Studs Terkel Fights for Working in Person
Girard, Pa--Studs Terkel, the popular author and journalist, visited this town of 4,000 near Lake Erie last week to learn why some parents don't want his book, Working, taught in an English class for 15 vocational-education students.
When his visit was over, Mr. Terkel appeared to have won over much of Girard High School and the community, but some remain unconvinced.
For two weeks, Working has been a controversial topic in the town, where many people are out of jobs due to the closing in 1980 of the local factory. Mr. Terkel's book--a compilation of interviews with working people who generally dislike their jobs and sometimes use spicy language to get that point across--had offended some of the students, all of whom are seniors, and their parents.
Those parents, about 30 in number, are now asking the board of education to order Karolyn Nichols, who teaches the class, to assign alternate reading to her protesting students.
"There is one chapter in that book about a policeman, and there's 44 times there he used that four-letter word," complained Robert Richardson, whose son is in the class. At the conclusion of a public meeting about the book, Mr. Richardson grabbed the microphone from the author and told hundreds of students, parents, and interested citizens, "One day you're going to wake up and find yourself living in a world you don't want to be in."
How the controversy will end is not yet clear. Although language in the teachers' contract protects "academic freedom," the school board will receive a recommendation from its education subcommittee on Feb. 15, and is expected to issue a decision soon after.
A few school officials have already commented on the issue. Alice Fulgenzio, president of the school board, said alternate reading should probably be assigned to students offended by Working. "Parents don't really want to ban anything," Ms. Fulgenzio added. "They just want a little censorship." Walter Blucas, principal of Girard High School, said he does not think parents and students who want Working shelved "understand the ramifications of this sort of thing for educators."