading your opinions. I fully support all the new school board members who were elected by our community.
ann January 17, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Jerry, I believe you are the same "Mr. Thompson" that taught 9th grade English at Canton in the 80's. Once a teacher/always a teacher - your comments were perfect. We read books in your class that I would have never picked up on my own and learned about more than just "English." We read "1984" and "The Loved One." We talked about existentialism and transcendentalism - in the 9th grade! Big ideas for young kids but how great to have a teacher who felt confident in our ability to understand and learn. I am thrilled that my child is now at the Park and is enrolled in more than one AP class. She's smart, inquisitive, challenging and most of all tolerant of ideas and thoughts different from her own. She is brave - brave enough to read something and accept it for what it is. To those of you that wish to control the content of my child's class - please have faith in your kids. If you've taught them well, you should have nothing to worry about.
Christine M Byrd January 18, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Why is is that the Parents Against Great Literature are using only initials to identify themselves? And as I read in the above article, why do they feel the need to "wear blue" so that they "will know who each other are and can sit together for support"? Those PCCS alumni certainly did not feel the need to hide their identity, neither did they all dress in a "team" color. Hmmm. Food for thought.
Christine M Byrd January 18, 2012 at 06:49 PM
We can only hope that our future leaders will be the type that can function in a challenging academic setting;maybe even promote one!! GWB was not one of your role models, now was he????
Jerry Thompson January 18, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Now, the P-C community is shamed in the conservative Wall Street Journal. http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/01/18/books-a-banned-michigan-school-district-considers-waterland-beloved/?KEYWORDS=beloved+ban

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