Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Shepherd's Grandaughter - new update

Back in March and again in April and June, I reported on efforts by Brian Henry, the B'nai Brith and Trustee Sheila Ward to have the Toronto District School Board ban the acclaimed children's book' The Shepherd's Granddaughter because it tells the story of a Palestinian girl who suffers at the hands of Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Officials of the TDSB reviewed the book and in April ruled that:
the Shepherd's Granddaughter does not cross the line into literature promoting hate or animosity towards others. On the other hand, it has the potential to engage our Grade 7 and 8 students (a critical age for the development of social consciousness about human society) in understanding the complex issues of their world. The Shepherd's Granddaughter contains several themes for creative discussions in our classrooms, such as multigenerational families and relationships, aging; experiencing loss; influences of religion and faith; gender roles, and gender stereotypes, effects of family separation through emigration, the value of education… As well, this book can certainly be used to explore issues of bias and prejudice, and that students can learn from such exploration… Having said that, we acknowledge that guidance from the teachers and teacher librarians is important in producing the desired outcomes described above.
 That decision was appealed and an 11 member committee reviewed the book and advised TDSB Director Chris Spence that the book met the Board's criteria for approval.

Spence issued his decision last week and informed the complainant, Brian Henry, that after reviewing the committee's report and reading the book himself (something Trustee Ward failed to do before vowing to "move heaven and earth" to ban the book) he agrees with the committee that the book “has the potential to engage our Grade 7 and 8 students . . . in understanding the complex issues of their world.”

You'd think that would be the end of it but school trustee James Pasternak is urging Henry to appeal to trustees to overturn Spence's decision claiming that the book "has no place in our schools." Pasternak asserts that "we'll have enough votes to overturn the decision."

This should be an election issue. Contact the school trustees at the email addresses below and tell them what you think. You can find out who your trustee is here or you can write all the trustees using the email addresses below:

irene.atkinson@tdsb.on.ca, nadia.bello@tdsb.on.ca, chris@chrisbolton.ca, john.campbell@tdsb.on.ca, sheila.cary-meagher@tdsb.on.ca, shaun.chen@tdsb.on.ca, michael.coteau@tdsb.on.ca, gary.crawford@tdsb.on.ca, cathy.dandy@tdsb.on.ca, bruce.davis@tdsb.on.ca, gerri.gershon@tdsb.on.ca, howard.goodman@tdsb.on.ca, scott.harrison@tdsb.on.ca, john.hastings@tdsb.on.ca, josh@joshmatlow.ca, james.pasternak@tdsb.on.ca, stephnie.payne@tdsb.on.ca, maria.rodrigues@tdsb.on.ca, mari.rutka@tdsb.on.ca, chris.tonks@tdsb.on.ca, sheila.ward@tdsb.on.ca, soo.wong@tdsb.on.ca, gorick.ng@tdsb.on.ca, fan.wu@tdsb.on.ca, david.tomczak@tdsb.on.ca
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