District cuts books from required reading list

Trevor Nichols, News Editor

Katy ISD leadership removed “A Thousand Acres” and “Fight Club” from required reading lists for the 2013-2014 school year, following parental complaints over the use of the books during a school board meeting.

“Katy ISD is not an entity that is separate and apart from the community, rather it is an integral part of it, which is why the community’s values are our values,” Superintendent Alton Frailey said in an online statement. “When we are made aware of places where those values do not align, we are open and willing to work with the community in a positive manner to find solutions that are in the best interest of students.”

Besides the previously announced changes to school curriculum, the school district has also stated that it will review its book selection process, after parents at the board meeting charged that the books in the current English curriculum could negatively influence their children’s behavior.

“I think the parents jumped the gun on saying that the books teach their children to do the behavior shown in the book,” AP Literature teacher Susan Shank said. “I think that parents ought to trust that the 18 years of guidance that they’ve given their children is enough, and their children will be able to make their decisions based on those values that they already have implanted in them, and not just from reading a book.”

English classes throughout Katy ISD teach “A Thousand Acres,” the summer reading requirement for this year’s AP Literature classes. Only Seven Lakes English classes teach “Fight Club.” Community complaints about the two books center on references to sex and violence throughout both novels.

“I support the removal of ‘A Thousand Acres’ from English classes,” senior Jeffrey Lee said. “Some of the themes in the book, like rape and incest, left me and other people reading it in a dark place.”

The novel “Fight Club” drew many complaints from parents in the Seven Lakes area prior to the school board meeting. The book’s violent nature and explicit undertones prompted some to question its required use in the school’s curriculum.

“Here at Cinco Ranch, if we pick book titles that may have some areas that parents aren’t comfortable with, we usually always have a sort of a safe choice as an alternative, so that if a parent goes ‘I don’t like this,’ there’s another option,” English instructional coach Tracy Wade said. “We should always provide that for kids, so that they’re comfortable with what they’re reading. I don’t think that’s necessarily what happened at Seven Lakes with ‘Fight Club,’ and I think that’s why it became such an issue: because there was no choice.”

The controversial removal of the two books from the English curriculum has drawn accusations of censorship and a lack of understanding of the books that were removed.

“When we choose books for the class, we choose books that College Board has suggested, and ‘A Thousand Acres’ was actually a book that the head reader of the AP Literature exam suggested to us at a Rice University workshop that I attended,” Shank said. “If they threw out every book that had any questionable material, we would have to throw out all of Shakespeare, all of Dickens, probably all of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte and Emily Bronte, and those are considered classics.”

Other concerns about the removal of the novels from English curriculum include the concern that the district did not follow previously established Katy ISD policy when removing the books from required reading lists.

“We’ve always had a platform where people could come in and say, ‘I don’t like the book that has been selected,’ and a very specific process has been developed for that,” Wade said. “The process really means that we build a committee with parents and teachers and district personnel. We all look at the book together, and we all make a decision. In this particular situation, it felt a lot like that process was not followed.”

Replacements for the two novels in the school curriculum for next year have not yet been decided.