The Post and Courier reports that parents at Wando High School want to remove Bret Lott’s novel The Hunt Club, a coming of age story about a fifteen-year-old boy living in the Lowcountry, from the list of recommended summer reading. The Pasleys accuse the book of being in bad taste and inappropriate. They don’t like the strong language. And they claim the book is racist and sexist.
Do they know who Brett Lott is? He’s a Christian. He teaches Sunday School. And he is a professor of English at the College of Charleston. He has published 12 books, won awards, and edited one of the top literary journals in the country. He even was chosen by Oprah for her book club, who, by the way, would never choose an author who has written racist, sexist books.
I have to ask: did they even do their homework?
If they had, they would be focusing on the fact that this book is a choice among others, one their son isn’t required to read. They could recognize that the novel is a respected author’s attempt to explore good and evil in a framework they find uncomfortable. They could agree to disagree and let their son choose another book from the reading list. But, no. That’s not what they are doing. Instead, they want to make sure that no other Wando student gets to read it for credit.
Although most of my career has been in college teaching, I did teach high school English for four years here in the Lowcountry. In fact, I was the chair of the department, which means I helped choose and promote the summer reading books. I can't begin to tell you how difficult this task was. Balancing the needs of the students, teachers, administrators, and parents was not easy.
I did run into some problems with parents about certain selections. However, those problems ended when I included on the Summer Reading List this information from the American Picture Association of American, the moral guardians of Hollywood:
PG-13 — Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13. A PG-13 rating is a sterner warning by the Rating Board to parents to determine whether their children under age 13 should view the motion picture, as some material might not be suited for them. A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category. The theme of the motion picture by itself will not result in a rating greater than PG-13, although depictions of activities related to a mature theme may result in a restricted rating for the motion picture. Any drug use will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. More than brief nudity will require at least a PG-13 rating, but such nudity in a PG-13 rated motion picture generally will not be sexually oriented. There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence. A motion picture’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context. The Rating Board nevertheless may rate such a motion picture PG-13 if, based on a special vote by a two-thirds majority, the Raters feel that most American parents would believe that a PG-13 rating is appropriate because of the context or manner in which the words are used or because the use of those words in the motion picture is inconspicuous.
I told the parents that: “If you are letting your high school student watch PG-13 movies, then you shouldn’t have any problems with these books.” And they didn’t – when put in this context. The Pasleys shouldn't, either.
I believe that parents should have the final say in what their high school student views or reads. That should be their choice. However, I don't believe that any parents should impose their choices on others.
The Wando reading list offers other choices. The Pasleys should choose what they want their high school student to read, and let other parents do the same.
by Amy Hudock