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Originally published: 2013-11-07 09:48:57
Last modified: 2013-11-07 09:50:37

Great literature helps craft better people

In response to the controversy about 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 Mary Kent Whitaker's 10th grade students, I fully endorse her decision to teach my daughter Isabelle Allende's "The House of the Spirits." The book 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 (who was also 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 novel 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 was a favorite. Regardless of the review committee's final verdict, I look forward to reading it again with my 15-year-old daughter, and taking the opportunity to discuss it with her, including its difficult themes and historical context. (I do hope, however, that Ms. Whitaker and her peers will be part of the conversation!)

Thank you Ms. Whitaker, Kelly 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.

I conclude with a quotation by Isabel Allende, who said, "Write what should not be forgotten." I'll modify that to say, "Teach what should not be forgotten."

Susan Reed