by David Safier
This is an absolutely serious suggestion from an English teacher with 30-plus years in the classroom who loves students and loves to see them read and think. Put the 7 books which were removed from MAS classrooms on prominent display in TUSD libraries.
Unfortunately, I don't think my suggestion will be taken seriously, unless there is a very brave school administrator willing to take a risk -- or an even braver librarian who is close to retirement or feels his or her job is secure.
The first step is to take a number of copies of the 7 books out of the dark recesses of some lonely storage closet and put them in TUSD libraries, especially at schools like Tucson High where MAS courses were taught. TUSD has argued the books aren't banned by saying they can be checked out of district libraries, but a search of the online TUSD library catalogue revealed a number of the books aren't in the Tucson High collection. In fact, there are scarce few of the books scattered around the district. If TUSD wants to make good on its claim that the books are available, it should make every effort to put multiple copies in the libraries where students can peruse them and check them out.
I think the idea should be taken further. A few copies of each of the books should be put on prominent display somewhere right inside the library doors. Most libraries have display areas students have to walk by to get to the tables and book stacks. Put a few copies of each book in that area for everyone to see. The hope is, students will pick up the books when they come in the library, thumb through them, maybe even check one of two out. Students may go there on their lunch hours to see the books that were considered dangerous enough to be taken out of classrooms. They may even bring a few friends with them.
This is what educators call a teachable moment. Schools are all about encouraging students to read and think and consider ideas. If the MAS controversy piques students' curiosity, makes them want to peek inside a book and see what all the fuss is about, they should be encouraged to do so. Based on what they see, they may think Huppenthal and the District have made the right decision or the wrong decision. The operant word in the last sentence is "think." That's what we want students to do. Let them make informed decisions based on the evidence: the books.
Huppenthal shouldn't complain about the books being displayed. He's on record saying there's nothing wrong with the books, only the way they were taught.
It's a crime against literature, curiosity and critical thinking to lock perfectly good books away from people who might want to read them. Schools should always make their best efforts to get books in the hands of students. Why let an educational opportunity like this slip away?