Baldwin Co. School Superintendent releases statement on controversial reading list
BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WPMI) —
Baldwin County School Superintendent Eddie Tyler released a press release Friday morning addressing a viral reading list:
With the 4th of July Independence Day weekend in sight, I find myself reflecting back over the events of last week centered around a 12th grade social studies summer reading list that was posted at one of our schools.
A teacher posted a summer reading list without first presenting the list for approval by the social studies departmental committee at the school. The list was withdrawn, but almost immediately people started complaining and assuming that the reading list was removed because it was comprised of a list of conservative authors.
Responses posted to websites like the Huffington Post and other social media outlets from California and Illinois started complaining that we, the Baldwin County Public School System, were circulating right wing propaganda to our students.
I can honestly say that I am not losing any sleep over what the folks in California think about what we are doing in the Baldwin County Public School System!
As I looked over the list, I recognized several of the authors. In fact, there are a few books on the list which I’d like to read. The content of the list might be of concern to some people, but it wasn’t my concern. The failure of the teacher to follow the process was my concern.
The Baldwin County Public School System has a process for approving books that are not on the approved reading list.
Even if the books were authored by other well-known people such as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi, I would have reacted in the same manner. The problem wasn’t the list, the problem was that the list had not gone through the proper vetting process. After speaking with the teacher, he admitted as much, and I appreciated his honesty.
I encouraged the teacher to read all of the books on the list and if he so chooses recommend the books he feels are important for students to read to the social studies departmental committee for review at the appropriate time next year. If he does not think that the books he submits receive a fair review, I have asked him to contact me to discuss any concerns he may have with the review process. However, I believe that any books placed before the social studies departmental committee will be given a thorough review by those educators.
ALL of our students need a healthy dose of both sides of political arguments and viewpoints, both conservative and liberal. Exposing our students to different thoughts and asking our students to consider differing points of view is what education is all about!
This social studies list does not worry me. What I worry about is exposing students to a book on Jack and Jane showing up in a 2nd grade classroom with inappropriate pictures and talking about a subject that might be offensive to parents. I do not want this to happen. When we don’t adhere to a process for vetting an official reading list we find ourselves in jeopardy of placing inappropriate material in the hands of students. It is my job as superintendent to not allow this to happen at any grade level!
I am very proud of our teachers and the work they do! I want our teachers to push our students to think outside the box and consider many perspectives before arriving at the truth for themselves. I ask that teachers challenge their students and expose them to different ways of thinking! While I encourage this, we have to keep in mind that there is a process in place to allow that exposure to happen. We must ensure that our efforts are appropriate, peer reviewed and approved.
Many complain that public education relies on too much liberal indoctrination. I do not believe that to be the case in Baldwin County Public Schools. I encourage our teachers to balance their teachings of political philosophies so they appropriately reflect the real world we live in today. As superintendent, I want our students to have a balanced education.
As we pause to celebrate our 4th of July Independence Day, please take time to appreciate that we are free to discuss ALL of these ideas. We should be able to celebrate those things on which we agree as well as argue against those on which we disagree.
This is a testament to the awesome country we live in. I am proud of what we teach our students in the Baldwin County Public School System. We want students to be proud of our country’s history and to be able to intelligently engage in discussions on politics.
I am Eddie Tyler, Superintendent of the Baldwin County Public School System and I am BALDWIN PROUD!