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VALLEY CITIZEN • November 13, 2013 • A15

Bless continued from A1 “I don’t read it in the newspaper, I don’t hear it from staff,” said Woolstenhulme. “I have a very difficult time with public text that contains that text. As an educator, I cannot support the f-word.” “Bless Me, Ultima” uses the f-word once in English and a handful of times in Spanish. Parents at the school board meeting said they were also concerned about the sexual content of the book. The book does describe a prostitute’s breasts in a brothel. The book also depicts a scene in which a young child could be perceived as masturbating after he slaps himself and “explodes.”

“I’m not sure where the line is.” Diane Green

THS English Department head While Woolstenhulme said he will not be reviewing every book on the English Department’s reading list because he “doesn’t have time to do that,” Pence and English Department head Diane Green are currently at a loss as to how to move forward. While Woolstenhulme said “Wuthering Heights” would replace “Bless Me, Ultima,” Green said that the school only has 30 copies, not enough to hand out to the entire sophomore class. Additionally, Green questioned how, based on the criteria by which “Bless Me, Ultima” was pulled from the reading list, she could teach other books such as “Huckleberry Finn” and “To Kill A Mockingbird.” “I’m not sure where the line is,” Green said Tuesday. Green, Pence and English teacher Jason Ruff compiled a 13-point list to present to Woolstenhulme prior to his suspending the book that backs their decision to chose “Bless Me, Ultima,” as part of the required reading for the sophomores. The book was taught last year in Pence’s junior AP lit and comp classes. The English Department talked through its decision to purchase a full classroom set this summer using grant funds from the Teton Valley Education Foundation. Several points from Green’s list include: •

“Bless Me, Ultima” is included in the American Library Association’s “Books for the Soul,” which includes selections that “both inspire a young adult and offer a look into some of the different religions of the world.” “Bless Me, Ultima” is included in the resource text, “Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners,” compiled by the Young Adult Services Association. College is not the time for students to begin reading challenging text.

While concerns regarding the book were borne out of a discussion in an LDS Sunday school class two weeks ago, Woolstenhulme said on Tuesday that the decision to suspend the book was not based on religion or politics. At Monday’s meeting several parents spoke in favor of suspending the book while others spoke otherwise. It was suggested that a parent panel be initiated to help teachers choose books for course work, while another person suggested that permission slips be sent home with a book’s synopsis prior to a student beginning a reading assignment. But for Teton High School senior Marjela Vazquez, who sat quietly in the back of the meeting listening to concerns that evening, the decision to suspend the book was unfair. She added that those who are focusing on the language of the book were missing the point of the text. Vasquez

read the book last year in her English class. “I really connected with the book,” Vazquez said Monday after the school board meeting. “It really made me ponder my own beliefs on religion, life and death and the hybridity of life. Why are we allowed to read “Romeo and Juliet?” I feel like a lot of books are (perceived) so differently outside of Teton Valley.” While school board members have either not read the book or were planning to read it, school board member Carol Dansie said maybe the book should be taken off the required reading list simply based on what she’s heard from parents. Board Chair Doug Petersen said the board will not be making curriculum decisions and left that up to Woolstenhulme and his staff. This story was first reported by the Valley Citizen last week and may be found at What readers are saying on Facebook: The Valley Citizen’s Facebook page lit up last week when we broke the story of “Bless Me, Ultima.” Below are selected comments from Facebook. Oh no, another terrible, mind-corrupting coming-of-age book, like “Catcher in the Rye” or “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I suppose we should just let our kids read just ONE book. — Rob Marin This is incredibly disappointing news. My children have been reading the book and will finish this week. So far, no one in my family has begun worshipping the golden carp but that may be a good idea. Maybe we need to have an off-campus “Bless Me, Ultima” book club for our kids so they don’t have to miss out. — Carmen Sanchez Do I smell that acrid stink of censorship? — Joyce Driggs Edlefsen We all need to speak out and support our teachers and trust that the books they are teaching that come from approved state curriculum have purpose. Too many quietly support. We need to raise our voices and show the school we are behind them when the superintendent makes poor decisions. — Linda Hutchinson

me in an attempt to control everything he’s exposed to. I’m not naive enough to think kids aren’t exposed to all sorts of ‘inappropriate content’ on a daily basis. But if given an assignment that does have content that they would not choose to read if given the choice, then it’s simple ... there should be another choice. — Brook Kinney Robinson Uh, if they knew half of what their sophomore-age boys were doing, some swear words would be the least of their worries. But maybe that was just me as a sophomore. — Oaken Beeson I hope these same parents are not allowing certain television programs in their homes, or any television for that matter, as that would be the most hilarious irony. Listening to one phrase said by one of the Kardashians is more damaging to a young mind than reading a swear word in a book. It’s like taking a child into a famous museum and shielding their eyes from a nipple on a nude classic, meanwhile they vegetate at home watching breasts flaunted all over television even on a benign commercial. Ah, but, like the F-word, it’s the actual nipple that’s the problem. Context does not matter, it’s the very content that does. Trust in teachers and how they will educate students using context is the way to go, and banning art and creating mistrust is not. — Kate Bierman I don’t understand why parents will fight to keep a racial slur as the high school mascot, but then raise concern over classic books being read in English class. — Anna Trentadue Perhaps parents should actually read the book before making comments or suggestions to educators. Permission slips for sophomores to read a piece of literature, how does one expect them to learn to discern good from bad until they have experienced both sides. Sanitizing reading lists in high school, really! What are they going to do in college literature classes? That won’t fly! — Kristi Kay Aslin

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They talked about putting it on the optional reading list. As a parent, I like having the chance to censor what my teens read until they’re older and more mature. — Sarah Foreman McKellar One more reason to homeschool. — Jen Fisher I hope things change by the time my 3-year-old hits high school, this is insane. Support our teachers! Violence in video games is much more troubling than reading swear words! It’s called critical thinking, 15-year-olds can do it! — Denise Bertsch Gardner We live in a culture where people are more offended by “swear” words and middle fingers than they are by famine, warfare, and the destruction of our environment. — Sam Cinomrah I’m glad to hear through the article that an alternative book was chosen for kids to read for their assignment by the English Department. I hope they also decided to continue reading other pieces of literature vs. banning the entire list and teaching from the textbook only. This experience has been an eye-opener for sure, and I hope the teachers and the English Department as a whole are able to move past feeling personally attacked or untrusted ... that was never my intent. I know that they put COUNTLESS hours into educating our children and their job often goes thankless. As a parent, our job is also full of countless hours and at times feels thankless but that doesn’t change our responsibilities. Our jobs are to love and support our children while teaching them how to navigate in a world where good and bad are in a constant battle. The decision to not want to read this book because of the content came from my son, not a hammer that came down from

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