Above is a screenshot of the note a 10th grade Daniel High School English Teacher in Pickens County, SC sent home with the controversial book STAMPED, written by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi when she assigned the book to her 10th grade students to read.
It is admirable that the teacher sent a note home explaining why she was sending the book home. Parents should know the reasoning behind a teacher assigning a book to read... and especially a controversial book.
However, whenever I read this teacher's note, my critical thinking skills went into overdrive, and I couldn't help but give my opinion of the note. So what follows is my interpretation and opinion of what I think the teacher's underlying message in her note was. Again, this is strictly MY OPINION.
My translation that follows below is my opinion of what the teacher really should have said in her note to parents:
Dear Parent or Guardian,
I'm not telling you who the other author of this book is because he's a controversial author, (Ibram X. Kendi). If you were to google about Mr. Kendi, you might not want your child to read this book. So, I'll just tell you about the co-author who is a successful popular young adult author. I value the co-author, Jason Reynolds writings and opinions, and you should too. I won't tell you the real reason Jason Reynolds co-authored this book was to make the adult controversial version of STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING easier for teenage students to read. And I sure won't tell you that Jason Reynolds even wrote another version of this book STAMPED for kids as young as first grade. And I sure don't want to tell you his co-author, Mr. Kendi wrote a book called ANTIRACIST BABY for parents to read to their babies! I won't remind you that this book aligns to Critical Race Theory either.
This book is really just a conversation starter about racism in our country. And I want to have this conversation in my classroom because I want to know your child's opinions about racism so that myself and your child's classmates will know which category your child falls under according to Jason Reynolds opinion that people fall into 3 categories. You are either a Segregationist or an Assimilationist or and Anti-Rascist. And after your child reveals their thoughts on racism, we will know which category they will fit in.
I'm not just your child's teacher, I too am a parent. And my husband and I have the desire to make decisions about what your child should be exposed to based on our knowledge of how to raise a child.
My husband and I think children should be exposed to authors who believe all white people are racists and racism is everywhere even if we can't see it. We want discussions to take place about this issue in my classroom with their peers so that everyone will know each other's thoughts and we can judge each other.
We realize you, as your child's parent, may not want your child to read this book or for other children to read this book because they might bully your child over what they say in our classroom discussions, but my husband and I think it's beneficial to have your son or daughter gain from discussing these adult controversial topics.
Even though you think it might be best for you, the parent, to discuss these sensitive issues at home on racism, my husband and I think you should do what we think is best. So therefore, we are asking all the students in my class to read this controversial book and discuss it in class even though their minds are not fully developed yet and there is intense peer pressure at this time in their lives.
But please know that even if you are a racist yourself and have concerns about me assigning this book, I ask you to communicate with me directly so I will know exactly which child's parents are actually racist and fear letting their child be exposed to theories that contradict at home family values, attitudes, morals and beliefs.
I ask that you contact me directly, and not go to the principal or school board over my selection of reading material.
Your child's 10th Grade English Teacher
Again, the above is just my personal opinion and translation of what the letter sent would say if you read between the lines, or if you used your discernment of what the underlying message was. I could be totally wrong...but I could be right. You decide...we're adults, we can handle hard conversations.
The question is, are teenagers emotionally ready to handle adult conversations about controversial issues? Will reading books like this spark more divisiveness and spark more violence in our schools? Or more importantly, should teachers be assigning controversial books that are against the SC Budget Proviso law which inculcate that your skin color is the most important thing about you?
Opinion Article (by Johnnelle Raines)