Scholars and parents from Palm Harbor University High School International Baccalaureate Program appeared before the Pinellas County School Board in opposition to the administration’s banning of award-winning author Toni Morrison’s book ‘The Bluest Eye.’
BY GOLIATH J. DAVIS, III, PH.D., Contributor
PINELLAS COUNTY — Valentine’s Day 2023 was the best my community and I have had in many years. Scholars and parents from Palm Harbor University High School International Baccalaureate Program (IB) appeared before the Pinellas County School Board in opposition to the administration’s banning of award-winning author Toni Morrison’s book “The Bluest Eye.”
Palm Harbor University High School is one of the district’s flagship schools, and it was so fitting to watch their best and brightest white students and parents lead the charge for diversity and inclusion.
Both scholars and parents were professional, informed, articulate and well-prepared. I was so impressed with their presentations, delivery, respect for authority and commitment to fairness, diversity, inclusion and African-American history. They established several important points.
First, they made everyone aware that one mother, who is a private school teacher, and her son exercised their privilege and political connections to secure the banning of “The Bluest Eye” based on subjective criteria and political ambitions.
Additionally, they established that during their meeting with District Administrator Dan Evans, it was apparent the district violated its own policy, was not aware the book had been read by IB students for several years, and students who did not wish to read the two contested pages of the 244-page book could opt out, and the teacher would provide alternative reading material.
In fact, one student went point by point over the articulated lesson plan for school-based librarians and refuted each point to include the most salient one cited by the district, i.e., the definition of pornography. She clearly established the book was not pornographic.
The district continually asserts that they are compelled to ensure they do no harm to students. The position is understandable, but in this instance, it is not defensible. The scholars who had read the book as part of the IB curriculum testified they are better persons as a consequence.
The scholars eloquently articulated the intent of the two contested pages within the context of the entire book. They spoke to the empathy they learned regarding the African-American experience and how the book alerted them to the structural issues in our society that must be addressed. In fact, they indicated they needed more African-American history classes.
Further, they stressed the importance of reading and discussing Morrison’s work under the tutelage of their competent instructor. Having observed their presentations, I concur! The scholars did not appear harmed in any way. Instead, they were better for having had the experience.
As noted by parents during their presentations, book bans are the acts of totalitarian dictators and antithetical to what we in America stand for in a democratic country. Scholars do not become gay from reading gay authors and singling out authors of color and other marginalized scholars/writers speak to the fears and political aspirations of those in power.
I join the Palm Harbor University High School scholars and their parents in calling for reinstating “The Bluest Eye” in the curriculum. As I indicated in an earlier communique with the district and as the scholars established, it need not be an all-or-nothing proposition.
Students and parents who desire to opt-out have already been allowed to do so. The superintendent should amend the district’s policy to include the opt-out option, reinstate the book and move forward.
Courage is the order of the day. The scholars have earned their badges. The ball is now in the district’s court.
One Reply to “Kudos to Palm Harbor scholars and parents”
Kudos to Dr. Davis for such a well written article. The subject matter was laid out to the point that the most uninformed resident could read it and have a level of confidence in talking about it.
I am hopeful that the school board members, the superintendent and all stakeholders will support the scholars from Palm Harbor University in their efforts to restore “The Bluest Eyes” to the bookshelves of our schools.