Cape Town school parent angered by swearing in Grade 8 book
So read an extract from a book on the recommended literature list for Grade 8s at Jan van Riebeeck High School in Gardens, said a disgruntled parent, who had to explain the use of the profanities to his son, who starts his high school journey next week.
Gerald Shaw’s son is starting Grade 8 at the school, and in preparation for the academic year he received a stationery and clothing list.
Soon after they did their shopping at the end of last year, his son was so excited that he started reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, when he came across the paragraph in question on page four.
A shocked Shaw emailed the school to verify who prescribed the book for Grade 8s.
The school’s administrator replied, saying the English teacher would respond, and that the book was prescribed by the Education Department.
Shaw then contacted the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and the director of curriculum for early childhood development to Grade 9, Karen Dudley, responded, saying the book was reviewed by subject advisers, high school teachers and pupils in 2018 and, based on their feedback, it qualified to be featured on the recommended literature list for Grade 9 home language level for 2019.
The feedback concluded that “this book is for the discerning reader and because young adults need a safe space in which to grapple with ‘hard stories’, engaging with controversial text equips learners to confront difficult issues that they may also encounter in real life later on, that’s part of why we read books”, Dudley wrote to Shaw.
Dudley added that it was ultimately the prerogative of the school to decide which books to purchase for literature study.
When contacted yesterday, school principal André Franken said he was on leave and would only respond to questions after next Monday.
He added that he could only respond to complaints sent to his office.
“I can only respond after the 13th (January) if a complaint is laid and after I have consulted with role-players,” Franken said.
School head of academics Lizette Visser referred the Cape Times to Franken, and did not comment further.
Shaw said he was disappointed that the school could allow the book for Grade 8s.
He has since been forced to explain the word to his son, he said.
“There is already a lot of anger and vulgarity in the world. I’m really disappointed that it has surfaced in educational material in this way for children this age. I have sat my child down and explained the sentence in the book to him, but who is to say all parents will?” Shaw said.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said reviews of various genres on the Western Cape recommended literature book lists for the senior phase were done by a diverse group of Western Cape officials, teachers and pupils.
“It is also made very clear that should a school decide to feature a controversial book, that they first communicate with parents before introducing it to learners and to explain why and how the teacher plans to teach the content,” Hammond said.