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School Beat: Schools and California’s New Political Terrain

Lisa Schiffbyline‚ Dec. 18‚ 2012

My daughter came home from school the other day frustrated and angry. She had been excited the evening before because she’d learned that having finished The Odyssey her ninth-grade English class was now going to tackle Beowolf. We discussed the different translations and decided to compare the version we had at home with the one her class was going to read once she got the book. The next night she handed me, with a gesture of disgust, a used double-sided photocopy of the classic; no “real” book, just a set of rather worn stapled pages. Trying to be positive, I read a few passages and commented that the translation wasn’t bad. But from her perspective the quality of the translation was secondary--the more important thing was that this wasn’t really a book. Apparently there wasn’t enough money in the school budget to buy a full set, so they had to read these passed-down copies instead. She understood the tight finances, but even so, she felt dismissed and unimportant. To her the message was that students didn’t matter enough to make sure they had actual books to read.