LETTERS / ‘Teach what should not be forgotten.’

Published Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 9:32 am

Dear Editor and Readers,

In response to the controversy over the teaching of Isabel Allende’s award-winning novel, “The House of the Spirits” to 10th-graders at Watauga High School, I offer the following.

As a parent of one of Ms. Whitaker’s 10th grade students, I fully endorse her decision to teach my daughter Isabelle Allende’s “The House of the Spirits.” The acclaimed novel will surely challenge my daughter on multiple levels—intellectually, emotionally and spirituality. This is exactly what good literature does; it invites and challenges us to know the world and our humanity more deeply—in all its complexly—its beauty and pathos. I learned from my father (an English teacher), that great literature—especially expertly taught (as I know Ms. Whitaker will do)—makes us more empathetic, compassionate and ethical—which makes us better neighbors, better family, better citizens, better leaders, and just plain better people. And Lord knows: if there’s one thing we need in this world now, it’s more empathy, compassion, and ethical discernment and action.

“The House of Spirits” is an exquisitely written and compelling story that I know will engage my daughter, and contribute to her appreciation of language, literature, history and social justice. I read Allende’s novel many years ago; it became a favorite. Regardless of the second (or third) review committee’s final verdict, I look forward to reading it again along with my 15-year old daughter, and taking the opportunity to discuss it with her, including its creative writing, difficult themes and historical context. (I do hope, however, that Ms. Whitaker and my daughter’s peers will be part of the conversation!)

Thank you Ms. Whitaker, Ms. Stollings and many others at Watauga High School (and all Watauga schools) for teaching our children so well. You are very appreciated by many, many students and parents. I know you need to hear our appreciation and feel our support much more than you do.

Isabel Allende said, “Write what should not be forgotten.” I’ll modify that to say, “Teach what should not be forgotten.”

Susan Reed

Boone, NC

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