Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Poem Flap Sparks Review of Curriculum Schools to Check Teacher's Material

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Poem Flap Sparks Review of Curriculum Schools to Check Teacher's Material

Article excerpt

A debate over whether a famous poem should be used in a Jacksonville high school English class has escalated to a review of all the material taught in the advanced literature class at Forrest High School.

School Board member Linda Sparks asked Superintendent John Fryer yesterday to examine whether all the curriculum students are expected to read in Jon Nerf's Advanced Placement English course at Forrest has been approved by the school system.

Sparks' request comes a day after Principal Walter Carr prohibited Nerf from using the Allen Ginsberg poem Howl, which had not been approved by the school system, in his classroom because of complaints that the work was offensive.

The poem, written in 1955 by the Beat poet, attacks racism and the repression of sexual orientation and political and academic ideas. The work, which was given to students last week, contains a graphic description of homosexual acts.

The descriptions offended the Rev. Gene Cross of Wesconnett Freewill Baptist Church and his daughter, Christie, who is in the class. Cross and members of his congregation called the school and School Board members to complain.

The poem was removed from the class Monday following the complaints.

The Advanced Placement class at Forrest is reserved for students, typically seniors, who want to earn college credit. The course is designed to mirror what students would read and study in a freshman college class.

Nerf's class syllabus warns students and their parents that some people may find the reading material questionable. If any student or parent is uncomfortable with a work, Nerf assigns the student another piece.

Fryer said the school system is reviewing the course list but said he was comfortable with the works.

"I have to honor a School Board member's request, but of course not everything has to be approved by the school system. …

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