On February 9, the Reading Eagle reported that the the district’s One Book, One School program would be halted because the book, Two Degrees, a novel by Alan Gratz, centers on young people’s efforts to deal with climate change.
It was encouraging to read that Superintendent Temchatin and several others expressed strong support for the program and for the teachers who organized it, and there are several reasons why I think stopping the program is destructive and misguided:
- Middle-school students are quite capable of learning about, discussing, and considering important, complex, and controversial issues — especially with support and guidance by professional educators. Canceling the program not only denies students a valuable and highly-relevant learning experience, it indicates a lack of trust in the students and their developing critical thinking skills.
- Stopping a program that had been carefully developed by teachers shows disrespect for their understanding of the needs, interests, and abilities of their students. Let’s hope that this decision doesn’t undermine teacher morale or weaken students’ respect for school.
- Eliminating this book because some people disagree with it is inappropriate censorship of ideas. Climate science is not ‘political’ or ‘propaganda’; it is established, validated science — but the opposition is mostly political or ideological. It is unconstitutional for a government agency to ban a topic on ideological grounds.
What kind of civics lesson is a school teaching when it goes against the Constitution?
- The climate crisis is of existential importance for young people today.* Helping students learn to understand, analyze, and discuss important aspects of reality is not ‘fear-driven’ but empowering. (In our internship program, we meet many college and university students who learned about the serious climate crisis when they go to college — and they want to know why they didn’t learn about it in school!)
What kind of lesson is it when the District blocks exploration of climate science and the urgent need for action?
What message does it send when the District does not support and develop the ability of its students to help improve the world?
* To better understand young people’s thoughts on the climate crisis, read students’ essays and statements in the Fall 2021 and Fall 2020 issues of our Sustainable Lehigh Valley booklet. [Both are available at no charge on the Alliance website.]
Mr. Koch asked, “Do we want our children to look at us in the way we live in this community and say it’s wrong?” That’s the wrong question, but there are two important questions that should be asked:
- Do we want to block students from considering whether there is anything about the way people live that could have serious consequences?
- Should schools should stop students from learning about certain topics because some people’s ideology or political positions don’t agree?
To meet the needs of students and the community, KASD should reverse this decision and reinstate the program as soon as possible!
I urge all board members, administrator, and teachers — and middle-school and high-school students — to read Two Degrees and to take a look at the Teaching Climate website for many ideas on how teachers can integrate climate into the existing curriculum using interdisciplinary and experiential approaches that engage students.
Peter Crownfield, internship coordinator
Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley
For those who haven’t already seen it, I strongly suggest that you read the Reading Eagle story: ‘Kutztown One Book, One School literacy program halted after outcry over book’s focus on climate.’ (9 February 2023)
First of all the program is Called “One School, One Book”
From an organization called readtothem.org.
This is how the program works. You pick a book from the organization list, (Two Degrees was not on the list.)the book goes home to the families to read at night. The whole family, reads the book together, the readytothem.org has resources with questions and activities. This was not the intent of the school district. The organization readtothem.org was never contacted.. The school district wanted to implement this book in core classes. This was not how the program worked. The book Two Degrees is total propaganda with CRT elements, which are racist. The graphic imagery is not for a family to read at night with children of all ages. The Climate change topic IS political .That is probably why readyothem.org did not have this book on their list.
Why did the school continue to use the name One School, One Book, when they never intended to use the program the way it was developed.
Does the KASD Foundation Board members know that they purchased books that was never going to be used the way the organization readtothem.org had developed?
This was a disaster from the moment the admin read this book, and said yes this is a great book for our community. We need new leadership in our school district. Just look at our test scores, do we need to push a political agenda, instead of teaching academics.
Go buy this book if you want your child to read it, it’s available on Amazon and independent book stores.
readtothem.org doesn’t have to be notified. They do not fund the program, in fact they receive money from the schools who pick from their lists. The start of the One book, One school and readtothem program was aimed at elementary school children, but in their higher selections they include titles such as “Brown girl dreaming” and “Bud not buddy” with clear historical racial implications how do you feel about those books? No one before you has said 2 Degrees has CRT tones, did you read the opposition? Did you read the book? Did you read why the school chose the book? How about “Class Dismissed” fromthe readtothem list? Students take over a classroom after their teacher quits? Is that your goal in teaching children? (yes the idea that kids will drive a teacher to quit and then take over the classroom is just as silly as the idea that your kids will rebel and make you start recycling after reading this book…) Also reading material as a school (and a family) and then discussing it, will help test scores. One of the main components of testing is reading comprehension, even for math testing.
Jill Messer says
You are … afraid that our children will discover how careless we are with their future.
If you can’t support kids, please stop limiting their education because of your bias.
They are smarter and faster than we were. You are just too arrogant to realize it.
Bet you don’t think women should choose either.
[edited to remove insulting language]
Peter Crownfield says
I used the program name discussed in the Reading Eagle story, and it doesn’t bother me that the KASD gave its own twist to it.
Jeri raised some fair questions about why the school chose to do it this way, but those would have to be addressed to the Curriculum Director and to the KASD Foundation. (Perhaps the reporter should have said that their plans were inspired by the official program.)
The point of my Open Letter was that it is essential to address the climate crisis in school — in all schools — and that using a book by an author who is popular with the age group is a good way to do it and improve literacy at the same time.
Climate science is not a matter of politics, although some turn it into a political issue.
Jeri comments that ‘The book Two Degrees is total propaganda with CRT elements, which are racist.’
Jeri is entitled to think that the book is propaganda, although she offered no support for that opinion; I have no idea what ‘CRT elements’ means unless Jeri just means that the book raises questions about race in the U.S.
As for the literary merit or appropriateness, I disagree — and there are dozens of highly-favorable reviews by a wide spectrum of reviewers.
Did you read the book Peter? Every character is described by their skin color, I would call that racist..When I was in school I never know what political affiliation any of my teachers were.
Now teachers make it quite apparent with inappropriate comments in the classroom. Parents eyes have been opened to how bad the indoctrination is in public schools . 1.4 million parents didn’t send their kids back to school.
I saw the down fall when common core was implemented and teachers never spoke out against it. The PSSA and Keystone testing just opened the door to curriculum companies to make millions. Let’s not even mention the data mining on every student in the country.
The dumbing down of American children, is what this is all about Peter.
Look at test scores around the country, public schools are a disaster Peter.
Peter Crownfield says
No, I haven’t read the whole book yet. [waiting for a copy]
As I said in my response to Dan, noting a person’s race or skin color simply mirrors what we all see every time we walk down the street or into a room full of people — It’s only racist if we pre-judge or treat a person differently for that reason.
I agree that it’s inappropriate — and possibly illegal — for a teacher to try and indoctrinate students, but admitting their own views is not so clear.
I agree 100% with your criticism of Common Core and standardized testing.
Describing a character, including skin tone/hair texture/facial features/style) is an excellent way to tie them to a reader. The characters are from varying locations and expressing diversity among them is not the same as teaching Critical Race Theory. Rue in the Hunger Games is described & Shakespeare’s Othello are described by skin tone, as well as, posture. As for Common Core & teacher opinions, Have you been in a school since 2010? I raised 5 kids and they all went through public schools & some finished college (already). If you have a better method & the credentials, I highly recommend teaching. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but all of this government micromanaging and hijacking of school board meetings has caused many a teacher to leave the professional. I’m sure you can find an opening.
Peter Crownfield says
Dan submitted a detailed comment, but I’m told it’s too long to post here — longer than the original ‘Open Letter’ post!
[NOTE: Dan has indicated that he is not happy with this summary.]
I’ll summarize the key points here, and Dan can correct me if I misinterpreted what he was saying. He said the book
He then gives multiple examples from the book to illustrate each of those points.
He ends with a criticism that KASD was ‘hijacking’ the reading program’s ideas to frame this book and that presenting a strong, one-sided viewpoint is antithetical to critical thinking,
His final point was a caution that a parent should not automatically allow their own good judgment to be replaced by an educator’s.
I agree with many of those points in broad strokes, but not when you get down to details; I’ll post a reply below this one.
Peter Crownfield says
I think Dan’s comments reflect his own interpretation of what he thinks is the author’s intent, and that’s as it should be.
His first point, that the book promotes the ‘political left’s ideology ‘of ‘oppressed and oppressors’, confuses me, because that doesn’t seem to me to be a political ideology, just obvious facts throughout most of human history.
He doesn’t mention racism specifically, but does raise the idea of ‘Critical Race Theory’, and says ‘Each and every single character in the book are [sic] identified by their skin color’. Racism should be an important concern for parents and educators alike, because we certainly don’t live in a color-blind society (whatever that means) — but mentioning a new character’s race or skin color simply mirrors what we all see every time we walk down the street or into a room full of people — It’s only racist if we pre-judge or treat a person differently for that reason. As for ‘CRT [Critical Race Theory], I could not see anything that promotes CRT, a topic for college and post-graduate students. (K–12 students might learn that there is such a theory, of course, just as they learn there’s a Theory of Relativity.)
As for climate change, accepting known facts is just being realistic IMO — but questioning that reality is a political position. I don’t see any basis for saying that the book ‘promotes the political left’s position of climate change in a way deliberately framed to make the child reader think anyone not opposing fossil fuels is responsible for natural disasters… and people’s deaths.’ [emphasis added]
He said that the book ‘promotes the concept that parents are of an old, antagonistic generation and mindset and are to be not just dismissed, but (actively) opposed.’ The book does clearly suggest that one of the teenagers’ parents is wrong about climate change and should be opposed. While I don’t know any such parents myself, several college students have expressed very similar concerns to me.
He says the book ‘promotes the idea of awakening and revelation to climate change to culminate in climate (liberal) activism’. I’m not sure that this type of activism is in any way ‘liberal’, but to me, activism is just trying to correct something perceived as wrong.
My summary [above] missed one of his objections, remarking that one character’s ‘childhood fantasy city she designed called Mariposa… sounds suspiciously like a communist utopia.… In Mariposa, the king and queen made sure everybody got what they needed and everybody was happy’. In fact, our own Declaration of Independence names ‘Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness’ as inalienable rights for all persons. Is ‘meeting their needs’ the objectionable point to Dan?
I have no opinion on KASD ‘hijacking’ the reading program, but I do have serious questions about Dan’s idea statement that ‘To say this [book] robs kids of opportunity of critical thinking and seeing perspectives . I do not know where to start. Read the book. There is no other view or critical thinking. That’s part of the problem, you think getting one side only is critical thinking?’
I think critical thinking means people examining a situation or point of view, learning to contrast it with opposing points of view, and coming to their own conclusion. It goes hand-in-hand with the concept of the First Amendment that people get to hear ideas — even ones they may disagree with — and then make their own choices.
Hi Peter. A few observations.
You have a great deal to say about a book you did not read. This speaks volumes alone.
Long or not, I’d prefer it not posted at all than you make my commentary for me.
Maybe just post the direct quotes. I find it suspicious Jeri is called out for no support but quotes from book supporting my view didn’t make the cut.
Those who use CRT and Relativity in the same respect to make a point leaves me equally confused. This fits though considering your description of Marxism is an observation of reality—like gravity. Your position shows a misunderstanding or perhaps just that you are a Marxist.
If this one is posted, any reader I’m appealing to sees enough that this forum is just another microcosm of the measures employed to control and frame the debate.
Let’s be clear: I said almost nothing about the book itself — I wrote about the original report and your interpretations.
We’re not going to turn this into an argument. I suggest you write a letter or column for the Reading Eagle.