MAYA Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" may be returned to the Anne Arundel County schools' ninth-grade reading list. That's good. As a 13-member committee unanimously determined, Ms. Angelou's autobiography about growing up as a young black woman during the Jim Crow era is a important work of contemporary American literature.
Just as important as the decision was the fact that the process of reviewing and returning the book to the reading list was done in a systematic manner.
The curriculum committee reviewed the book on its merits. It did not allow emotions to interfere in its deliberations. Now, it's up to county Superintendent Carol S. Parham to make the final call.
When Dr. Parham removed the book from the reading list last December, a bitter exchange mushroomed between the book's detractors and advocates. The superintendent's controversial action generated national press.
Some of the book's detractors claimed its message was "anti-white." Some proponents, meanwhile, broad-brushed the detractors as racists.
Dr. Parham, genuinely concerned that passages dealing with rape, masturbation and lesbianism might be inappropriate for high school freshmen, asked the curriculum committee to review the book and recommend whether to reinstate it on the ninth-grade reading list. The book has remained on the reading list for 11th-graders throughout the debate.
Obviously, many parents who objected are unhappy with the committee's decision. They can't complain that the process was arbitrary, though. Their point of view was considered but ultimately rejected. They can appeal to Dr. Parham or the school board not to accept the recommendation. They can also have their children opt out of reading the book.
The committee's recommendation should be honored, however, and ninth-graders should again have the opportunity to read this compelling work.
Pub Date: 5/04/98