The Germantown School Board approved the purchase of several books for English 9 and American literature courses at the high school Jan. 13.
•200 copies of I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai at a total cost of $2,398;
•200 copies of A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Baeh at a total cost of $1,066; and;
•200 copies of Animal Farm by George Orwell at a total cost of $1,484.
The board approved the purchase of two books for American Literature courses: 180 copies of As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner at a total cost of $1,863 and 180 copies of Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo at a total cost of $1,258.20. American Literature courses are taken during the junior and seniors years of high school.
The board also approved the purchase of 120 copies To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for an honors English class at a total cost of $657.
During board discussion, board member Bruce Warnimont recalled reading To Kill a Mockingbird while Warnimont was in the sixth grade. Warnimont said he was “taken aback” that the book is not read until ninth grade honors English.
“For me personally it was something that profoundly changed my life — it’s one of my most favorite pieces of literature,” Warnimont said. “The way it profoundly changed my life is extremely appropriate for that age group (sixth grade).”
Director of Teaching and Learning Brenda O’Brien confirmed that Mockingbird was read at the middle school. As a result of “vertical alignment” of the curriculum, a request has been made to have the book now read at the high school.
Warnimont later added that he would like to have a conversation of when Mockingbird should be read by district students.
Board member Tom Barney cited comments about Johnny Got His Gun that he located during an Internet search. Barney read comments that described the book as “the worst liberal, left-wing book you were forced to read in high school or college” and “a rally point for the political left.”
“Unless that’s the intent of the book, I’m not sure it’s appropriate,” Barney said of Johnny Got His Gun.
Board member Brian Medved did read Johnny Got His Gun and said the first 10 percent of the book is people talking about the book, which included anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.
“I was a little disturbed by that,” Medved said. “But as I got into the book itself and actually read the book — while it would not be my choice to use this book — I’m not sure I have a problem with the book itself.”
Medved said when he first read the book he was thinking it was for the ninth grade but learned it’s actually for the junior and senior American Literature classes.
“For a freshman (class) I think it’s inappropriate, but for a junior-senior I think they can handle it and can open up some absolutely great discussions with that book,” Medved said. “It obviously is slanted, it was written to be slanted — there’s a lot of background information, I think everybody has looked it up — but the book itself is pretty tame and I think has a message that would open up some unbelievably great discussion and would be appropriate for an American literature class.”
In another matter, the board formally approved the purchase of the Machining Fundamentals textbooks for the high school machine shop class. While other textbooks for machine shop classes were previously replaced for this fall, Machining Fundamentals had a new edition that came out in the late summer. The 30 textbooks will cost $75 each while the instructor’s resources books will cost $275.