HPHS Reading List Leads to Hot Debate

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When University Park resident Sarah Jordan saw her daughter reading at the family dining table, she didn’t expect to see her high-achieving student using White-Out on the book.

“I picked it up and ended up reading the book cover to cover,” Jordan said. “If this was made into a movie, it wouldn’t even be NC-17.”

Her daughter’s pre-AP, 10th-grade English class was reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, which Jordan felt to have pornographic passages regarding an inappropriate relationship between two characters.

The book is one of many that has caused heated debate among parents of Highland Park High School students.

books sidebarbiggerTo break it down, there are three types of reading lists used by the school: summer reading, core curriculum, and “recommended outside reading,” or ROR

Jordan’s daughter was reading a book from her class’ core curriculum list, but many of the other books in question — such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky — are from ROR selections.

The full ROR list includes 250 to 300 books, which are approved by a review committee (made up of parents and teachers) and the administration. Teachers then make a “short list” for their students to choose from based on that list.

“For the last three years in particular, we have been very delicate in making sure [the books] go through multiple department chairs,” HPHS principal Walter Kelly said.

Unlike the summer reading and core curriculum lists, the master ROR list is not housed online. Instead, students must log into their Moodle account to view their own teacher’s individual list.

That has led to confusion and frustration on the part of many parents — many of whom prefer that a master list be made available online. Kelly called the parents’ call for a comprehensive online list a “fairly recent request.”

Another point of confusion lies in permission slips. Kelly said that though permission slips are not given out for every text covered, they are distributed when a book may have controversial material. But some parents feel the slips are not detailed enough in their descriptions of the books.

“We don’t want to stomp on anybody else’s right to read the material,” said HPHS parent Tavia Hunt. “We just want true and informed consent.”

Lately, these issues have caused a flurry of emails among parents, ranging from the concerned to the outraged. In response, Kelly sent out an email to parents on May 12.

“Our processes and selections should meet the developmentally appropriate balance of challenging our students’ thinking while upholding community values and standards,” Kelly said in the email.

He also reminded parents that they have the option to refuse a particular text, per state law. But parents are not always made aware of this so easily.

“I was never made aware of that,” Jordan said.  “We would have taken that, had we been told.”

In fact, following multiple meetings with the school, the Jordans decided to pull their child out of the Highland Park school system and enroll her in private school.

Another common argument — one that helped the Jordans reach their decision — is that the lists should rely more heavily on “classic” pieces of literature.

But the school maintains a standard of including reading material from all different periods of history, including more contemporary works.

“It’s just wrong for me to sit back and not try to improve the quality of literature for our kids,” Hunt said.

Going forward, members of the PTA and the Highland Park Literary Festival committee will be enlisted to nominate parents for the book review committee. After all, upholding community standards is one of the goals Kelly has outlined for literature selection.

“There’s not always a clear-cut answer, and people don’t always agree,” he said. “There is a healthy push-pull about what is a community standard.”

The district is already revising permission forms for next fall’s classes. On the forms, parents will be encouraged to read the texts in full prior to consent, and the form will indicate where in the book there might be controversial passages.

A timeline for how quickly parents would need to return the forms is yet to be determined.

“We want to be more transparent about that,” Kelly said.

Parents do have the option of formally requesting that books be added or removed from the ROR list. To do this, they must fill out a form and return it to the district office. But Kelly said that no parent has done so, to the best of his knowledge.

“I encourage our parents to research and work with us as partners to make sure we’re all making the right decisions,” Kelly said. “The more informed parents are, the better those decisions are.”

 

52 thoughts on “HPHS Reading List Leads to Hot Debate

  • June 25, 2014 at 11:34 am
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    Wow. Hats off to the parents who are helping to improve the reading lists. As a parent of four children in the HPISD system, I think we should absolutely have classic, great works of literature for them in their classes.
    I doubt many kids will pick up Moby Dick on their own time.

    The reason why we chose to live here was because of the wonderful school system with a great tradition of excellence. I hate that it sounds like a few (I’m sure not all English classes are guilty of following the trend), are trying to be like the archetypal “hip, cool” teacher who just wants kids to like them. I know many of my children’s teachers have wanted to give them the education that they thought was in the best interests of my kids, even if they weren’t just grabbing things off the best seller lists with sexy, gritty distraction parts.

    Really, really applaud the parents behind this movement.

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  • June 25, 2014 at 11:50 am
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    Agree with @cynthia. The teachers themselves need to take ownership of this problem and stand up to the department heads and just say no.

    I’d like to add that the idea of a notification ahead of time is not a solution. No kid wants to be singled out and dismissed from class while the class discusses porn.

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  • June 25, 2014 at 12:11 pm
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    Mom of an incoming freshman here. I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower last year for fun and was shocked by some of it. Parents need to know what their kids are reading and talk with them about it.

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  • June 25, 2014 at 12:19 pm
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    I may be mistaken for all classes, but I know that my daughter had a selection of books to read last year in pre-ap 9th grade. Make an informed decision and pick the book that is right for your family. The list had classical and non-classical choices.

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  • June 25, 2014 at 1:20 pm
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    I too applaud the parents behind this movement. My oldest daughter graduated in May from HPHS (and I have 3 there next year) and we discussed this topic at length. A lot of the content she was exposed to included, rape and explicit sex scenes.

    Kuddos again to these great and courageous parents!

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  • June 25, 2014 at 2:13 pm
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    Ugh, you HP moms have no idea what your kids are doing on the weekends.

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  • June 25, 2014 at 2:32 pm
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    The Art of Racing in the Rain is hardly NC17. I think what these parents are doing is important, but let’s not get hysterical.

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  • June 25, 2014 at 4:01 pm
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    I agree with Maggie. I’m about halfway through the book, and, yes, there are some nonspecific risqué references, but I think an NC17 is a bit puritanical given what is on network TV these days. Just what did the White-out accomplish anyway? I have a child in private school after sending another thru HPISD. Rest assured, the book selections aren’t always any better.

    Parents should be wary of reading lists, and your kid’s Moodle password should not be a secret to you, nor is it an excuse for not looking at ROR selections. We always discussed what our kids would read from the list and purchased some alternatives ahead of time. Just once, I’d like a teacher to select an uplifting book like Unbroken instead of some of the persistent downers that populate these lists. My kid was forced to read We Were the Mulvaneys–geez, what an uplifting book for a teenage guy.

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  • June 25, 2014 at 7:15 pm
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    Obama’s Bible or guidebook is Saul Alinsky’s RULES FOR RADICALS. It has eight areas of focus for the destruction of America. One of those areas is education. The COMMON CORE CURRICULUM fits neatly in this niche. Hillary thought so much of the book, she wrote her thesis on it. Comments in a Common Core text express complimentary references to Karl Marx as a ‘leading social theorist’. We do not need Marxist mind molders to manipulate or influence the morals of any generation of Americans.
    Dr Ron Paul was right. There is zero need for a Federal Department of Education in DC. It should be a state and local responsibility.

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  • June 25, 2014 at 9:21 pm
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    There is more than one way to burn a book, and the world is full of people running about with lit matches.

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  • June 25, 2014 at 9:23 pm
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    Banning books is just another form of bullying. It’s all about the fear, and an assumption of power. The key is to address the fear, and deny the power.

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  • June 26, 2014 at 10:20 am
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    As a HP graduate, it makes me sad to see that people are reacting this way. Kids at HP, and all over this nation, have a wide range of life experiences—everything from the loving nuclear family to divorce, and sadly, some have been molested or raped. By saying that certain books are inappropriate and or do not reach a certain “standard” you define, you are saying that the difficult experiences some people go through are not only invalid, but shameful.

    Mrs. Balden was one of my favorite teachers at HP because she accepted all of us as we were. She treated us all equally, it didn’t matter who your family was, what your interests were, or what your life story was. You were there to learn, and she wanted to teach you.

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  • June 26, 2014 at 10:26 am
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    Well, there’s banning books, and picking books that are age appropriate. I like the process of notifying parents when a book may contain something that doesn’t align with their personal values.

    I haven’t read the book in question, so I don’t have an opinion if it is appropriate or not.

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  • June 26, 2014 at 11:05 am
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    This is ludicrous. The books chosen are chosen by people smarter in that curriculum than many parents and are chosen for a reason. You think reading about a BJ is any worse than a) what your precious sons and daughters are doing five nights a week and b) what they watch on everything from Gossip Girl to Disney movies? get a grip. Trying to ban certain subject matter doesn’t make those things not exist and it doesn’t mean the kids don’t get exposed in different ways. and @HP08, you are 100% right about experiences. 1 in 4 girls are sexually molested and 1 in 6 boys are and, guess what, it happens in 75205. Not saying that reading a book like the Art of Racing in the Rain and reading about some sexual interlude is the same as a child being molested, but I am saying that you cannot shelter kids from reading books because you don’t approve of the content at the same time you let Sally sit on Uncle Joe’s lap.

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  • June 26, 2014 at 11:20 am
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    Just because it’s on tv and going on in 75205 doesn’t make it right. We don’t have to make it easy for kids or give them a road map.
    The Art of Racing in the Rain is a great book. I’m just not sure it should be on a school supported reading list.

    Shelter them a little bit, why not? They have years to explore all the “fun” of being an adult.

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  • June 26, 2014 at 11:31 am
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    Wow, funny how everyone jumps to book banning in this conversation. I don’t advocate banning the books, but I do think people should be given some choice as to what is appropriate for their kids. However, I so wish we’d spend less time dissecting novels and actually spend a little time actually teaching some grammar. Stick with the classics–we all read Catcher in the Rye so let’s not go nuts. @HPMom, I don’t know that I agree about the superior intelligence of all teachers. I know a ton of “C” math students who are now Math teachers so let’s not abdicate all our opinions to the generally failed world of academia which brought us the ridiculous concepts in Common Core.

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  • June 26, 2014 at 2:16 pm
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    The greatest joy of our country is our first amendment, which is being played out on this page. However, that’s not why I’m weighing in on the discussion. I’d like to clarify a few things as they pertain to another issue listed above – curriculum and Common Core.

    (1) Texas did NOT adopt Common Core.
    (2) We use the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) found here: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=6148
    (3) Both of these are STANDARDS and NOT curriculum.
    (4) There is some overlap between the two (math estimated at 2/3 overlap).
    (5) HPISD writes their own curriculum and it’s available for each subject and grade at the following: http://curriculum.hpisd.org. Select the “curriculum” tab and a series of pull down menus take you to grade-specific details.
    (6) Most instructional material (what is used to teach the curriculum) is also available for review at district or school designated websites.

    As a parent and community member, I have had the privilege of being a part of numerous curriculum committees at HPISD. If you want to witness the diligence, debate and passion our teachers, administrative staff and educational experts contribute to our children’s learning then I’d encourage you to get involved. You’ll most certainly have a greater appreciation for our district and their commitment to produce lifelong learners that are globally-competent citizens of upstanding character.

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  • June 26, 2014 at 4:13 pm
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    And @SKMom closes the debate with a win! THANK YOU!!!!

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  • June 26, 2014 at 4:29 pm
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    Below is the email sent to hundreds of neighborhood moms. I’ll just leave it at that…….

    One more request!! If you do send an email to the Department Chair and/or Dr. Orr, please forward to me so we can have “evidence” that more than one mom is bringing up the subject!!
    Emails are corrected below. I really think we can make a difference here and now!!

    FW: Highland Park High School’s Literature Choices – PARENTS BEWARE!!
    Importance: High

    Hi friends,

    I first want to warn you that the below content is very graphic. I even hesitated to include the passages and to just verbalize that our kids are being exposed to inappropriate material.
    But you will not have the full impact unless you see the actual passages. And you might be tempted to think some people might be “overreacting” – I might have thought that before reading the passage below. I will say that as far as this is concerned, I am thankful to have a special needs son who by the grace of God will not be exposed to this. At the end of the day, it is pornography.

    The passage in “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult is highlighted in red below in the article about the father who was arrested for speaking out against the book.
    This book is on THE REQUIRED READING LIST FOR SOME CLASSES AT HP. SCROLL DOWN AND READ IT!!

    Funny that I don’t feel comfortable sending this to ADULTS, but our CHILDREN are being required to read it!!! It is completely inappropriate. Just to give you an idea of how explicit the material is, the father involved in the case below requested that the local newspapers print the content so that people would understand that he wasn’t an overly uptight dad. They both refused saying that it was not suitable for their readers. That being said, your son or daughter will likely read this book in English at HIGHLAND PARK and others like it unless changes are made. I wanted all of you to know the uncensored reality of what our kids are being assigned. I wish I could tell you that there was only one excerpt like this within this book, but this is just one page of several just like it and there are other books with equally graphic content.

    Another book in their repertoire at Highland Park is called “Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. Excerpts that I read included: instructions on masturbation, physical abuse between a high school couple, a little brother watching his big sister having sex, gay sex between 2 high school football players saying, “Brad assumed the role of the girl in terms of where you put things”, and a high school boy raping a high school girl while the little brother watched.

    There is a group of moms in discussion with several faculty members and they have been told that they have seldom if ever received any complaints about reading of this nature. I would have to assume (hopefully) that that is because parents are unaware of the content. Please forward any communication to the school (future or previous) back to me. It is key that we all keep each other in the loop. If there are truly more than one or two parents concerned about this, that fact needs to be brought to light.

    If this content is offensive to you, I encourage you to email the head of the English Department, Anne Balden at [email protected]… while copying Superintendent Orr at [email protected]…. Timing is urgent because the English Department meets soon to set next year’s reading list. STAND UP AND SPEAK FOR YOUR KIDS – their brains are NOT equipped to handle this.

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  • June 27, 2014 at 9:34 am
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    @HPMom,

    Fortunately, you don’t get to determine when a debate is over. Your comment that “you cannot shelter kids from reading books because you don’t approve of the content at the same time you let Sally sit on Uncle Joe’s lap” is clearly illogical, and somewhat scary that you connect the two.

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  • June 27, 2014 at 10:11 am
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    Neither “Ninenteen Minutes” nor “Perks of Being a Wallflower” at required reading at HPHS. The email, like a few of these comments, contains fraudulent information, and the writer of the article should have fact-checked the quotes at the very least. Futhermore, these quotes from the book are taken wholly out of context; something that is essential to understanding the book as a whole.

    For instance, Jodie in “Ninenteen Minutes” is a smart yet shy teenage girl that really wants to be liked by her peers; she starts dating talented athlete Matt, and even though she knows the relationship is unhealthy, she continues to see him. One night at a party, Matt rapes Jodie. This isn’t some twisted teenage version of 50 Shades of Gray – he rapes her. The message isn’t that of sexual gratification, it’s one that even people we consider trustworthy can violate us in horrific acts of dehumanization. This violation serves as a pivotal plot point for actions taken by Jody and Matt further on; actions that are completely acceptable for teenagers to read IN CONTEXT.

    Whether it is a religious text, a political treatise, or a book of fiction, context must be evaluated. I’m worried that parents such as the woman quoted in the email feel so hesitant about their own parenting, or insecure about their own children’s intellectual wherewithal that they would voice aloud, “their brains are NOT equipped to handle this.” Single-handily, HPHS has had its share of press through various rape claims, underage drinking and drug use, and national-coverage arrests, it would be prudent parenting to discuss these issues with your children, and explore them in a world of fiction; I guarantee you that your children are discussing things like rape, masturbation, domestic/physical abuse (Student Council runs a campaign every year regarding the awareness of abuse), underage drinking, and other issues presented in these books.

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  • June 27, 2014 at 10:13 am
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    @SKMom, I think we are all aware that Texas did not adopt Common Core, but 43 states have at some point. Common Core is the prime example why parents and local officials SHOULD be involved in standards and curriculum, and Common Core IS the gold stamdard for failure in the vaunted halls of academia. Make no mistake, plenty of parents have voiced their opinion, but the district’s curriculum head doesn’t seem to value their opinions. For years, parents have asked for more grammar, but to no avail. We have all had to hire tutors to teach math and science because many teachers can’t. We all know we’re not alone given the numerous requests seen on parent mail groups. Yes, there are passionate teachers, but, make no mistake, HPISD hasn’t cornered the market on them. With all sincerity, thank you for you involvement, but we haven’t all had your experience.

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  • June 27, 2014 at 2:55 pm
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    @NFW – I’ve had four kids go through the district and all go on to honors programs at public and private schools and none of them needed any tutoring in any subject to achieve those grades. Many teachers “can’t teach” and many kids “can’t learn.”

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  • June 27, 2014 at 3:35 pm
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    NFW says, “We have all had to hire tutors to teach math and science.”

    For the record, not all HPHS parents. We never hired a tutor. Math and science were taught and learned. Never noticed a problem with grammar, so we’re not among those parents either.

    Elementary school sucked, but that’s another story.

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  • June 27, 2014 at 5:55 pm
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    Danielle said it best. If you guys think this is bad, you would have heart attacks if you knew everything that was going on. Some of the books on these lists may be considered “pornographic” to some parents. Fine. DON’T HAVE YOU CHILD READ THEM. The article even states that the list of books contains more “appropriate” titles, such as classicals, for you parents who don’t want to expose your kids to that yet. If you all took the time to actually pay attention to what your children are doing, then this would have been nipped in the butt from the very beginning. HP is only trying to expand your kids’ knowledge and get them engaged in learning and reading. You all may think that you can still shelter them, but the fact of the matter is, they will not be sheltered much longer at HP, or at any high school for that matter. Kids are exposed to so much, from TV, the internet, and from “more experienced” kids, that it is not possible. And if they somehow manage to get that far, then certainly college will change that. You parents need the chill out and calm down. Typical HP parents.

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  • June 27, 2014 at 7:30 pm
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    Veering off-topic for a moment.

    HPMom said: “I am saying that you cannot shelter kids from reading books because you don’t approve of the content at the same time you let Sally sit on Uncle Joe’s lap.”

    What a repulsive comment. You and people like you are the reason I declined to coach my nephew’s soccer team a couple of years ago.

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  • June 28, 2014 at 4:38 pm
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    @XTC and @NotMe – For my average children, a physics tutor and a pre-cal tutor were necessary to pass the class. Your kids were smarter. Many of us with kids who are average and who are not in “honors programs at public and private schools” do have to resort to tutors.

    NFW didn’t mean “all” literally. Clearly your children don’t need help. Good for them! My kids are dong fine and will do well in life, but the high school math and science curricula were tough for them.

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  • July 1, 2014 at 12:46 pm
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    @Wondering: You’re affirmatively going out of your way to slam people for pointing out that not every kid needs a tutor to get through school? We’re all so relieved to hear that your kids will do well in life. Could you possibly be a bit more defensive? Here’s a news flash: If your kids needed tutors to get through the standard curriculum, they were not average. They were below average. Half the kids in any class have to be in the lower half of the class, right? Yet no one believes their kid could possibly be below average, no sir, no way. I can’t be sure if your misunderstanding of the term “average” points to a grammar deficiency or a math deficiency (or both), but you might look into hiring a tutor.

    As for the books, leave them alone. When I was a kid growing up in the Park Cities, parents tended to keep drugs and weapons away from their kids, and instead put books in their hands. Today it seems just the opposite. The tiny minds among us get all fired up to ban books and the ideas they contain, while at the same time so many parents seem to fill their homes with guns and are depressingly lenient on drug use by their teens.

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  • July 1, 2014 at 10:56 pm
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    @Z – didn’t mean to affirmatively slam. I’m just tired of some of the parents who are grade snobs. I knew many of them in school and have to laugh. I guess it does come off as defensive but I think of myself as weary.

    My kids were below HP average (bottom half of class for sure) in standard HP physics and pre-cal, did pretty well in everything else. Way above national average on SAT, ACT, were in National Honor Society, got some merit scholarships at State U, but that’s all just average for HP. I get what average means. Some better, some worse. I’ll keep ’em.

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  • September 16, 2014 at 8:13 pm
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    WOW. This is absolutely preposterous and hypocritical in the purest sense of the word. These stupid, stupid misinformed parents are the ones who allow their teenage children to drink and participate in god knows what other kinds of fruitless debauchery and they get upset if a book mentions such content. Then they decide that the book is contraband and they decide that they will take action. So, so stupid.
    Listen up, parents. You may not think that you are treading on anybody’s rights, but you are. You do not need to censor things like this when it is a safe bet that your children are watching and reading and interacting on far worse things online.
    These books were chosen FOR A REASON. They were NOT chosen because they wanted to spark some petty debate amongst your tight circle of masters of the universe.
    I myself read “The Art of Racing in the Rain” during my sophomore year at HP, and I did not feel like there was any pervasive subversive content. The novel was engaging and I enjoyed reading it. You clearly have an extremely skewed and sheltered world view if you are not willing to look past the superficial content and see the deeper meaning that the book(s) assigned wish to communicate.
    It is not your place to interfere in the decisions of the school board. Absolutely preposterous behavior, just continuing to paint HP in a negative light with this unwarranted whining. If your child is in high school, it is a safe bet they are able to read books assigned to them without being intercepted by the incessant whines of the parents who so desperately wish to shelter them when it is almost a guarantee that it will not be effective.
    Sorry for the tirade! But it truly sickens me as a graduate of this fine institution to see it falling into the corrupt hands of these parents who are trying to “protect” when all they are doing is sparking outrage.

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  • September 16, 2014 at 9:30 pm
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    Every parent who supports the banning of these books is so ignorant. I hope you’re kid goes to SMU for college and lives at home the rest of his/her life! And I’m SO sorry that you’re sweet, innocent child is exposed to a novel about sex, drugs, or rape. Congrats to you and your family for being privileged enough to live in the Park Cities where nothing “bad” ever happens, but that isn’t how the real world works. A lot of things in these novels the kids are required to read, happen daily outside of Highland Park. So have fun ignorant parents raising your ignorant children!

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  • September 17, 2014 at 12:03 am
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    I graduated HP not even four months ago. All four years I took English PAP and AP, therefore I was exposed to hundreds of books beyond standard English. One of the last things my English IV AP teacher had us do in May before Graduation was make a list of every book we read in high school for English. I kept the list because I was quite proud of myself for the amount of books I read, but at the current moment it is not in my possession. But if I had to estimate how many books were on that list, I would have to say anywhere from 35-50 books in my four years of high school, maybe more. All ranging from classical literature to modern day books. Since freshman year, I have been writing a trilogy that I am currently in the process of getting published. I was also admitted to Chapman University’s screenwriting program, and Chapman is in the same standing as USC and NYU when it comes to film programs. I am also an avid book reader who will go to B&N with the intention of only buying one book and ends up buying ten. All this is due to HP’s English department. From fifth grade up, I have read such a wide range of books and not once did I ever see a problem with any book that I read. I’m happy that I was required to read the books that I did because it opened my eyes to all the countless possibilities of genres out there and helped me to understand the underlying themes and meanings of books and further widened my love of reading and writing. I find it hypocritical that these parents are outraged by the books we read in high school because if I recall, in seventh grade we were required to read “And Then There Were None”, which for those of you that don’t know what it is and didn’t get the high-quality education that I got from HPISD, it’s a book about ten random strangers who go to an island resort and get trapped there as each person dies a gruesome death one by one. And in the end, [SPOILER ALERT] the final character hangs himself, hence, “And Then There Were None”. But that book never seemed to be a problem back then. The only reason these parents are getting riled up now is because their kids are in high school where the social norm is to party,, have sex, drink and do drugs like it’s our jobs. So to have our kids read a book that “encourages” that is an “outrage”. These HP parents are inconsistent and hypocritical parents who are the ones that encourage their kids’ behavior whether it’s them outwardly supporting their child’s actions or them turning the other way to make it seem like they’re unaware of their sons and daughters getting hammered and high whenever they have the chance. This is just another example of HP parents overreacting about one little thing that only offends them, but not the students that go to the school themselves, and the school administration bending over to these parents instead of fighting back and defending themselves. Yes, Mr. Kelly, an amazing principle, made comments on the matter and handled the matter properly, but the school needs to let these parents know that their idiotic complaints are not valid and that this isn’t some dystopian society, where everything is censored, that I have read in so many of the books listed above. These HP parents are hypocrites and do not have the credibility or the valid arguments to be allowed any say in matter of what we read and study, especially since they aren’t even the ones going to the school.

    So here is my problem with the people and their arguments in this article:
    1) I cringed when I read that this woman’s daughter was whitening out things in her book. To me, that’s like whitening out the Bible or the Quran or the Torah or any religious text. You don’t just delete the parts of a book you don’t like or find inappropriate. Also, she is in HIGH SCHOOL. She should not be acting immature about a book’s content and taking it with a grain of salt and instead read it like an adult that she’s not too far from being (but her behavior says otherwise). The fact that she did this tells me that this girl is possibly very sheltered by her parents which is not right since high school is about maturing and becoming the young adult you will be graduating as in four years.
    2) Another reason HP parents are hypocrites: Many people in HP are Christians, and I don’t see them censoring the Bible which has FAR WORSE content than “Perks of Being a Wallflower”. Double standards.
    3) I don’t understand why these parents feel a need to see the entire ROR list when the kids only have the choice of a few from a condensed list that their teachers made. Who cares what else is on that list? Their teachers are not giving them those as choices so leave those books ALONE.
    4) I always found the permission slips stupid because my parents were all about letting us experience life and make our own choices and learning from the mistakes of some of our choices, so they would just sign it when in reality there was no need for it. That is what high school is about. These parents can’t shelter these kids anymore, especially since it’s not working with every grade getting worse and worse. Kids in early middle school are doing things that I didn’t do until high school. It’s ridiculous. But these permission slips are unnecessary because parents don’t need to be so deeply involved in what we read. They aren’t always going to be there to hold our hands, especially in college where their children will be exposed to so many things considered controversial and not have to worry about getting their parent’s permission. So the permission slips are pointless since most parents don’t even really care about what their kids are reading so long as they’re making good grades and actually become competent and fully-functioning members of society. And if you were “not aware” that you are allowed to refuse a book for your child to read, why do you think they’re giving you the permission slips in the first place?!
    5) ……the fact that this mom unenrolled her child from HP and put her into a private school is overreacting and ridiculous. If I learned anything from living in the Park Cities and having friends in almost all surrounding schools such as ESD, Ursuline, Hockaday, Jesuit, St. Marks, Hillcrest, Lake Highlands, Woodrow, Bishop Lynch, Shelton, Parish, Texas Christian Academy, etc., it’s that although the ones that are private school are supposed to be better, Highland Park is better know for academic prowess and by taking your child to a private school, you are probably wasting money on a school that lacks academically compared to the education she would’ve gotten at HP.
    6) I’m actually punching myself in the face for how stupid this argument is: “Another common argument…is that the lists should rely more heavily on “classic” pieces of literature.” Are you kidding me? The amount of classic literature I read from fifth grade to senior year probably made-up 90% of that list my English IV AP teacher had us make. Some books that are on my list of favorite books of all time are “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “The Outsiders”, “Fahrenheit 451”, “Pride & Prejudice”, “The Great Gatsby”, and “And Then There Were None”. All classics that I was required to read for middle and high school. I read at least one Shakespeare play every year of high school as required reading and studied many of his plays in eighth grade. “The Crucible” I know I read, or at least studied in one of those cases, twice. Junior year we read “The Scarlet Letter”. Junior and senior year we were required to read classic plays. We also read “The Hobbit” and gothic classics such as “Dracula”, “Frankenstein”, and “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. At one point in middle school we had to read “The Giver”, “And Then There Were None”, and “To Kill a Mockingbird”. We read “Lord of the Flies” sophomore year which I’m not seeing any parents getting angry about, but I’m going to expand on that in a second. I also read “A Farewell to Arms” senior year. We also have read “The Odyssey” and “Oedipus Rex”. Others we were required or given a choice to read: “Cry, the Beloved Country”, “1984”, “The Joy Luck Club”, “Catch-22”, “The Catcher in the Rye”, “Crime and Punishment”, “Wuthering Heights”, “Atlas Shrugged”, “Jane Eyre”, “Don Quixote”, “The Grapes of Wrath”, “Heart of Darkness”, “The Old Man and the Sea”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, “Great Expectations”, “The Awakening”, “Death of a Salesman”, “A Streetcar Named Desire”, “The Glass Menagerie”, “The Looking Glass”, “Grendel”, “The Diary of a Young Girl”, “Black Like Me”, “Night” and countless others. And don’t forget the countless Shakespeare plays we read. So the argument that there “aren’t enough classics” and the school needs to “improve the quality of literature for our kids” is slanderous and ignorant.
    7) Notice how these parents are angry about books like “The Art of Racing in the Rain” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, but not some of the other books I have listed that one would think be more controversial for their content matter or what grade we are reading them in. As you could see from the countless classic works of literature that I listed above, there was no shortage on how many classics we read. But you can’t just base an entire curriculum solely on classic works from a different time period. Although right now this is not the case, but many books written today will later on be considered classic works of literature. Many of the classic books I have listed once had these same problems of being rejected and criticized by “concerned” parents back when they were first published, so I’m not surprised by people’s outbursts against the modern books of today, but the arguments they’re make are coming from the wrong place. These parents didn’t get mad at “And Then There Were None” or “Lord of the Flies”, one that condones the murder of people who have done wrong and one that tells the story of little boys killing each other for fun. The reason these parents weren’t outraged by these is probably, a) at the time of reading “ATTWN”, they weren’t too involved in their child’s life because it was only middle school and b) because “AATWN” and “LOTF” are about age groups no where near high school. So now that their kids are in high school, they are more concerned about their kids because once again, the social norm of high school is sex, drugs, and alcohol. And books that involves all three of those things like “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, are the only books parents are getting upset about. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is the coming of age story of a freshman boy’s first year in high school and tells a realistic story of being a kid in this modern age and how he was able to mature and get through it, but to these parents it is a story that is “praising” and “glamorizing” and “condoning” the behaviors documented in the book. It’s complete nonsense that one of my favorite books of all time is being accused of condoning sex, drugs, and alcohol when in reality the author is one of the few adults nowadays that understands high school kids in this modern age. These hypocritical parents who never paid any attention to their kids until high school think they’re doing right by banning these books when in reality they need to look to their own homes for reform and not the schools. They’re trying to use these books as scapegoats when in reality they’re the ones to blame for their child’s behavior.

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  • September 17, 2014 at 12:11 pm
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    HP 2014- What a beat down! Your last sentence was more than enough to make your point. Less is more, think Hemingway.

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  • September 17, 2014 at 3:34 pm
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    @HP 2014, Should totally put that monologue in your trilogy, would probably help you get it published faster.

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  • September 17, 2014 at 4:18 pm
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    @ HP2014 – These HP parents are hypocrites and do not have the credibility or the valid arguments to be allowed any say in matter of what we read and study, especially since they aren’t even the ones going to the school.

    Nope, the parents are just the ones who slave to pay the taxes that pay the HPISD staff to teach their kids. Unfortunately for HPISD, they are also one of the most educated groups of parents in any school district in America. What a shame they want a say in their kid’s education.

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  • September 17, 2014 at 5:20 pm
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    Wow. Such venom. I really want to speak up for a group of moms and dad who pay attention, who don’t cuss, who stay awake at curfew time, and who love their kids. In “whiting-out” books like the OP mentioned, we are simply resorting to normal journalist standards. The newspaper doesn’t drop F-bombs, and I certainly don’t think our English department would look kindly on your student writing in the style of Racing in the Rain. I don’t think any of your kids would write a college essay using curse words and sexual situations, either.
    Most of the books are fine, but there is nothing wrong with simply avoiding R rated and up content.
    Most of the parents I know, on both sides of this issue, are loving and normal people, not deserving of this rant above.

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  • September 18, 2014 at 2:51 pm
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    OK, show of hands, who read that entire manifesto from HP2014? Wow.

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  • September 18, 2014 at 4:26 pm
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    Do you really want to open Pandora’s Box. Maybe we should all have a history.

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  • September 18, 2014 at 4:58 pm
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    NFW: If I learned one thing from living in HP for 19 years, and coming from a family that is well known around the community, it’s that although these parents might have degrees from prestigious colleges, many are still filled with ignorance and arrogance. I’ve met parents from all aspects of the Park Cities community. I’m not trying to categorize ALL of them as ignorant people who are trying to use these books as scapegoats, but there are a small group of parents who are the ignorant ones that don’t understand the modern age of high school.

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  • September 18, 2014 at 6:28 pm
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    HP 2014–Love your passionate response! I appreciate you taking the time to write and letting us know what it looks like from your side. Americans have always been OK with violence, but anything with sex and drugs cause some people severe stress. Good luck this year!

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  • September 18, 2014 at 7:01 pm
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    @HP 2014– I would bet that most of our community has degrees from Texas/Oklahoma state colleges so I’m not judging their education by where the degree comes from. I would say that work/life experience counts waaaay more in their education–of which you are likely way short of if you are a recent grad. At 19 or so, I thought everyone over the age of 30 was an idiot too. If you’ve run a business or act in a managerial role, you pretty much have an understanding of what employers are looking for in grads. The esteemed halls of academia falls short in that arena so I’m guessing parents like to chime in.
    Nobody is using books as a scapegoat for their kids behavior. They simply believe that there is a time and a place for certain types of literature. Given that they fund this big bad boy, that pretty much gives them the right to an opinion. That, too is part of the “modern age of high school.”

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  • September 18, 2014 at 7:23 pm
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    I actually think HP 2014 makes some valid points. His/her style may be a little rough but the points are clear and worthy of being taken seriously.

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  • September 18, 2014 at 7:48 pm
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    Wow, could not have said it better myself @HP 2014. Absolutely perfectly crafted. You are quite the wordsmith and I think that your take on this whole thing is extremely accurate. I applaud you!!

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  • September 19, 2014 at 10:14 am
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    @XT, Hand raised. Love seeing our high schoolers and recent grads lay down their brilliant views of how things really work in “the modern age of high school”.

    @HP 2014, Congrats on being from “a family that is well known around the community”, huge props. While I actually agree with the general premise that censoring books is not the answer, let me impart one more tip on top of your 19 year’s worth of education from living in HP. Regardless of your argument’s validity, you lose all credibility and ability to sway others opinions when you make broad sweeping statements in an entirely too long rant that drowns out your actual points. Maybe try and follow @HP75’s advice when writing your trilogy, “less is more, think Hemingway”.

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  • September 22, 2014 at 10:05 am
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    @HP2014 – awesome reply. Keep thinking, keep writing. Ignore rude anonymous people on blogs.

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  • September 22, 2014 at 3:48 pm
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    Unfortunately the newspapers and websites will not post the content of the books in question due to concerns of violating public decency laws as they pertain to sexually explicit content, racial slurs and expletives. I am disappointed to think that we do not have sufficiently creative and gifted enough modern writers to address current social issues of the day without having to describe the anatomical and physiological minutia of rape, incest or other sexual actions along with socially unacceptable language for use in the study of literature?

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  • September 22, 2014 at 5:07 pm
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    Park Cities handles rape terribly. A boy my year was accused of rape and spent some time in juvie as well as the boy two years ago. However both these girls were called sluts and while they were much younger than their alleged rapists they were blamed entirely for the situation. Perhaps reading about rape and the emotional consequences for the people involved would help kids with their lack of sensitivity.

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  • September 22, 2014 at 7:31 pm
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    George: THANK YOU!!!! Exactly on point.

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  • September 22, 2014 at 8:51 pm
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    To everyone criticizing my long retort to this article:
    My argument may be long, but I am proud of the end product. I argued it and wrote it just like I would have for any paper the HPISD English Department would’ve had me write. Although less is more, my English teachers would disagree in this case, especially since I’m not Ernest Hemingway trying to describe a war that I saw firsthand.
    Thank you to those who support my “manifesto”. I do not ignore the opinions of people who are against my argument, because that is ignorance, but I do not let them get to me because both sides of this argument believe they are doing the right thing. In a story I recently started writing, I wrote: “Who is to say which world is a reality and which world is a dream?” I believe that everyone has a right to their opinion and no one has a right to claim that their opinion is right until proven so. Kind of like “Innocent until proven guilty”.
    I hope this entire situation gets solved soon because it is tearing the community apart.

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  • September 23, 2014 at 4:09 pm
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    ummm… I was thanking George for his FIRST comment. distancing myself as far as I can from the second.

    Ironically, the book pulled, Art of Racing in the Rain, ends on a “happy ” note with the girl who cried rape recanting her story. I can’t see how this could help anyone. .

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  • October 29, 2014 at 11:02 am
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    HPHS has long been a “Standard of Excellence” to other school districts. We have a long standing history to keep the high road. The deterioration of moral values today is over whelming and by keeping the 7 mentioned books out of the class room are one of the only ways we have to avoid a tacit endorsement of graphic and feelings-based sexual activity. Knowing the “Books” are not approved, at least gives the students a vivid contrast of moral values in their school vs. the TV, Video, TV adds and programs that are full of amoral behavior. Moral values and standards at HPHS have been emphasized historically so that the students will see their importance today and in their after-school life. I am concerned that the English teachers who are most vocal for the books inclusion and discussed in the class-room may verge on the phenomena of voyeurism.

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  • November 9, 2014 at 3:43 pm
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    Two words for the religious zealots behind this: HOME SCHOOL.

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