A parent in one of the wealthiest school districts in Texas wants students to read Ayn Rand instead of a non-fiction examination of American poverty.
Dawson Orr, superintendent of Highland Park Independent School District, had temporarily suspended “The Working Poor: Invisible in America” and six other books in the fall after parents complained, reported The Dallas Morning News.
The 2005 book, written by Pulitzer Prize winner David Shipley, examines the lives of Americans who live just above the poverty line despite their willingness to work.
Orr reinstated the books after the suspensions received national attention, and the school district is reviewing its policy for selecting books and responding to complaints.
A parent filed a formal complaint about the book, which was assigned to juniors who take the college-level Advanced Placement English III, saying the material was better suited for a political science or sociology class.
“’The Working Poor’ is not a great work of literature or an example of rich writing we want our students to emulate,” wrote the parent, whose name was not released. “One must ask, is this the best piece of literature our students can read to learn to write?”
Instead, the parent suggested students learn about poverty by reading “We The Living,” by Ayn Rand, “America the Beautiful,” by conservative pundit Ben Carson, or “Out of the Dust,” by Karen Hesse, the 1998 Newberry Award winner recommended for readers ages 8 to 12.
The parent said she objected to Shipler’s depiction of abortion and sexual abuse, saying the book showed women “as weak, pathetic, ignorant, sexual objects and incapable beings.”
Shipler told the newspaper he wasn’t aware of any other challenges to his book, saying that it contained no “prurient, obscene or sexually explicit” content.
“The women who told me they had been sexually abused as children told me that because they felt the trauma was relevant to their lasting problems,” he said.
Shipler said he frequently speaks to high school students, and he said most of them are mature enough to read about troubling situations and learn from them.