Freedom and diversity needed in reading and education

Schools must balance parental concerns with student rights

Shoshi Fischman & Emma Weisner

First love, music and high school. These are the major themes of a book that caused controversy in the Anoka-Hennepin School District this year.

This summer, the Anoka-Hennepin School District used the book “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell as reading material for a summer program called Rock the Book, geared toward 12 to 16 year-old students. The decision to include this book in the summer curriculum created controversy among a group of parents who objected to the book’s sexual content. These parents petitioned the school board and asked that the book not be promoted in the summer program.

Although parents have the right to monitor their child’s reading material, the parents in the Anoka-Hennepin School District overstepped their boundaries in this case.

It is important for school districts to take the rights of parents into consideration, but they must also focus on providing students with a high-quality, diverse curriculum. This includes ensuring a wide variety of books, opinions and media available to students. Schools have a difficult balancing act between these two conflicting goals.

At Park, the student body will most likely never deal with the issue of banned books. According to librarian Ellen George, the Park community tends not to challenge books for leisure reading. George said even if parents were to complain about a book, it would be kept in the library and students would be able to check it out without a problem.

Anoka-Hennepin was not out of line in assigning “Eleanor and Park” as summer reading material. Even though the book does touch on some sexual themes, it is neither outlandishly inappropriate nor offensive.

Students are exposed to sexuality in everyday life, and both parents and teachers need to accept that reality.

By reading books with themes deemed inappropriate, students are simply expanding their worldview and learning about people and places they may have otherwise ignored.

School districts need to allow parents to have input in the raising of their children while also protecting the rights of students.

Regardless of their intentions, parents must realize they may not agree with every book a school makes available to students.

In order to become tolerant adults, students must be exposed to a variety of reading material, not just what their parents deem appropriate.

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