For the fourth year in a row, Washington High School teacher Teri Hu has seen her list of required reading material censored by the Fremont Unified School District board.
The 14-year teaching veteran saw the book “Bastard out of Carolina” rejected in 2009, 2010 and again this year when she submitted it for the AP English supplemental reading list. Last year, the play “Angels in America” was also rejected.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning play portrays AIDS in the 1980’s, while “Bastard” details scenes of intense child abuse.
The board has approved other books with sensitive topics, but President Lily Mei explained to the Merc that other books that portray incidents of rape and incest do so with “better endings.”
Mei also said the portrayal of Mormons within “Angels” is too negative.
Questions about both works have appeared on AP English tests in the past, though, and Washington High School students could be at a disadvantage if they are not exposed to the material. Ironically, the works can still be found in district libraries even though they’ve been deemed inappropriate for classroom instruction.
Mazin Mahgoub, 18, who recently graduated from Mission San Jose High School, told the Merc:
“Look at the kind of movies we watch. There are 13, 14 and 15 year old kids watching things on the Internet far beyond what we are reading.”
School board members, parents and students are divided on the issue, even in the generally open-minded Bay Area.
The National Coalition Against Censorship has added its voice to the issue, sending a letter in support of “Bastard out of Carolina” and “Angels in America” to the board in June:
“The task of selecting curricular materials properly belongs to professional educators who are charged with making pedagogically sound decisions…”
The letter went on to give examples of several well-known literary works — 1984, Macbeth, The Great Gatsby, among others — that would be banned from high school reading lists if the same standard were universally applied.
It is still unclear when a final decision will be reached.