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OPINION: Haverford’s Curriculum Curation Doesn’t Get the Same Treatment as Other Districts’ in the Mainstream Press

This editorial first appeared in Broad + Liberty

Students and activists at Haverford Middle School are seeking to prohibit the use of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the school’s English curriculum due to concerns of racially insensitive language in the book.

Actually, let’s try that again: students and activists at Haverford Middle School are trying to BAN BOOKS that teach critical lessons about the history of racial injustices in the American South.

Is that inflammatory enough?

It’s true that activist students are trying to rid the middle school curriculum of a classic yet difficult read about America’s history of racial inequalities, and it’s true that this is rooted in a belief that certain speech and words ought to be restricted in the classroom without exception.

But the notion that this is a “book ban” is nonsense — and the people who oppose the book’s inclusion in the curriculum are presumably well-intentioned.

The public seems to be at a consensus about this — nobody is calling Haverford’s curriculum review a “book ban” or attributing malicious intentions to the students and activists seeking the book’s removal, and for good reason.

Yet, you can count on the use of this sort of rhetoric within most articles you read about “book bans” in high school and middle schools nationwide.

What stands out about the Haverford case is that, under the new definition of “book ban” the media has created and weaponized, these discussions at Haverford should be held on par with cases like those in Central Bucks and the Bob Graham Education Center in Miami.

The Central Bucks School District came under fire for removing the graphic novel “Gender Queer” from its school libraries due to parent concerns about the book depicting oral sex between two teenagers. Opponents of the removal deemed it a “book ban” and characterized the district’s decision as homophobic — and of course, the media ran with this idea.

At Bob Graham Elementary, Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem was moved from a shelf in a library media center for grade-schoolers and put on a shelf for middle-schoolers. Jonah Goldberg wrote an excellent piece highlighting the media’s abrupt characterization of this move as a “book ban.” Get a load of some of the headlines Goldberg cites about this:

Vox: The latest book ban target: Amanda Gorman’s poem from the Biden inauguration

Daily MailMiami elementary school BANS students from reading poem Amanda Gorman recited at Biden’s inauguration after parent complained it spread ‘hate messages’

ABCPoet Amanda Gorman criticizes book ban effort in Florida targeting Biden’s inauguration poem

So why is it that the situations in Central Bucks and Bob Graham were considered “book bans,” yet Haverford Middle School gets a pass for pulling one of the most influential anti-racist, anti-Jim Crow literary works of all time, with the media characterizing it as a “curriculum review?”

This is not to say that any of these instances should be referred to as a “book ban” — there is simply a noticeable difference in how the requirements to be considered a “book ban” in the media seemingly change on a case-by-case basis. None of the cases mentioned above are actual book bans.

Up until recently, most of the world seemed to agree that a book readily available and legal to purchase and possess is not “banned.” In the case of Central Bucks, it appears that students aren’t even technically prohibited from possessing “Gender Queer” at school — it’s just not available for checkout at the school library anymore.

What at first appears to be the typical melodrama we’ve come to expect from political activists is starting to seem like a politically motivated collaboration between those on the Left and the complicit media to redefine and weaponize the term “book ban.”

A term which, prior to its recent redefinition, was a pre-existing term that did, and still, means something truly awful in many parts of the world where people are routinely jailed or killed for possessing or authoring certain books.

By traditional definitions, the “book bans” that have made headlines in recent years have been outright failures considering that, despite some books being removed from school libraries, you can still find them on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, at public libraries, or any chain or local bookstore that may be carrying them.

However, the fear-inducing reputation of historical “book bans” are part of the appeal of utilizing this term to elicit an emotional, mobilizing response from school communities, thus leveraging the power of demonstrators to serve political purposes which, in this case, favor the Left.

Realistically, would the media have described this effort in Haverford as a “book ban” if it were being led by right-wing, anti-CRT activists who believed the book, or the way it was being taught, was too racially divisive for young students and thus should be pulled?

Is it unrealistic to imagine they’d be dragged through the mud like Ron DeSantis when his administration rejected an AP African American history course due to its perceived divisiveness and basis in CRT?

Despite all of this, the people who organize against perceived “book bans” are, indeed, probably well-intentioned — specifically those who are concerned about free speech and ready access to controversial thoughts and ideas. However, it appears they are being misled by those who benefit from the chaos caused by these widely overblown stories.

Ultimately what one believes students ought to have access to in school is extremely subjective and, in the instance of library books, really ought to be viewed on a case-by-case basis.

And if you really feel strongly about having a particular book available to you or someone you know, Google it and you’ll probably find it available to read or purchase. Let’s stop being so theatrical about it.

Haverford’s Matthew Crater Named PA’s Outstanding Assistant Principal

Haverford Middle School Assistant Principal Matthew Crater has been named Pennsylvania’s outstanding Assistant Principal for 2022 by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP).

Crater, a graduate of West Chester University, took the news in stride.

“I was never one to apply for awards,” Crater told Delaware Valley Journal. “I do appreciate it. I’m a little humbled about it. When people talk to me about it, I kind of brush it off.

“My wife is like 10 times more excited than I am,” he confessed.

Crater, who has been Haverford’s sixth-grade assistant principal for five years, started on the path toward his career early in life. In high school, he worked with the YMCA and helped with their camps dealing with children from all backgrounds, including those in the special needs community.

“At that time I knew I wanted to work with kids through that experience,” Crater said. “I started to run the YMCA day camps over the summertime, so that’s kind of where my passion for leadership grew. Supervising other people and working directly with kids, that’s where that all started.”

Crater also has a personal interest in helping special needs students.

“I have a sister with Down Syndrome,” Crater explained, “so I was involved with Special Olympics and Special Olympic swimming. So that was more exposure to kids and adults with special needs.” He also worked at the West Chester Y.

“Obviously, (it’s) a much different demographic in socioeconomic status but I still loved it. I was the director for camps there at West Chester. As I went through my experience at West Chester in elementary education, with that came internships and practicums and student teaching and all of that. So I really just fell in love with working with kids. With my leadership experience with the Y, I had a growing interest in being a leader in general. I graduated from West Chester, and then I went down to Maryland to teach.”

After a stint in Anne Arundel County, Md. (“My school was just minutes away from the Naval Academy”) Crater landed a job at Haverford Middle School and has been there ever since. He began as a 6th-grade science teacher and kept that role for two years before accepting the assistant principal job.

“My favorite part is that every day is different,” Crater said. “I’m not a routine type of guy. I don’t like the professions where you show up and do the same exact thing every day. Even as a teacher, for the most part, your day is the same.

“But as an assistant principal, as much as you plan, I’d say 25 percent of the time I’m able to follow my schedule. The other 75 percent of the time the day takes me in different directions. And I love that,” Crater said.

Beyond anything else, helping children grow into mature human beings is what Crater enjoys about his job.

“Guiding them through good decision making is another part of what I like doing,” Crater said. “Helping the kids and steering them in the right direction.”

Asked what winning the honor meant to him, Crater said it was the feedback from parents of kids who have gone on to high school that means a lot.

When asked what he thought about being named Pennsylvania’s 2022 Assistant Principal, Crater said that he doesn’t like big recognition.

“Getting emails and calls from them just saying, ‘Hey, I always knew you were the greatest. Now the whole state knows!’ That’s the part I like about it. Just hearing from families, hearing from kids. You know, there are kids in the hallways that stop me and say congratulations. That’s the cool part.”

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