Back to the books
Baker School District teachers now have an excellent example of how to bring books into the classroom that have not been approved for use.
District officials recently added Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns to the supplemental materials list for the Baker High School language arts program at the request of teacher Dianne Ellingson.
Approval was made only after Ellingson wrote a review of the book describing its merits and how teaching the book would benefit her students.
The districts action is significant because Cold Sassy Tree was one of 21 books dropped from a list of hundreds in July 2000 when the supplemental materials list was adopted by the Baker School Board.
And not one of those books has been restored to the curriculum until now.
At the time, we were critical of the district and school board for their handling of public objections to the books.
While they solicited input from the public, no effort was made to discern credible objections from flimsy or even mean-spirited ones. Several of the 21 books were dropped for receiving objections no more thoughtful than a list of page numbers.
Several books by Oregon author and one-time Baker City resident Craig Lesley were removed from the list after a parent objected Craig Lesley ... writes notes to Mrs. (Barbara) Gornick. Makes one wonder if as a friend she may be trying to help him sell books.
After the books were removed, then-Superintendent Toni Hardman said the books would be reviewed on a case by case basis.
None was until now.
Curiously, the original objections to Cold Sassy Tree were among the most credible and thoughtful lodged against any of the 21 books.
Parents who still object to the book, however, still have the option of asking for an alternate selection for their child.
The districts action shows, however, that proposals to teach any of the other 20 excluded books will receive a fair reception and review.
It is curious to note that, technically, books not originally included on the list or even in print as of July 2000 cannot be taught in Baker schools unless, that is, they are put through the same process used for Cold Sassy Tree.
This is critical information. Those 21 books werent banned they just werent included, like any number of thousands of other texts in print but left off that original list.
The community needs to recognize theres no mystery, and theres definitely no book banning. Theres a process and it appears to be one that works.