'Losing Our Freedom of Speech': Parent Speaks Out Against Middle School's Explicit Reading List

Cooper Middle School in McClean, Virginia, gave students an age-inappropriate reading list for their 7th grade English class this year, a concerned parent told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Seventh-grade students are generally 12-13 years old.

Students in the English class were assigned a wide variety of books on topics that spanned from illegal immigration to Black Lives Matter (BLM), according to a copy of the list. Although the reading list clarifies that students will not have to read every single book, one teacher at the middle school said students would have to choose books to read from the provided options unless a parent offered an alternate, school-approved book, an orientation video welcoming students to the class showed.

“The first time I got this syllabus was after the open house,” “Jane,” a parent who immigrated to the U.S. from Communist China and who requested anonymity so her child would not be bullied by teachers and students in the class, told the DCNF. “I didn’t think much of it at the time because I thought it was about teaching English. But. . . when I saw the second page, there were some words that looked completely unrelated.”

The list specifies eight core concepts the students will study by reading a “variety of books” over the course of the year to “challenge” them and let them “explore universal concepts”: Identity, community, the unknown, loyalty, justice, ethics, perspective and change. Students received slightly different book assignments depending on if they were in the honors-level course or the regular class, but both lists contained controversial books with explicit sexual or violent content.

“My parents were little during the communist revolution,” Jane told the DCNF. “Every textbook was about indoctrination, whether about physics, math or Chinese language. There was politics everywhere. . . Now it looks like this ‘English’ class has become indoctrination.”

“The thing is, the whole state, the whole country has something wrong. Every person is like a small screw in a big machine. I wonder if the teachers really know what critical thinking really is,” Jane added. “When I was in China, we didn’t have freedom of speech. Now I feel like in the United States we are losing our freedom of speech. It’s not just about speech. It’s about thinking.”

Both syllabi contain “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You,” a book by controversial author Ibram X. Kendi, who has advocated for the idea that every white person is inherently racist and compared anti-lockdown protesters in 2020 to slaveholders. “Stamped” is a “kid-friendly” remix of Kendi’s original book, “Stamped From The Beginning,” and gives a simplified explanation of his racial theories while encouraging students to “build an antiracist America” by “recognizing America’s racist past,” according to an excerpt from the preface.

“I saw the author [of one of the books], Kendi, and I read a report about him before,” Jane told the DCNF. “When I saw a book by him on the list, it was like an alarm to me. I started to Google books, and there are some on the honor’s list that are not on the others. There were some books promoted by BLM.”

“I don’t think schools should be giving these books to 7th graders in classrooms,” Jane added. “This curriculum is made to integrate an ideology about identity. I don’t think it’s correct for a teacher to promote their political agenda at a public school. They’re on the taxpayer’s money, we pay their salary.”

Parents have raised concerns about controversial reading lists across the country over the past few years, as more public schools and libraries have attempted to introduce LGBTQ and BLM ideology into the classroom. Republican Sen. John  Kennedy of Louisiana read aloud sections of books at a Sept.12  Senate hearing that revealed the extremely graphic nature of the stories public schools have recently assigned to young students.

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