English Department’s Effort to Add The Hate U Give

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Charlie Williams As the 2nd quarter begins, Freshmen are putting down short essays and picking up The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. While only a few chapters in, students are already calling it “engaging” and “outstanding.” This year, The Hate U Give replaced The Things They Carried in the English 9 curriculum. According to Ms. LC, a ninth-grade English teacher and the leader of the Student Diversity and Equity Committee (SDEC), changing the book seemed like the right thing to do because “freshmen coming in [to Latin] have a limited background of American [war] history,” making The Things They Carried confusing for students who have yet to learn of the origins of the Vietnam War. Additionally, Ms. LC mentioned that the three books the freshman class read before The Hate U Give all have male protagonists and male authors. A female perspective adds depth and representation to the curriculum and also hopefully with the protagonist’s young age, the hope would be that all student feel they could connect to the plot in some way. For those who have yet to read the book, The Hate U Give addresses many contemporary societal conflicts. The main character is a black, sixteen-year-old girl named Starr Carter, who witnesses a childhood friend shot and killed by a police officer. As an eyewitness to the crime, Starr battles with whether to speak up about the gang violence and police brutality in her neighborhood and risk her life or to stay quiet and safe. Because the material is so sensitive and important, Ms. Callis said that teachers “took a retreat” in order to prepare themselves on how to teach such a heavy topic. Ms. Callis explained that “[teachers] went to a different location on campus” and while there, they “sat and…talked through from start to finish how to approach [The Hate U Give].”   Making sure the book sparks productive conversations, while simultaneously ensuring that the classroom is a comfortable place for all students to make mistakes and push themselves outside their comfort zone is a priority for the department, but it will not be easy. Even with the stigma that it may seem comes with The Hate U Give—given the topic’s contentiousness in politics and pop culture today—according to Ms. LC and Ms. Callis, there was no pushback from the school. They both recalled that the school asked fair questions about how the course would be taught and how teachers would approach difficult discussions, but the English 9 team had already asked themselves those same questions and thus were happy—and prepared—to approach the administration’s inquiries with detailed responses. Both Ms. LC and Ms. Callis’ responses mirrored each other when asked about their hopes for their classrooms: they spoke of encouraging students to step out of the comfort zones as they acknowledged the similarities and differences between Starr’s story and their own lives. Ms. LC mentioned that she hopes discussions around the book “provide… space for students to have conversations that they want to have,” as well as the conversations that need to take place surrounding race relations in America. Ms. Callis also expressed a hope that “students are able to make room for other voices in their classes” in order to allow the various perspectives to be communicated and respected, a skill that the freshmen are also learning in Affective Ed. Only a few chapters into The Hate U Give, Ms. LC remarked that “This is the first time that [my] entire class of kids is hands-down enjoying and excited to talk about [a] text.” There seems to be no reason for this book to be removed from the 9th-grade curriculum in future years. Teachers, students, and parents are adapting their thinking based on this moving book.]]>