At their November 17th meeting, the school board accepted an ad hoc review committee’s recommendation to keep Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden and Bernard MacLaverty’s Cal on the required reading list for 11th and 12th grade English classrooms. Death and the Maiden will be moved to school-year instruction, rather than required summer reading, to allow for a guided classroom discussion.
Board members emphasized that, though there are sex scenes in the books, students are already prepared through sex education classes, which are taken in freshman, junior, and senior years.
The parents who signed the online petition in September that prompted the review process are none too pleased, claiming that the deck was stacked against them — with educators. And they say that a policy, still being fine-tuned, to make alternative texts available for complaining parents is too restrictive.
But one parent, Katy Badt-Fissora, who originally was flabbergasted when she learned about the content of Death and the Maiden, wound up serving as proof of the value of the work:
Badt-Frissora said her perspective changed when her son, who normally does not talk about his school work, spent 10 minutes explaining to her how the references represented the experiences during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, how the book paralleled the ongoing conflict in Syria and it fit into a broader discussion about revenge.
"Literally, this kid educated me in such a profound way," she said. "It's risque, it was uncomfortable, but it worked."
Sounds like the kids at Rumson-Fair Haven have some pretty good teachers. Three cheers to the school board for trusting their judgment.