Students Professors Teachers CHMCA Administration Introduction
Huck Finn Teacher's Guide
Culture Shock Perspectives at Cherry Hill: Teachers
  For many teachers, the key issue concerning challenged material is about academic freedom. Roland LaVoie is a teacher at the Cherry Hill East High School who, though he finds the new curriculum "brilliant" in the way it balances the concerns of all parties, has chosen not to attend the workshop (and thus not teach the book). "If we take away the English teacher's ability to apply judgment to a work of literature, we're just delivery machines . . . we might as well be on videotape," he explains.

Some of the teachers who eventually wrote and/or taught the new curriculum sympathize with this point of view, but Sandy Forchion, a Cherry Hill East High School English teacher and the co-writer of the new curriculum, says that, "For me it's hard to understand those teachers who don't want to change even after kids come to you and say they're hurt and want to stay out of class. How can you not find a way to address that?" Other teachers felt strongly enough about Huck Finn remaining in the high school curriculum to try the new curriculum. "I'd rather change my approach to a novel than lose the right to teach it," says Marge Kraemer, an English teacher at Cherry Hill West High School.

The challenge for the writers of the final curriculum, Sandy Forchion and Matthew Carr (also an English teacher at Cherry Hill East), was to balance the interests of all the groups while creating something that would remain true to the meaning of the novel. For Carr, it was important to discover that this challenge to Huck Finn was "not just some current, 'PC' thing" but an issue that had been raised continuously over the last forty years. Forchion's position was unique: "I was a black English teacher who was against censorship, but who had despised the way Huck Finn was taught to me when I was in school."

Advice

  • Know your school or district's policy on handling challenges, and make sure it is followed correctly.

  • Keep an open mind. Show parents, says Forchion, that "they're dealing with people who can see both sides."

  • Be an advocate for your colleagues at every step of the process. "Keep asking yourself, how will this feel to teachers in the classroom?" says Carr.

  • Develop the curriculum so that teachers have a great deal of choice and flexibility.

Next: Perspectives from Cherry Hill: Professors


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