Summer Reading Picks Criticized by Conservative “Watchdogs”

In an effort to engage students in a shared reading experience on today's most pressing issues, colleges across the country are assigning summer reading.

I recently wrote a summer reading post for Care2 listing ten must-read books on issues of education and diversity.  One of the comments I received was not typical of all the responses, but certainly echoed the current national backlash against addressing diversity and inclusion in schools and colleges:

Sounds like the bs from the far left progressives, esp. when I hear the prefix ‘trans’ . . . lets [sic] stick to teaching the kids solid basics. This country is becoming more stupid each year and the teachers are to blame.

Sadly, myopic attitudes—whether they be racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, or transphobic, like the one above—about diversity in our schools have become the norm when attacking inclusive education. From Arizona’s banning of ethnic studies to Texas textbooks eliminating the word “slavery” for the term “Triangle Trade,” education is suffering from hateful slings and arrows.

To add further insult to our work as educators, a new study, “Beach Books: What Do Colleges Want Students to Read Outside of Class?,” from the National Association of Scholars “found that 70 percent of the summer reading books assigned to incoming college freshmen in the U.S. show a liberal bias and are not academically challenging.”

The NAS considers itself “higher education’s most vigilant watchdog” over such issues as “trivialized curricula” and “oppose racial, gender, and other group preferences.”

It’s not surprising then, that the NAS had the most beef with the fact that “multiculturalism/immigration/racism” was the most “dominant theme” in the selections made by colleges for students to read this summer.  What makes them most hot under the collar is that:

This is a bundle of themes that most students have been saturated with since kindergarten. We question whether in their introduction to college they need once again to be subjected to this form of attitudinizing.

But it’s exactly this “bundle of themes” that we are struggling with today from our classrooms to our boardrooms.  If students and indeed, their teachers, were actually engaged in thoughtful and productive conversations about race via shared reading experiences, we would not have such a plethora of racist incidents happening in our colleges and schools, from elementary to high school. We would not have principals deciding to whiten the faces of children of color on murals and then take it back with a flimsy apology; we would not have teachers allowing their students to dress up in KKK robes; and we would not have teachers removing a student of color from class because they don’t like the fragrance of a girl’s hair care product.

While summer reading will certainly not eradicate racism, not addressing the issue at all will lead us nowhere. We need to begin the conversation somewhere, and that somewhere has its rightful place in school. Summer reading may just be the right place to start.

To find the list of summer reading books selected by colleges, please click here.

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2 thoughts on “Summer Reading Picks Criticized by Conservative “Watchdogs”

  1. Let’s not forget the Texans, Kansans, etc. trying to give equal footing to “intelligent design” vs. evolution in textbooks.

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