MONTE VISTA — After some discussion on the book “The Hate U Give,” the Monte Vista School District Board of Education unanimously approved the use of the book in the high school curriculum at their March 15 meeting.
The book by Angie Thomas was questioned by eight parents who spoke at a school board meeting on Feb. 10. Some of the parents did not want the book to be in the district and some of the parents said there should be more transparency in the curriculum.
One parent at the February school board meeting said, “This book has no place in our school system.”
At the time, MVSD Superintendent Scott Wiedeman said, “I am not saying we won’t keep the book or we will keep the book, all I am saying is for now we have to put a stop to the book, because we have to go through a process with the book, before we can move forward, and this process is not a fast one.”
None of the parents who spoke at the meeting in February, spoke at the meeting on March 15.
Only a couple of people spoke about the book on March 15, and each was in favor of having the book in a high school setting.
The book was listed as a discussion item on the March 15 agenda.
First-year Monte Vista High School teacher Mandi Phares spoke for nearly 10 minutes on the book and explained why it was important to have it in her classroom. Phares has been an educator for nearly 20 years.
“It is my literary analysis class that seems to have caused quite a public commotion, given all the things that have been said publicly, about both my classroom and my character. I wanted to take a moment to address the board,” she said. “First of all, I would have hoped that a debate about a book, would have remained just that, about a book. In my classroom students are encouraged to debate books, philosophies, ideas, and cultural perceptions, but they are required at all times to maintain respect for each other. I will not dignify some of the personal attacks against me that have happened with a response, but I will say that I value reading diversity in both my personal life and in my classroom.”
Phares said it was important for students to look at the world from different perspectives and to hear different voices.
“Sifting through, looking at contradictory views, reading about complex information, and making informed decisions,” Phares said. “That’s the world we live in and the world that I am responsible to prepare my students for, and I take that responsibility seriously.”
“The Hate U Give” was published in 2017 and was made into a movie in 2018. Thomas’s debut novel spent 80 weeks on the New York Times Young Adult Best-Seller List. It debuted at number one on the list and spent 50 weeks in that spot.
The book and others dealing with race issues have been banned by officials from classrooms and school libraries or are landing on watch lists. “The Hate U Give” has been challenged since its release for its profanity and depiction of drug dealing, but mostly for its reflection of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Some of parents that spoke at the February meeting labeled the book as being Critical Race Theory infused, claimed it had elements of hate against whites, promoted bullying, had an anti-police message, and said the teacher advocating for the book was promoting a personal agenda.
Phares added that she is a parent and believes that parents should have a voice in what their children are exposed to at school, but also said that when a small but vocal minority gets to determine not what their children are exposed to, but what she is allowed to teach in her classroom, that it does become a significant problem, rather than just a debate about a specific book.
Phares said she has taught many other subjects, that she trusts books, and she chose to be a literature teacher because of her faith in books. She said that she is privileged to teach literature that looks at many hard and complex things, like racism, poverty, faith, dreams and identity. She said there is not a single book on her classroom shelf that does not handle difficult things.
Phares asked what literature would be if everyone stopped reading just from seeing something that was uncomfortable in a book, an idea that is uncomfortable, or disagreeing with a character.
“Great literature challenges our assumptions, and confronts us with new ways of thinking, to embody someone else’s perspective, and to give us questions that we definitely have to ask ourselves,” Phares said.
Phares said she trusts her students and her students live in a rapidly changing world, and she stated that the things her students read about in her books, they also see on television, and on social media that they visit, and in the streets.
Phares said she wants to teach her students that thinking is nothing to fear. She does not believe in shying away from difficult subjects, or in sheltering her students from viewpoints that are not their own. She believes that her students should be exposed to these other viewpoints and that her students are smart enough to make informed decisions as part of their learning process.
The board made a motion and approved, 5-0, the book “The Hate U Give,” for students in Phares’ class.
In other matters, a representative from the business department at the high school said a coffee shop is coming to the school. The addition was due to a grant and the effort of Ed Vigil.
The representative said that a group of kids in accounting are excited about the shop, and they have researched how to operate it. She said some of the students had already thought of a name and a logo for the shop — “Pirates of the Cari Bean.”
The representative said that plans are in the works to have to coffee shop up and running before the end of the year at Monte Vista High School.