Commentary by Ben Velderman for EAGNews.org.
A sexually explicit novel geared for young adults may be considered recommended reading by Common Core proponents, but Sierra Vista Unified school administrators in Arizona have decided to pull “Dreaming in Cuban” by Cristina Garcia from its approved reading list.
"Dreaming in Cuban" cover jacket. Source: Amazon.com
The administrators’ decision was spurred by parents and community members who were upset the novel had been assigned to students in two Buena High School English classes.
According to one parent, students were asked to read portions of the novel out loud in class.
While Sierra Vista Unified parents can rest assured that more students won’t be exposed to the racy book in the district’s classrooms, parents in thousands of other Common Core-aligned schools districts don’t have that assurance. Since “Dreaming in Cuban” is considered an “exemplar” text, the book may find its way into numerous other classrooms in coming years.
The Sierra Vista Herald reports that Terri Romo, the district’s curriculum director, “contacted the Arizona Department of Education to find out how ‘Dreaming in Cuban,’ by Cristina Garcia, got on the list of Common Core recommendations.”
“She was told the exemplar texts are intended to show the correct reading level and are not recommendations for purchase,” the Herald reports.
Here’s an excerpt of the book’s most controversial passage, taken from page 80 (Content Warning: contains explicit language):
“Hugo and Felicia stripped in their room, dissolving easily into one another, and made love against the whitewashed walls. Hugo bit Felicia’s breast and left purplish bands of bruises on her upper thighs. He knelt before her in the tub and massaged black Spanish soap between her legs. He entered her repeatedly from behind.
“Felicia learned what pleased him. She tied his arms above his head with their underclothing and slapping him sharply when he asked.
“‘You’re my bitch,’” Hugo said, groaning.
“In the morning he left, promising to return in the summer.”
Common Core opponent and blogger Donna Garner notes that the Common Core Standards Initiative “ties teachers’ evaluations to the scores their students make on the Common Core assessments.”
That, Garner says, puts pressure on educators to teach the Common Core Text Exemplars such as Garcia’s “Dreaming in Cuban.”
“With Common Core demanding that teachers teach informational text from 50 percent to 70 percent of the time, the time-honored, character-building classics will be dropped because they take large blocks of time to teach. In their place, offensive, sexualized books such as ‘Dreaming in Cuban’ will take over students’ classrooms (and their minds),” Garner writes in her blog.
“Not only are such books highly offensive to those who hold traditional values (e.g., belief in personal responsibility, self- discipline, respect for authority, self-control, a solid work ethic, respect for other people, traditional marriage), but they also serve a purpose for those who are trying to indoctrinate this and future generations to hate America and to trash American exceptionalism. A steady diet of portraying ethnic/racial characters always as victims and saturating these books with gutter language is bound to warp students’ minds.”
A commenter to Garner’s blog offered this observation:
“It’s not the fear that one novel is merely trashy or mindless. It’s anger that it’s trashy and mindless AND meant to teach your kids it’s okay to demean women. Don’t you remember some of the books that stimulated your mind without a political or social agenda? Books that demonstrated morality versus stretched your acceptance limitations.”
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