Earlier this evening, the Patch released a letter by Ms. Anna Githens of Westfield, accusing the Westfield Public Schools of exposing its students “to indecency and vulgarity” through Sherman Alexie’s 2007 novel 'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.' And while I would like to thank Ms. Githens for voicing her opinion on a very relevant issue that has been more or less overlooked by our town community as whole, I cannot help but find fault in her conclusions.
'Diary of a Part-Time Indian' does not reflect moral deterioration of any sort. To the contrary, its inclusion in the curriculum only reflects our schools’ continued commitment to providing students with the most well-rounded, in-depth, and unbiased education possible: teaching independent thought and not just regurgitation of the rhetoric of the consensus.
Though Ms. Githens may conclude her piece by writing “it behooves teachers to heed [the parents’] advice,” as I begin my own, I feel compelled to write just the opposite: Trust the teachers.
In my four years at WHS, I have had the pleasure of studying under some of the most intelligent, dedicated, and talented educators our state has to offer; an exceptional crown in which English Department stands as a particularly gorgeous gem.
So while some may assert that our schools have fallen victim to an “overall deadening of the senses,” I can assure our town community that this is far from the case. And in fact, it is by using literature precisely like' Diary of a Part-Time Indian' that Westfield has been able to bring out the best in its students: critical thinkers, capable of looking beyond society’s “high standards” to the understand the people hidden just beneath - mankind at its most genuine, most open, most understandable; a beautiful treasure-trove of insight for students to explore.
And to those who would accuse teenagers of being too young and immature to handle such themes, I can simply write that such statements are unfounded. Certainly, some of us may chuckle at the word “d-ck,” and it’s hard not to watch some of the more profane gags on 'Family Guy' without breaking out into a laugh. But like all people, we understand when the time for fun is over and critical thinking has begun, and I can assure all critics that Westfield students bring that ethos with them to the classroom every day. The fact that some readers (and I am not referring to high school students) were unable to see past the profanity may only suggest that they themselves are not yet ready to deal with such themes.
To them I say: our doors are open, and I would personally welcome your voices in our classroom as we discuss, debate, and analyze the very literature you find so reprehensible. Who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something.
Westfield High School
Class of 2012