Guest Opinion: Mockery of religion doesn't belong in classroom


May 3, 2014 

I am responding to Mr. Bill Roberts' commentary of April 8 in the Idaho Statesman.

I'm the grandmother who opposes the book, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." Many individuals associate me with a one-minute video clip from the Meridian School Board meeting. Several of these individuals think they know my character and my motivation based on that lone clip. Some have tried to insinuate that I am a self-righteous, narrow-minded, uneducated and radical old woman. That is simply not the case.

Like you, my husband and I raised two children, a daughter and a son. Both attended Meridian schools. Additionally, I am highly invested in education and hold a master's degree in early childhood education. Until retiring 12 years ago to raise our grandson, 27 of my 37 years of teaching were spent in Meridian. I am a passionate individual, that is true, and I take pride in being a person of integrity. I would be a hypocrite if I did not step up and fight for what I think is in the best interest of students in our community. Twelve years ago I retired from the classroom; my passion for the education of children was not retired.

Sir, we view this book through different lenses. I am Irish, Swedish and Cherokee, and I am proud of my heritage. As a child, I learned about Sequoyah and the desire of the Cherokees to read and write so they could share the power of whites. They had their own constitution and the Cherokee Nation. My proud ancestors were forced to leave Missouri and were moved to Oklahoma. They left blood and tears on over 4,000 graves along the Trail of Tears. This plight should be taught today, as well as the current struggles that many Native Americans face.

The reason I oppose this book is because of the "extra" stuff. I will not share the explicit excerpts in the newspaper. I cannot say them on television or radio, either. That is rather telling. I'm very pleased that excerpts on the joys of masturbation, explicit sexual references (placing body parts in the knotholes of trees or getting an erection from hugging a teacher), profanity (including the n-word and the f-bomb), and the mocking of our savior are now out of the classroom. That is all I have hoped to achieve.

I am not opposed to having this book in a library. People should have the freedom to read what they desire, and there are obviously those who want to read it. I am staunchly opposed, however, to having the book in a public school curriculum. It does not belong there. It is in direct violation to the principles and values that many of us hope to instill in our children. On this point, I do not advocate that my morals and values be placed on others. Instead, I advocate that we disallow any literature (or other materials) from our public school curriculums that blatantly contrasts the core Christian beliefs that are indigenous to our community. What if the book mocked Muhammad instead of Christ? Would the book be taught? No! It would be recognized as wrong and insensitive. And, I'd be as opposed to the teaching of that, too.

Let's be clear. I do not propose that any other books be removed. I simply ask that this book be removed from the curriculum, that the district follows the same guidelines that are established for other learning materials. If PG-13 or R-rated movies cannot be shown in the classroom, regardless of redeeming qualities they may have, should it be different for literature? Absolutely not!

Sharon F. Blair, of Boise, is a retired teacher.

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