Friday, August 27, 2010

Director of Education supports The Shepherd's Granddaughter

Chris Spence, the director of education for the Toronto School Board, has issued his decision in regard to the Shepherd’s Granddaughter. He’s decided to accept all nine recommendation of the committee looking into my compalint about the book. So he’s rejected my suggestion that The Shepherd’s Granddaughter be used as an example of the kind of book that should never get on a recommended reading list for kids in grade school.

Well, it would have been a surprise if he’d rejected the recommendations of the Board’s own committee and gone with my recommendation instead. Besides, the most important issue is that our schools have been promoting books recommended by the Ontario Library Association without anyone on the school board ever reading them and without the books ever being vetted by any teacher or school librarian.

The Board’s now realized that they can’t take it for granted that the Library Association will recommend wholesome books. In future, books recommended by the OLA will be vetted and school librarians will actually read them before giving them to any students.

Concerning The Shepherd's Granddaughter, the issue is that the TDSB was recommending a book of anti-Israeli propaganda to all kids in grades 7 and 8, a book that defames Israelis and Jews as child murderers.

After I complained, the Board decided that this book should be classed as a "controversial book." This meant that teachers were supposed to guide students before, during and after they read the book, and school libraries were supposed to make material available so that it would be possible for students to get other views on the conflict. However, it doesn’t appear that these policies were followed.

Again, no surprise. School librarians don’t have the time to guide students as they read a book, and it’s impossible to provide students with alternate, less biased material on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because for this age group, such resources don’t exist.

I then made a formal complaint about the book, arguing that The Shepherd's Granddaughter is a perfect example of the kind of book schools should not recommend to our children. That when the schools recommend a book about a contentious political issue, it should be an intelligent book that makes an attempt at even-handedness and that shows the humanity of people on both sides of the conflict.

The Board disagreed. The committee that looked at this book argued it's a good thing the book is biased, as this gives kids an opportunity to practice their critical skills. The director of education for the Board has now said he agrees with them.

And for the time being, that’s where the matter rests…

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