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'Water for Elephants' Ruled Okay for Students

The West Chester School Board voted to continue to use the novel "Water for Elephants" as part of some of the district's curriculum on Monday.

The West Chester School Board voted to continue using the novel “Water for Elephants” as part of the curriculum for some of the district’s sophomore students on Monday.

At last month’s school board meeting a parent called the book inappropriate for district’s students and even read aloud one of the more explicit passages at the meeting.

“I think that the district’s continued use of this book is sheer lunacy,” said Mary Jo Zengel, the parent who originally objected to the book’s content and made a statement on Monday. 

Zengel went on to say that she didn’t understand why students had to read this book, and not a different book with similar themes like “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Another parent, Amy Ludwig said that “Water for Elephants” is well written, but she didn’t think it was appropriate.

“It’s mainly an issue of age-appropriate content,” Ludwig said.  “I’m surprised that the district approved of such a highly sexually explicit book.”

After the district originally received a complaint from Zengel, it formed a committee to explore the appropriateness of the novel.

The committee consisted of one high school senior, several teachers, community members and district officials.

The committee ruled 8-1 in favor of the book’s appropriateness.

The committee’s main contention was that not all students have to read the book.  Some students in a 10th grade honors English class at Henderson were given the choice of three novels that focused on similar themes.

Students could choose between “Water for Elephants,” “Grapes of Wrath” and “Mr. Vertigo.” 

Then the students would break into groups and discuss their chosen book.

The committee added to its report that all parents who had students in this class received a list from the teacher with the potential novels the students had the choice of reading.

The list included a warning to parents that some of the books might contain objectionable material, and that the teacher would be willing to discuss any objections a parent might have with that parent.

Parents then signed the piece of paper, and it was returned to the teacher.

“This brings to light what I think is the most beneficial outcome to this whole discussion,” said school board member Dr. Maria Pimley who also served on the committee.  “That is the importance of the role that parents must play in their child’s education.”

Pimley added, “It should help to create and encourage open and free dialogue between parents, teachers and students in order to ensure that our children are receiving a thorough, balanced and critical presentation of curricular materials.”

edufan February 02, 2013 at 10:00 PM
A very responsible and mature post, Max. You are wise beyond your years, and maybe you have taught a few "adults" who blog here how to write an opinion without berating another.
Andrea H. February 05, 2013 at 09:13 PM
Someone help me, I'm confused. I'm told that the reason it is okay for our sophmores to be reading Water For Elephants with its' breast slapping stripper, master bating midget and oral sex, is because the students are such remarkable, mature, young adults. Now we read that a ridiculous percentage are involved in illegal drinking, binge drinking and drug use? Which is it? Are they remarkably mature, or remarkably immature. Maybe once the hangovers subside and the pot smoke clears they can gather to discus the literary value of Water for Elephants with profound maturity. Somehow I doubt that's what they are discussing around the lunch tables. Believe it or not, the 50% not spending the weekend getting drunk or high may actually be trying to live a virtuous life. Why not make some literature choices to uphold their values? (Oops, "values" is almost a dirty word, isn't it?). Let us not forget our District's mission is to "inspire our students to achieve their personal best". Hopefully they will achieve this "best" in areas other than how to score the "best" weed.
edufan February 06, 2013 at 04:52 AM
Water for Elephants was not the only book choice, and it seems to me that you are making assumptions that the students who chose to read this book are not trying to live a virtuous life. That is an unfair statement, but in my opinion, so are your sarcastic remarks.
Thomas Jackson February 06, 2013 at 10:01 AM
May be unfair but you are an idiot and because of people like you is why we have to deal with a crewed up hippie-like culture today. I believe the point being made is that the school's (leadership) presumption that the students are "mature" enought to handle such books are shot down with the latest report of immature behavior with the abuse of drugs and alcohol
edufan February 06, 2013 at 06:23 PM
So, Thomas Jackson, calling me an idiot is virtuous? The Hippie culture started over 40 years ago and it doesn't appear to me to be active today. Reading literature in a mature environment guided by professional educators is making kids abuse drugs and alcohol? I just don't understand that logic.

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