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My Daughter's Assigned Reading Worries Me

My kids all go to Catholic school. This is a new school and I haven't completely made up my mind about it. I loved our parish school which was closed down last year due to lack of children. I see many good things about the new school. But this perturbed me a bit.

My seventh grade daughter has been assigned to read a book called "Jefferson's Sons" which is all about Thomas Jefferson's alleged affair with a slave girl which produced children. I asked her why this was an important book to read and she said her teacher didn't explain why. I asked her if she'd ever been assigned to read The Declaration of Independence by this teacher or any other. She said she had not. Now, I've gone over the Declaration with my kids but the school hadn't.

Isn't it more than a little bizarre that these kids haven't even been assigned to read the Declaration of Independence but they're assigned to read about the alleged moral failings of one of our country's founding fathers.

Maybe I'm overreacting. What do you guys think?

*subhead*One-sided.*subhead*

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53 comments:

Micah said...

Sounds like an outrage. I'd refuse to let my kids do it. I'd read it myself, write the report, turn it in to the teacher, and say they'll either give my kid credit for my work because of my refusal to expose her to that garbage or they'll have to defend their choice of reading materials before the principal.

My wife's dad did something similar once. She was late to school because of him, so he showed up to serve her detention. They dropped the whole thing.

ALG Bass said...

You are not over-reacting. If I were you I would ask the teacher, principal, and others about the curriculum and how it differs from what government schools teach.
It is your right, and no Catholic school worth the name would even consider offering the same trash that government schools do.

Suzanne F. said...

How old is your kid? That sounds like fairly adult reading.

Maybe it's just me but I'm skeptical when teachers assign books that are not "classics".

I say read the book and find out what's in it. I suspect it's not good. Then you will have a better idea of what's wrong with this assignment.

The Bard said...

Maybe overreacting. We must teach the truth. When you teach the truth is up to parents but, the truth will come out. Our founding fathers, rabid anti-Catholics they were, were still great men who, with God's help brought something to this earth that is special. This nation. Are they "perfect?" Of course not, when do we talk about this imperfection? Up to you. Also important to understand this imperfection through the lens of history. In their time many of them were pretty good men. When do you tell your daughter that in many States Catholics were not allowed to hold office or vote? Up to you, but it is the truth and important for a complete understanding.

I too am tired of playing games with my Catholic school so next year we are giving home schooling with Seton a try.

melody said...

Not an overreaction. Make a stink. If they ignore you, home educate. You don't have to teach perfectly. You just have to do slightly better than teachers like that.

Blackrep said...

I think that by seventh grade this might be an acceptable footnote in a history text, but a WHOLE BOOK dedicated to this? The book, let me point out, is also a work of fiction, so it immediately loses its claim to "telling the truth" about our nation's founders. What a waste of time. What concerns me more is the wonderful books she could be reading instead of this hyperfocus on one founder's sins. It's a particularly rich period in history for good children's literature, so, doubly unacceptable.

I home school, so I have a pretty thin skin when it comes to PC agenda-driven slog directed at my kids. I would endure any sort of poverty to exercise the right to pick my own curriculum. But, if you don't have that freedom, I would pick some sort of tolerance limit for your family. One of these goofy teachers per semester? Fine. Two or more seems like a deal-breaker and not worth your money, or the risk that the school's formation will eventually trump yours.

Best of luck to you.

Michelle W said...

Get the book "The Jefferson Lies" by David Barton so that your daughter can learn the truth about these alleged sons of Jefferson. If it were me, I'd get my daughter out of school and teach her at home.

Red Cardigan said...

Not overreacting in the least. I heard your concerns years ago from a family friend (military) who was outraged that the Catholic school his kids attended taught them all about Rosie the Riveter but nothing else about World War II in the fourth or fifth grade (and the class was history, so they were skipping a big piece of history to ignore everything about WWII except for Rosie). That family friend went from thinking we homeschoolers were crazy kooks to signing up to homeschool his own kids...

Jefferson's personal failings, whatever the truth about them may be, have little to do with his importance to the origins of our nation, and any school that would focus on the former and exclude the latter has some serious explaining to do.

Foxfier said...

"Here's an introduction to a founding father: questionable accusations accusing him of being a rapist!"
...

Yeah, not over-reacting. I get mad enough when folks throw out that "fact" without being Catholic; add in that they're supposed to be teaching how to be Catholic, and swallowing that theory and pushing it above and beyond why the guy is important stinks on ice.

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Anonymous said...

These kinds of bias that have infiltrated our public school systems are exactly why I homeschool my daughter. She does Christian homeschooling and learns how God fits into science and history, instead of God believe refused and ignored in public education. I recommend homeschooling to anyone who has the ability to do so.
-the other anon

Genty said...

It's a matter of balance. It sounds as if the teacher is pushing the empathy/victim button to harvest an emotional reaction rather than a rational one; a feature of so much education now.
Great men with great ideas also tend to have great flaws and historical study calls for a rounded picture. As Cromwell instructed his portrait painter, Lely: "Warts and everything".
It seems to be a modern trend to use superficial and wholly 21st century judgements for a time which was significantly different. Wrong is wrong, but the context must also be examined to explain the how and the why.

Anonymous said...

I was just at Kneeling Catholic: "Fr. Baron Thinks Gays Should Come Out Of The Closet". Beside the point I'm not surprised. Kneeling Catholic's point here is No! People All should not call attention and public discussion of what should be private. etc. Bingo!
Go to the I pay for this Catholic school and ask genuinely 'What is the purpose". Then say No.

Michelle said...

At this age, it is enough to learn that TJ was a slave owner, despite his good contributions to his country's foundations. You are not overreacting. If the teacher needs some ideas for more age-appropriate and better balanced books, email me or check out any of the online stores that cater to homeschoolers.

The Byzantine Bandit said...

OUTRAGE!!! Go in and raise a fuss.

Mack Hall, HSG said...

In our public school my daughter learned about the Constitution from the social studies teacher who now is also our mayor. I don't know of any of those students not registering to vote upon turning 18.

Since this is Texas, I hardly need add that every student was well grounded in Texas history in 7th grade.

We all must vote, for president, for school board, for parish council.

Nathan said...

If they were pushing a book about Pope Joan or about what a hero M. Luther was, I'd be speaking with the principal, but for the anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, Bible editing Jefferson? Not so much. We don't need hagiographies of the founders, who were far from saints. Have you read what even a devoutly Christian John Adams had to say about Mother Church? Not pretty. Jefferson had nothing but vitriol for Catholicism, which he saw as suppressing the much more 'reasonable' Arianism! I'd save my complaints in case things get really out of hand in teaching the Faith.

Nathan said...

Anonymous, did you listen to Fr. Barron's comments in context? He was arguing against SSM. The point you are misrepresenting was simply that he is against the idea that those with same sex attraction need to pretend they are attracted to members of the opposite sex, he was not endorsing the gay lifestyle or homosexual sex. Repeat after me CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT. God Bless.

KZG said...

As a former social studies teacher (in a Catholic school), no way would I use that book. It's not real 'history', albeit maybe an interesting side bar if students would want to read it on their own-at an older age. In middle school, I have always tried to give my students the basics (constitution, declaration, etc) and many of the facts without trying to slant it too much already; they will get the slanted stuff in high school and college. Also, since I have taught in parochial schools, I know they have standards according to NY and I am sure that subject is not on the new standards/core curriculum-I just hope your daughter learn real facts and figures in history as well. I would email/meet with the teacher if I were you. And ask if they are also going to be assigned a book on the infidelity of Bill Clinton as well. Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

we just pulled our kids out of class this last February, refusing to let them read a similar book in our Catholic school. Big fight with administration.....but we won. Couldn't believe the drama involved. STICK TO YOUR GUNS! You are NOT over reacting. You will be mocked and scourged BECAUSE you are doing the right thing...but it is the only thing to do. God bless.

angelmeg said...

My daughter's 8th grade Religion teacher wanted to show the movie Mississippi Burning to her class for African American History month. I stronly objected; not ony to the R rsted content, but to the fact that she was showing a fictionalized movie as fact. I suggested she at least show A Murder in Mississippi (a made for Television account of the deaths of the three boys) or at best since this was a Catholic School she might consider focusing on the Catholic response totAfrican Americans by showing a video about St. katherine Drexel or Sr. Thea Bowman. I did all of this in a mass email to the 8th grade parents, the principal and Fr. In the end she showed A murder in Mississippi. I think this teacher's biggest problem was a severe lack of imagination. The entire year was a waste of time educationally.

Judy said...

You're not overreacting; that's not appropriate for a seventh grader. It's typical left-leaning make-the-founders-look bad stuff. This is why we finally threw in the towel (our kids had been in our parish school) and started homeschooling. The curriculum rot is *everywhere*.

anne said...

All other considerations aside, I think 7th grade is much too young to read such material.

William Meyer said...

It's inappropriate, at best, and may be a blatant propaganda piece. In 7th grade, there are more important issues to be studying, and I would be ripping the teacher and the principal over this.

Jay Anderson said...

Seems to me to be the sort of thing that, at best, ought to be a footnote in a history class discussion of Jefferson's legacy. Discussion of Jefferson's presidency? Of course. Discussion of the 3 things for which Jefferson wanted to be remembered: (1) the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, (2) the Declaration of Independence, and (3) the University of Virginia? Definitely. Discussion of the tragic irony that the man who wrote "all men are created equal" was also a life-long slaveholder who held his fellow man in bondage and even sold slaves to pay off his debts (something that was considered "ungentlemanly" even by fellow slaveholders)? Absolutely.

But an assigned book that presents as fact a sexual liaison that has never been proven? My kids will be 12-years-old when they are in 7th grade, and I'm not sure I'd find that particular book an appropriate or worthwhile focus of a study of Jefferson's life and legacy. Again, maybe a brief footnote that mentions the controversy, but that's it. There's so much more about Jefferson's life that is more relevant, albeit not as "sexy" as stories of alleged illicit relations with his deceased wife's enslaved half-sister.

Kelli said...

We love Seton! Best wishes to you!

Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, is this an assignment for history (or social studies) or English? And is the whole class reading this book together? Or is it one on a list of books that she could've chosen from?

Denise Hunnell said...

This assignment is inappropriate whether it is given in a Catholic school or a public school. I thought about sending my children to the local Catholic high school when we moved to Northern Virginia a dozen years ago. The Diocese is known for orthodoxy. But it was clear that Catholic identity was not part of the emphasis at the local Catholic high schools so we save the tuition costs and sent them to public schools. I spent a great deal of time correcting and unteaching what they heard at their public school. Things like animal life and human life are of equal worth. Or Catholics worship saints as the supposedly Catholic teacher told the class during the study of a John Steinbeck novel. Or natural family planning is the same as the rhythm method and is completely unreliable for avoiding pregnancy. At least I knew going in that the school was going to be contrary to Catholic principles so I could prepare my kids. They learned math, science, and English, and then moved on. It is harder when they are at a school that calls itself Catholic and you have to point out the errors. One of the local Catholic high schools just made international news because they expelled a girl for texting a topless picture of herself to a boy. (The boy requested the picture). The boy then forwarded the text to the entire lacrosse team. The school did nothing to the boys because they considered the boys victims of sexual harassment. The only Catholic high school I would consider in our Diocese is the new one that is run by the Nashville Dominicans. It is authentically Catholic. The others are just secular prep schools with crucifixes on the walls.

mrflibbleisvryx said...

"I too am tired of playing games with my Catholic school so next year we are giving home schooling with Seton a try."

I use Seton with my son who is in kindergarten this year. It is very solid. I do supplement a lot because it can be dry. But the content is quality and it is extremely easy to use. My son has done wonderfully with it.


As far as this book goes, not appropriate for a 7th grader. At. All. I would not be comfortable with my child reading a fictional account of events that are not even known to have happened. I know historians have long speculated that Jefferson had some kind of relationship with a slave but to my knowledge that's never been proven and I have read recently that the evidence is against that theory. I have no problem with the flaws of our Founders being pointed out to an older child who is capable of distinguishing between who they were and the intent behind the founding documents. Those are perfectly, legitimate discussions to have. But it has always seemed to me that the motive for pushing their flaws so hard in schools is an attempt to undermine the founding itself and I have a huge problem with that.

Julie said...

First, I like Seton, but as an alternative for home school curriculum check out Catholic Heritage Curriculum. I like them a little better.

Second, I wanted to say that not all the Founding Fathers were anti-Catholic. George Washington gave his good friend Col. Fitzpatrick his first donation to start the FIRST Catholic Parish, St. Mary's in Alexandria, in Virginia. It was illegal to be Catholic in VA before the Revolutionary War. So all things being equal, The Founding Fathers at least gave us that.

Lynda said...

This corruption of school syllabus for ideological purposes has been widespread for decades. The detraction or defaming of famous figures particularly historical heroes is part of this. It's about destroying social mores and acceptance of objective morality. This makes children when they grow up more likely to accept unjust and immoral laws and policies of Government and make them unable to fight them.

Ranting Catholic Mom said...

"I spent a great deal of time correcting and unteaching what they heard at their public school."

Unfortunately, you may have to do a lot of this in Catholic schools as well. The teacher may not be aware of his/her bias. If they are the product of a college of education that, like the one I attended, pushes a liberal agenda, the teacher will never have known that this was controversial. The Catholic girls school I attended had us reading 'The Bell Jar', 'Go Ask Alice' and 'Cather in the Rye', but nothing about the lives of any women Saints.

There is plenty of good material out there. Your choices are to fight and provide curriculum for the entire school to use that is more Catholic and more appropriate, or to spend your time unteaching, or to homeschool.

All of these options require a great deal of time and effort on your part. Among my siblings and our children, I'm the only one who chose the third option. I know people who use Seton and Mother of Divine Grace. I take a different approach. We use Saxon for Math, and a tutor's class at a friend's home for Latin, I teach a home school writing class (Which you are clearly able to do!), and the readings we use in that class cover religion, social studies, and literature. I do this because my only child needs contact with people other than his ranting mom!!!

I'm a teacher with 25+ years of experience primarily with grade 7 through college level. I firmly believe that we need to prepare for either our Catholic schools to close because of the HHS mandate, or to be vigilant in fighting the anti-catholic teachers that are produced by colleges of education.

I don't envy you having to make this choice. It is never easy. Are you ready to fight up the chain of command and be surprised by who represents the opposition?

I think of our home school network here as similar to the underground networks in Poland's ghettos under Nazi and Soviet rule. Maybe that seems extreme, but I teach the teachers of the future. I know who's going to be teaching soon.

Hard choices all around, but email me if you would like to discuss it.

Anonymous said...

As the onetime parent of two sons who went through Catholic school, I relate to your concern.
As the mother of a son who is now a Middle Grades, Catholic school, English and History teacher, I beg you to ask the teacher and hear everything before you jump to conclusions. Most importantly - read the book yourself. This could be part of a predetermined curriculum or dove-tail with another section, or countless different possibilities. You said you child is new - what did this class have last year?
A good teacher can teach the Declaration and teach the social impact of slavery and analyze a piece of young adult literature that examines the life a slave-holding colonial man who may love his children. Catholic children in the 21st century from traditional Catholic homes will grow up with over 50% of their generation being born out of wedlock. They must be able to distinguish individuals - all of whom deserve love and understanding from the sins they or their parents commit or we better start looking for an island to live on.
Adolescent children may be children now and should live as such, but the window of obtaining the adult knowledge they need to form their own conscious and figure out how to live strongly in a world at odds with their values is closing before your eyes.
Middle schoolers are amazing. Be careful not to sell your daughter short.

August said...

Freak out and take your child out now.
Forget about having a curriculum. You have a library. You have internet. Figure out what she's interested in and help her find age appropriate stuff for that subject. She won't even notice she's learning anything.
You do not want a well rounded student, for a well rounded student is an obese student with no direction in life. You want to tap into her drive to learn. And keep her away from stupid people. Did you meet any education majors in college?

Paul Zummo said...

First of all, let me say I am not a fan of Jefferson, and my dissertation was a critique of his philosophy from a conservative point of view. That being said, this is outrageous. There is no conclusive proof that Thomas Jefferson sired children by Selly Hemmings - although contra David Barton, there is no conclusive proof that he did not. It's mere speculation either way. So to devote an entire historical lesson to a book that treats this as historical fact is little different than your child's teacher assigning the Da Vinci Code.

Chris said...

I agree with many of the commenters. There are so many good classics. Why this book?

Proteios1 said...

Ahhh. I remember the heady days of my youth, when I went to school and learned math. Followed that with some civics and history. Gym class. Reading great works...depending on the grade.

Now there has to be an agenda in what I read. I have to have someone bend my thoughts, not hear my thoughts. And history...only if it supports someone else's revisions to a modern world that is unrecognizable to the one I grew up in. I don't mind change. But it should be an improvement or make things better, but undermine everything of value and worth.

Anonymous said...

I have not read any of the other comments yet. However, I am compelled to say, Why are you not homeschooling yet? Just wondering!

God bless.
Kris

Paul H said...

I think you are right to be concerned. I would definitely talk to the teacher about it. On the one hand, we should not canonize the founding fathers of our country, as if they were saints, because they weren't. But I think more time should be spent learning about the great things that they did than learning about their mistakes and sins. I am not even sure that I would let my children read this book.

Anonymous said...

Well... If they can get the future generation to see the founders of a great nation as a bunch of troubled folks, It will be easier to toss out the Constitution.
It has been my experience that Catholic schools are not unlike public schools except they cost more...
We tried Catholic school, now we home school.

the Feds said...

It may be a fact that Jefferson fathered children with one of his slaves, just as it may be a fact that Kennedy was a philanderer and adulterer, but that doesn't mean it should be a required subject of study at a Catholic Grade School. Shame on the teacher and administration of the school!

Kari said...

I am a home schooling mother and ironically I have read the book you are referring to. I found it at the library and thought it sounded interesting so I checked it out.

Before giving it to my children (the oldest two of whom are in 8th and 6th grades), I read it myself. I read almost every book I find at the library before giving them to my children, because even though they are shelved in the children's section they are not necessarily appropriate for children. In the end, I did not allow my children to read "Jefferson's Sons" when I was finished.

It was not a story for children. It is not a subject matter for children. If I were in your situation, I would let the school know that my child would not be reading the book and I would let them know I didn't appreciate it being a part of their curriculum. I don't know if I would pull my child out of the school over that one issue but I would be VERY vigilant and involved.

Incidentally, I did enjoy the book myself. It was well-written. It was engaging. It was a fascinating story of what might have been. It was a good read- for an ADULT.

BTW- If home schooling is an option for your family- I WOULD highly recommend it.

lisag said...

I scanned through the posts and I did not see it mentioned that this book is part of the Common Core educational effort that is going nationwide. It is a project of Bill and Melinda Gates. Here is a website for teachers concerning Common Core http://www.teachervision.fen.com/common-core-state-standards/lessons-resources/73195.html. The book and class agenda are listed.

August said...

Of course, if you just insist on a curriculum, I hear Ron Paul now has one for you. The man knows America needs educating, and apparently, he has not retired just to play golf.

Denise Hunnell said...

Thanks lisag! I did not know this was part of Common Core. The more I find out about this program, the less I like it.

Ranting Catholic Mom said...

Why not suggest this book instead?
http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/editorials/shepherd_in_combat_boots_aA9z18PCHI11aIbCebxsSN

Fr William E Bauer TFSC PhD said...

GARBAGE IN EQUALS GARBAGE OUT, and this book sound like garbage. Write a note to the Principal, WAIT 3 DAYS FOR HIS RESPONSE, AND THEN WRITE A LETTER TO THE DIOCESAN BISHOP.

THE OBLIGATORY SEX SCENE MAY BE REQUIRED IN MOVIES, BUT NOT IN SCHOOL.

James Kohn said...

This is a huge concern for all people, whether public or privatily schooled. Common core, C-Scope and other trasformative education ciriculums are being pushed. Everyone please do your homework on these things and get them out of your parochial schools at least to begin with!

Lynda said...

Thanks for giving clear advice as a priest, Father. That is what the laity need - leadership in Faith and morals from their priests.

Anonymous said...

Why do we want 12- and thirteen-year-olds reading about extramarital affairs at all? Not appropriate school material.

Lori said...

I would say you are right to be concerned. Of course a junior-high teacher might find it appropriate to discuss Jefferson's alleged slave children, especially since many may know of it already -- unfortunately there's not much kids don't take in from the culture. But to give so much time to it to the detriment of discussing Jefferson's real accomplishments is a problem.

If I were you, I'd assign that teacher to write an essay for me: "In a choice between having students read 'Jefferson's Children' and the Declaration of Independence, which one would you choose and why?" Then grade the essay -- and show it to the principal. It might get results.

Anonymous said...

And this is one more article that makes me so thankful that we pulled our kids out of a "Catholic school" to homeschool.

Jill said...

Denise Hunnell, if you're looking for an authentic Catholic education in No. Va., try Holy Family Academy in Manassas. I promise you won't be disappointed. holyfamilyacademy.net

It is wonderful.

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