As a coalition representing a variety of ages, opinions, and creeds, one thing NA For Change resoundingly agrees on is the necessity of the educator’s role in widening the perspective of students’ minds and perceptions by exposing students to challenging discussions–allowing them and educators to navigate nuance and issues of timely relevance in candid ways. As the school community engages in a discussion about the merits of the New York Times bestselling novel The Hate U Give in a high school English curriculum, we hope to add a new and valuable perspective to this conversation and how it relates to the school district.
The Hate U Give is a book that many in our coalition have read and had transformative discussions about–individualizing the story of a teenager’s struggle with racism, the historically tense relationship between Black communities and police departments, and the urban-suburban divide. Listed in the Young Adult section of the Northland Public Library, its themes offer a context for students to talk about timely issues taking place in our society today, with the benefit of an empathetic instructor to guide the discussion in meaningful, complex, objective, and appropriate ways.
What is the role of an educator, if not to make sense of the world to their students?
Just this week, we witnessed another senseless massacre seemingly rooted in anti-Asian racism in Atlanta. We are happy to know that the school administration is not seriously discussing pulling this book from North Allegheny classrooms. We share the district’s view in this book containing great value, and we wanted to discuss the importance of keeping the book in the school’s curriculum.
The district holds the opportunity to take a definitive stance on the side of educational excellence and true intellectual curiosity by clearly affirming their support for both the teaching of this book and the teachers who discuss it with their students to the faculty and staff–at the very least–and to the rest of the district community as a whole.
Especially in the wake of the district’s Diversity Report released this month, we are happy that the district proved their commitment across the board to diversified curriculums and to demonstrating perspectives beyond those of the Wexford bubble while making a clear statement to parents and educators that the district is not afraid to stand for these principles. As we’ve stated many times before, the leadership of this district sets the tone, and it‘s times like these where it’s important to demonstrate the values the district projects to its students and educators.
Unfortunately, our community faces unprecedented polarization. Schools are the bedrock upon which our communities are founded. The issues discussed in this book, and in a broader context, the history that precludes it going back centuries, are objective truths. When something as menial as a book for young adults becomes so perversely distorted as to be the lightning rod of an emotional political debate–as has happened in more districts than just ours, the school holds the unique ability to act as a standard-bearer for good.
And while the district resolved the issue in an appropriate manner, this topic also reminds us of the work that must happen in the community. The school is a center of the community, and its ability to bring people together must be leveraged for good. We are disappointed that this book has become an issue at all, and we believe it is the district’s responsibility to support its teachers in the face of pushback from a small number of parents.
While we are cognizant of the fact that the novel will remain in the classroom, many students and parents approached NA For Change with the intent to express their support for the novel. The following speakers will read excerpts from The Hate U Give in order to demonstrate its importance in NA’s curriculum in their own perspectives.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that several students and parents stepped forward at the North Allegheny School Board’s work session this month to defend inclusion of The Hate U Give in the ninth grade English curriculum after a local community Facebook page posted parent opposition to the book due to vulgar language and mentions of drugs.
The aforementioned students and parents are members of our coalition and read passages from the novel, coupled with their personal stories with the book in the classroom, to defend the use of the book in an academic setting. As of March 2020, the novel remains in school classrooms as part of the English curriculum.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article covering the meeting’s public remarks may be found here.