Public invited to see books List of those being considered may be examined

Surplus to help buy texts

Recent controversy over Angelou book draws attention to issue

January 14, 1998|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

Starting tomorrow, Arundel County parents and other residents are invited to check over a list of books that county educators are considering teaching as part of the 1998-1999 curriculum.

The public may examine dozens of elementary, middle and high schools textbooks on the second floor of 2644 Riva Road in Annapolis through Feb. 15 and offer written or oral opinions about use of the proposed books, said Jane W. Doyle, spokeswoman for the schools.

This year's process is likely to get more attention than usual because of a debate among parents and educators about the inclusion of the book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou, and because of an unusual budget surplus that will provide $2.5 million to buy textbooks for county students.

In October, County Executive John G. Gary said he was "delighted" to spend part of an unanticipated $11.2 million surplus on the purchase of textbooks.

A school system audit last spring found it would cost $6 million to update books for the system's 72,800 students and twice that to buy enough so that each child could take home books in every subject.

The County Council approved Gary's decision Jan. 5, and the money should be available about the third week of February, said Joseph J. Carducci Jr., an aide to Nancy Mann, assistant superintendent in charge of instruction.

Last month, Carol S. Parham, the county superintendent of schools, pulled Angelou's 1983 autobiography from the language arts curriculum for ninth-graders after a group of parents complained about sexually explicit passages in the book.

The superintendent has since brought it back for reconsideration for ninth-grade use, Doyle said.

The book is among a dozen that are being considered for English classes in the county's 12 high schools.

Others include "Antigone" by Sophocles, "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros, "Maud Martha" by Gwendolyn Brooks, and compilations of English and American literature.

The books on display at Riva Road make up a small percentage of the textbooks used by the county.

Most of them are new; some are newer editions of textbooks used in the past.

Comments from the public help the school system's purchasing department decide which books to buy, Doyle said.

The public review and comments are the first of many steps leading to classrooms.

An eight-member Materials of Instruction/Curriculum Review Committee, made up of faculty members and students, convenes each spring or summer to make final decisions on the books the school system will use.

"We're not going to really know until this summer the ultimate fate of [Angelou's] book," said Doyle.

The book can be found in school libraries and 11th-grade classrooms, where it is taught and has not been controversial.

Pub Date: 1/14/98

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