Book choices in the public schools – personal history

Writing about Divergent and my reservations about its use in schools made me remember the one and only time I contacted a local school about a book on the curriculum. The details aren’t all that clear. It would help if I could remember which son, which grade and which school!

I think the book was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, which I admit to not having read. Holocaust fiction for Young Adults.

Part of the problem was timing – 2003. We had only begun to process September 11, 2001. The United States plunging into the Iraq war. A local National Guard unit was being deployed, and families were stressed. I couldn’t see trying to explain the Holocaust to early teens when they were also dealing with parents leaving to fight and newspaper reports about American casualties.

(So it must have been my younger son…)

The teacher I contacted accepted my logic. The curriculum allowed some choice on the part of teachers, and, in my son’s class, a collection of classical Greek myths (violent, some of them, but safely distant) was substituted.

I believe that “holocaust education” is required by the State of New Jersey, and some of this is accomplished through the use of fiction. This leads to my other problem with the Number the Stars.

WHY FICTION? Don’t the facts stand on their own? There is considerable documentation about the Holocaust. Couldn’t a true story be offered?

I’m a very literal person. Maybe too literal?

My advice to parents – read every book assigned to your child. You’ll find some to love, and maybe some to question. If you ever decided to attempt an intervention, I would really like to hear about it!


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