Meeting discusses school controversy in Mystic - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Meeting discusses school controversy in Mystic

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Animal Farm is no longer an “anchor” book at Mystic Middle School. (WFSB) Animal Farm is no longer an “anchor” book at Mystic Middle School. (WFSB)
MYSTIC, CT (WFSB) -

A controversial move to take a beloved book off a reading list has parents at one Connecticut school confused and upset.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a popular book for students to read, was taken off the main reading list at Mystic Middle School.

“Nobody knows why it was taken off the list,” said Dan Kelley’s whose son is a seventh grader at Mystic Middle School.

Kelley was astonished that the book was removed.

“I don’t know what the rationale was,” Kelley said.

The book, originally published in 1946, was meant to parallel the Russian revolution using a farm as a setting and animals as characters.

School Superintendent Van Riley said the decision was made two years ago to change the curriculum, which included moving Animal Farm off of the “core books for 8th grade,” but it remains on a secondary reading list.

Although Van Riley admitted other required books may prevent classes from reading Animal Farm cover-to-cover.

"If he spent time on this book, he may have been missing some things that are more important for those kids,"  Riley said. 

Riley said teachers made that choice because different instructors at the middle school level were using different material, creating an advantage for some come high school.

A middle school English teacher, who had long used the book, was upset about the change and let parents know about it. It grew on social media and now many are questioning the reasoning.

Riley stressed the book is not banned by any means, but is no longer an “anchor” book.

“We love the book, it’s a great book,” Riley said.

Parents attended a budget meeting on Thursday night, where many of them discussed this issue. Riley said there will be no decision made at that meeting, but if there’s enough support, that could change at the next board meeting on Feb. 9.

Riley said the school library has plenty of copies of the book.But, some parents said they were still not satisfied. They added the bottom line is students used to have the novel as part of their general curriculum and now they won't.

"Telling a kid they can read a book on their own time or in their enrichment period is really different from teaching it in the classroom," parent Penny Bodle said. 

But, other parents said they feel this debate has been valuable.

"It gave us the ability to seek transparency in the school system especially from the curriculum development and such," Stoninghton School District parent Millie Donovan said. 

It's taught their kids some valuable lessons. Things change and you can't always get exactly what you want.

"I think kids nowadays need to understand you can't throw a temper tantrum to get what they need," Donovan said. 

Riley said if parents and students still feel strongly that Animal Farm should be required reading they can apply for it to be added to the core list

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