Some Franklin Regional leaders see bias in books
By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Published: Thursday, May 30, 2013, 11:51 a.m.
Three Franklin Regional School Board members think a series of proposed new high school literature textbooks are politically biased.
The district is considering spending $109,121 this summer to buy new literature anthologies for the high school that include several readings that address political issues of the time.
Three board members – Larry Borland, Dennis Pavlik and Jane Tower – objected to the way political issues were presented in the texts.
“These books have a very strong bias and opinion, and there is a selection of things missing,” Borland said of the textbook proposed for the district's “American Literature” course. “I'm not saying the intent is right or wrong, but it's clear that the intent is to look at how these writers felt about a (political) agenda item.”
The books, which will be on display in June before the board votes to purchase them at its June 17 meeting, are designed to help prepare the district for the implementation of the Common Core curriculum. That curriculum requires an increase in the amount of nonfiction taught in literacy courses, administrators said.
The curriculum, which has been adopted in 45 states and Washington, D.C., as a means to create equal standards, was set to be implemented in Pennsylvania in July, but has been delayed. Nonetheless, administrators said, high school literature texts are out of date.
Superintendent Jamie Piraino said he understands the board members' concerns but encouraged them to have faith in the teachers.
“Yes, teachers are humans who have predisposed ideas,” Piraino said. “But our best teachers are professionals, and they challenge the kids to think critically.”
Borland said he briefly reviewed two textbooks and had major concerns about not only what was missing from the anthologies, but also the questions that were being asked at the end of reading segments.
Among the questions he criticized were “Are people basically good?” and “Does everyone have a dark side?” He alleged that several pieces were included selectively for an individual agenda item.
“There's a distinct bias in the book to basically put the historic context on the backburner of the olden days,” Borland said. “I have a problem with that.”
Despite his objections, Borland didn't vote against displaying the books.
But Tower and Pavlik objected. Tower said she thinks the books shortchange America.
“I am concerned about the multiculturalism and the emphasis on it,” Tower said. “I think the texts emphasize that to the detriment of the exceptionalism of America. We saw a sad, sad example of that at the Boston Marathon.”
Board member Roberta Cook, who also reviewed the books, reminded other board members that the texts were for literature classes, not social studies courses. Pavlik objected to the idea.
The discussion continued to become heated at times, with Pavlik calling for a motion to table both the discussion and the vote to put the books on display.
Ultimately, the board had to vote to display the books if there was any chance to have them in classrooms at the end of August, board President Herb Yingling said.
The board will vote to purchase the books on June 17.
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Outpouring of support for Franklin Regional comes from near, far
- Newtown counselors discuss how to cope with tragedy
- Monroeville’s rival hospitals worked together during crisis
- Franklin Regional seeks waiver of days lost in knife attack; victim improves
- Murrysville chief: I’m glad it wasn’t a firearm