A middle school teacher who read to his students from Ender’s Game is on “administrative leave” because a parent complained to the school that Orson Scott Card’s classic novel is “pornographic.” The parent also went to the local police, who have not yet pressed criminal charges against the teacher, according to the Aiken, SC Standard.
Children’s advocacy group Commonsensemedia.org has recommended Ender’s Game for children aged 12 and up — and the child whose mother complained to the school and to the police was aged 14. But at the same time, the school has a policy requiring teachers to “preview” any supplemental material they present in class, so school officials can check for offensive ideas or themes, and the unnamed teacher did not do that in this case.
There is just no plausible way that any of the material in Ender’s Game could be considered pornographic, though I can see why a teacher might want to hold off on Speaker for the Dead, which has both longer discussions of human sexuality and an incest subplot. An attack on a child in the showers is violent and upsetting, but it’s not remotely sexual.
But more to the point, it’s worrisome that a teacher could be suspended for exercising discretion in trying to enrich his class. The key point here, I think, is whether he would have been suspended had he gone through the required preview process and a parent complained afterwards. A review process isn’t an utterly unreasonable thing to ask, but I’d hate to think the school might have still thrown him under the bus after approving his decision.
Schools have an obligation to make sure their students aren’t exposed to inappropriate material prematurely. But they also have a responsibility to steer a course that moderates between parents who want their children exposed to nothing and parents who aren’t paying any attention at all. The classroom is an interim step between the closed environment of the home and the wide-open, unprotected real world. By the standards of that world, Ender’s Game isn’t anything close to pornography, and it’s perfectly appropriate reading for 14-year-olds.