New textbooks approved in Franklin Regional
Franklin Regional High School students will have new literature books this fall.
After several months of discussions, the school board approved the purchase of four new literature anthologies for grades nine through 12 Monday by a 7-2 vote. Board members Larry Borland and Dennis Pavlik dissented.
The costs of the texts and the accompanying online licenses are not to exceed $112,000.
Board member Jane Tower, who has criticized the books in the past, read a statement saying she approved the books only because they were necessary.
“Fundamentally, I am opposed to this curriculum because it is unconstitutional. ‘Common Core' imposes national standards that infringe on state and local educational responsibilities,” Tower said.
Board member Roberta Cook reminded the board that the texts are literature books, not texts for “Foundations of American Democracy.” However, Pavlik said, some aspects of the texts – namely questions and suggestions for teachers – make the historical context relevant.
“The lesson plans were what made the books more along history books than literature books,” Pavlik said.
Cook said that she considers why the literature is studied when looking at the texts.
She cited a move, about 20 years ago, to a more directed, well-rounded literature curriculum across the state.
“For many years, literature was confined to reading nice stories, interesting stories,” Cook said. “Our taste in literature has changed, just like our taste in music changed – we don't listen to Gregorian chants anymore.”
Tower agreed that the books are similar to the ones currently in use. She said she plans to continue being a watchdog of the curriculum; since the discussion began on the texts last month, Tower has reviewed texts and met with an English teacher to discuss how the books are used in the classroom.
“I expect our teachers to glean what they must from these anthologies and use their discretion and good judgment when it comes to questionable or leading material,” Tower said. “In giving my approval, however, I do reserve the right to inquire, investigate and interview both the administration and faculty with regard to lesson plans and assignments as they pertain to this curriculum.”
Board members also addressed the “multicultural” nature of the textbooks. Cook addressed the argument that “we are all American” and said it's a person's heritage that made them who they are today.
She said two of her son-in-laws are Hispanic, which means she has Hispanic grandchildren. She said she hopes they are just as proud of their “Mayflower, DAR” heritage from their mother as they are of their father's heritage. DAR stands for Daughters of the American Revolution.
“I want them to understand that they and their father are just as American as their cousins are,” she said. “We celebrate our diversity, and I think that's good. To say that we would not celebrate our diversity, that people don't want to know what their heritage is, tell that to the tens of thousands of people who pay $25 a month to ancestry.com.”
Pavlik said no board members said they did not like the multicultural aspect of the texts. Instead, he said, the texts do not go far enough to include Americanism in the books. Last month, Tower said she had concerns about the amount of multiculturalism in the texts and worried it was to the detriment of “the exceptionalism of America.”
Board member Kim Bondi criticized the fact that the issue of purchasing textbooks has become so politically charged. She said that the board needs to have more confidence in the academic decisions made by the administration team.
“What bothers me the most is I feel this has become a political issue,” Bondi said. “I personally have every confidence in our professional staff and our administrators to make decisions that are not going to harm or distort the minds of our children and to deliver material in an unbiased format.
“My children are not less American for having been exposed to diverse cultures in our ‘International Studies' class.”
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or firstname.lastname@example.org.