The Franklin Regional School District’s curriculum committee called a special meeting earlier this week where its members voted to “reopen” instruction in Marjane Satrapi’s 2004 graphic novel “Persepolis,” which is set during the Iranian revolution.
The committee voted 3-0 – school principal and committee member Traci Eshelman Ramey was not present – to continue teaching the novel under the curriculum it approved last year for the first grade english class.
“All three read the book, analyzed it, and came to the same conclusion that the book should be ‘without a break,'” Superintendent Gennaro Piraino said. “I support their decision 110%.”
District officials said in early March that the school board’s curriculum committee wanted to take a closer look at the book, following complaints to the district about its content.
Several parents have approached the school board and the committee in support of the teaching of the book, which also had its critics at the two committee meetings this month.
“From our perspective, it’s the responsible thing to take a closer look at this,” said school principal and committee member Mark Kozlosky. “It had gone through the process, but it was still something new. We thought it was appropriate to take a look at it from cover to cover.
Students who do not wish to read the book will be offered an approved alternative, a graphic novel version of Homer’s “The Odyssey”.
“They really do course study planning for agency and student choice,” Piraino said. “That’s one of our ultimate goals: to give students choices where they go. So they can go in and do a study on the similar themes in these two books.
Kristy Trautmann, parent of a ninth grade Honors English student, was happy with the decision.
“School board members took the time to listen and understand the thoughtful process that led to the inclusion of ‘Persepolis’ in the program. In the end, they were satisfied,” she said. “The book will remain part of the course, and I think the students will learn a lot. Parents who object may request another assignment.
School principal and committee member Scott Weinman said he was not in favor of suspending book instruction, ‘but we have a few new program committee members and have respected their decision. to take a closer look”.
Weinman said he felt the book had gone through the proper vetting process in the committee and was interested in hearing feedback from district residents and parents.
“Audiences gave different analyzes of the book ranging from ‘It’s a great book about a girl growing up in Iran,’ to ‘It’s an anti-American book that glorifies Marxism,'” Weinman said. “And I thought those differing viewpoints brought out something about the book. And that’s why I think it’s a good book for them to review and discuss the issues it raises.
School principal and committee member Kevin Kurimsky, who was not on the board or committee when the book was approved, said he and his colleagues wanted three things to come out of the discussion about “Persepolis”.
“We wanted transparency as the book was taught; the choice if a parent wants to exclude their child; and finally, that the alternate text would be taught in the same way,” Kurimsky said. “I didn’t want kids reading the alt text to, say, go to the library while the rest of the class gets in-depth instruction.”
“If you have a group of kids who choose alt text, the focus should be on everyone getting a quality and engaging education,” he said.
Equally important, Kurimsky added, was the reasoned and calm discussion on the subject itself.
“It was a civil speech,” he said. “Everyone was polite in their comments, everyone had a chance to give their opinion. It was a diplomatic process and we talked about it.