Friday, July 20, 2018

"Fahrenheit 451" Lives!

Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953 in times with eerie similarities to today, is a dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury. The novel presents a future America in which books are outlawed and firemen burn any they can find. Somehow I am not all that surprised then when a proverbial "book burning" takes place right in on of my own home states of Arizona.

In 2014, David Berliner and I published a book under the title 50 Myths and Lies that Threaten America's Public Schools. We called out some very troubling trends that threaten to destroy the nation's last and greatest public institution, our public elementary and secondary schools. Trends like: privatization, vouchers, charter schools, tuition tax credits, wide-scale high stakes testing and test-score evaluation of teachers being pushed by a massive U.K.-based corporation. The book has enjoyed some visibility.

Apparently, some parents in an Arizona school district were less than impressed. It's no surprise. Arizona with its large Hispanic population and larger still aging white middle class and entrenched conservative establishment is a virtual bell-wether for the rest of the 49 states that will soon match it demographically.

The school district in question -- which shall remain nameless -- administers a summer reading program in connection with a high school AP English class. There is a reading list. The reading list became a problem.

Half-way through the summer, an administrator emailed the teachers in charge of the AP class with this message: " I wanted to take a minute to update you regarding three books on the English summer reading list: Columbine by Dave Cullen, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley, and 50 Myths and Lies that Threaten America’s Public Schools by David Berliner and Gene Glass. There has been concern raised by parents at the district, that those three books may have a possible connection to political issues that may come up in future elections. They need to be removed as required summer reading ...." The administrator offered to help the teachers choose an alternate book.

Apparently, some books are simply too dangerous to place in the hands of even the bright students who populate AP courses.

Gene V Glass
San José State University
Arizona State University
University of Colorado Boulder
National Education Policy Center

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the official position of San José State University, the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, or the University of Colorado Boulder.